Molecular Gastronomy: It’s In Your Pantry! And Your Medicine Cabinet!

This fascination with molecular gastronomy is starting to worry me a little bit. I just read an interesting article from TimeOut NY about the chemicals and contraptions used in creating dishes at fine-dining restaurants. The notorious Wylie Dufresne of WD-50 is a master of this science and has even been looking towards junk food for inspiration:

"I’m not looking to cut into the Doritos market . . . but the idea of being able to replicate a ranch flavor in a different form is interesting," says Dufresne. "Maybe you take [buttermilk solids, onion powder, dextrose, sodium casenate] and you fold them into mashed potatoes and make Cool Ranch mashed potatoes. That’s not something I’ve done but maybe that’s delicious."

Maybe it is. I do love me some Cool Ranch Doritos. Some restaurants are even using machines found in hospitals to create dishes. Pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini of Jean-Georges uses a peristaltic pump machine (used during open-heart surgery to divert blood-flow) to create "rhubarb noodles." From TimeOut NY:

"[This machine] massages silicone tubing with rollers, drawing a solution of rhubarb juice, vanilla and a gelling agent up through the hose, which then passes through an ice bath and sets the mixture."

Yum? I mean, if I didn’t know all that, I would probably taste it and think it was delicious, like a rhubarb fruit roll up. But unfortunately I kept reading and discovered that some restaurants are even using a chemical called methylcellulose to create foams and gels. Chef-owner Sam Mason of Tailor restaurant uses this chemical to create a "white beer foam" that he dots on top of his coriander-fried sweetbreads. Sounds good right? Sure, until I found out that this is a chemical used in laxatives, sexual lubricant, even the slime from Ghostbusters. I have nothing against experimenting with food, but isn’t the whole point of fine-dining to get away from overly processed, chemical-laden foods?

Though I’d still be on board with the Cool Ranch mashed potatoes…minus the side of lubricant.


WD-50, 50 Clinton St between Rivington and Stanton Sts, 212-477-2900

Tailor, 525 Broome St between Thompson and Sullivan Sts, 212-334-5182

Jean-Georges, 1 Central Park West @ Columbus Circle, 212-299-3900

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