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Radical. Innovative. Trendy. Unnecessary. Ridiculous. All these words are used to describe the culinary phenomenon of molecular gastronomy.

But what is it? Molecular gastronomy refers to the scientific investigation of cooking. It was termed by Hungarian physicist Nicholas Kurti and French physical chemist Hervé This. The study of food science isn’t new, but the term was soon adopted to describe a new way of cooking. Through experimentation, you can transform everyday ingredients using techniques found in the science lab.

Lynnette Choo is intrigued by the constant evolution of food. As a pastry arts student in Toronto, she isn’t sure she can afford to sample Ferran Adrià’s famous dinners. She believes trends will be trends, but good food will be here to stay.

Radical. Innovative. Trendy. Unnecessary. Ridiculous. All these words are used to describe the culinary phenomenon of molecular gastronomy.

But what is it? Molecular gastronomy refers to the scientific investigation of cooking. It was termed by Hungarian physicist Nicholas Kurti and French physical chemist Hervé This. The study of food science isn’t new, but the term was soon adopted to describe a new way of cooking. Through experimentation, you can transform everyday ingredients using techniques found in the science lab.

Noted as one of the “Top ten restaurant trends of the decade” by the Food Channel, molecular gastronomy has been headed up by renowned Michelin-star chefs including Ferran Adrià (El Bulli in Spain) and Heston Blumenthal (The Fat Duck in England).

There’s a buzz about solids that liquefy in your mouth, flavoured olive dust, coconut snow and parmesan glass, spherical edibles, foams and more. Molecular gastronomy plays with your taste buds contrasting temperatures, forms, textures and tastes, while fantastical presentation allows chefs to tap into their own imagination.

Some see this as the future of cooking, but others are rather cautious in embracing it. As a concept, molecular gastronomy is incredible and perhaps has redefined the experience of eating. However, German food writer Jörg Zipprick has openly criticised the use of additives in El Bulli’s dishes, insisting that menus should carry health warnings.

Finland has approached molecular gastronomy with skepticism, with many Finnish chefs regarding it as time-consuming and impractical. According to New York Times travel blogger Laurie Winer, “If there is a movement against the molecular gastronomy of the chef Ferran Adrià and his many adherents, Finland will lead the way.”

In the online Food section for “We Are Helsinki,” Heini Lehtinen argues that this form of gastronomy is overrated, with the food being lost in translation. Rather, she favours current food trends focusing on “safety, security and simplicity,” featuring food that is healthy, sustainable and economical. Where simplicity and the quality of local produce govern food trends, surely this is where Finland takes centre stage.

While there seems to be a greater emphasis on simplicity, a few restaurants in Helsinki dare to experiment. Ravintola Grotesk and Ravintola Luomo are among the few who delve into the world of molecular gastronomy, meeting with mixed reviews.

Whatever your tastes may be, molecular gastronomy goes to show that there doesn’t necessarily have to be a divide between science, art and food. To quote from Ferran Adrià’s manifesto, “Cooking is a language through which one can express harmony, creativity, happiness, beauty, poetry, complexity, magic, humour and provocation.”

Lynnette Choo

WorldCon 75, Scott Lynch; photo by Jana Blomqvist

Interview

WorldCon 75, Robin Hobb; photo by Jana Blomqvist

Interview

Based on an interview by Alisa Nirman on 3.10.2016

Interview