"Molecular gastronomy" is off the menu
March 4th, 2011
04:45 PM ET
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Anyone who follows food has likely heard of "molecular gastronomy," a term that’s been floated around for the two last decades to describe a scientific exploration of food and the cooking process.

Some of the best restaurants in the world, such as Chicago’s Alinea and Spain’s El Bulli, have become famous for their out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to mixing food, science and technology in this way.

But not everyone is happy with the term. Former “Top Chef” judge Wylie Dufresne, of the widely-acclaimed wd~50 restaurant in New York, thinks “molecular gastronomy” is a misnomer when it comes to what chefs do. Molecular gastronomy describes what scientists do to better understand what’s happening to food as it cooks, and chefs like Dufresne develop close relationships with experts who cultivate that knowledge.

Homaro Cantu, executive chef at MOTO in Chicago and another household name in the molecular gastronomy world, isn’t completely keen on the term either. He prefers "food science with a purpose." It’s "not just to investigate and be creative, but be creative to look at bigger issues," he said.

“For us, it’s a way to create forward-thinking food that can either make the world a better place, or make food much more fun to enjoy,” he said.

Cantu, famous for experiments like making tuna out of watermelon and fries out of granola, has a whole laboratory in his restaurant’s basement that includes a densitometer to measure the density of substances. Dufresne also has some science equipment, like a centrifuge (it’s only being used for drinks at the moment, but may play a role in future dishes).

Moto and wd~50 are both among the top 10 molecular gastronomy restaurants in America, according to Gayot.com.

But, as Dufresne points out, no one is going to say, “Honey, would you like Chinese, Italian or molecular gastronomy tonight?”

“I don’t think it’s a term that’s become part of the vernacular,” he said.

Read - Taste: It's in your nose and memories and Molecular gastronomy – aerated ice cream, freeze-dried polenta and me

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. andy

    Wow, like anyone actually gives a shit what it's called. I'm sorry but chef =/= scientist. Stick to what you do best and leave the science to actual scientists please.

    March 8, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Reply
  2. bacos

    I like "Gastronomic Engineering."

    If Molecular Gastronomy is the science of food and cooking, then the chefs would be more akin to engineers, right?

    March 7, 2011 at 10:48 am | Reply
  3. karen

    i like how there isn't a print button on this...

    March 6, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Reply
  4. bob

    Molecular gastronomy has become a rather annoying term... :/

    March 5, 2011 at 10:27 am | Reply

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