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ronnie_suburban

Inside the Alinea Food Lab

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As an outside observer I feel very privileged to be afforded the opportunity to watch Chef Achatz work in the Alinea Food Lab. While I am intricately involved in the business of Alinea, obviously I am not a chef and will have no involvement in the creation of the dishes. As an amateur I have a unique perspective on Chef Achatz’ creative process, and the craft of cooking at such a high level.

Several things are striking.

Perhaps most surprising is that there are no shortcuts, nor are there significant differences in speed between Chefs Achatz, Duffy and Peters and a passionate, skilled home cook.

I watched Chef Peters peel grapes for nearly 2 hours, sweating at the brow, holding the grapes up closely to his eyes to be sure that he had removed all of the peel. This was accomplished with a pairing knife. Occasionally, one of the grapes would fall from the vine – which was intended to remain attached – and thereby render that grape useless. This all seemed like a terrible bother to me… peeled, unpeeled, what’s the difference? I thought this expenditure of tedious effort was for a minor difference in taste that would hardly be noticed. I mentioned this to Chef Peters.

“Have you ever tasted a peeled grape, Nick,” Chef said.

“I don’t really know,” I replied as he handed me one of the fallen grapes and picked a fresh one off the vine. I tried the grape with the peel first. Then I tried the peeled grape.

The difference was not subtle. The peeled grape was sweeter, fruitier, and lacked any bitterness or tannic taste. I must have given a curious look, because he just laughed, smiled at me, and went back to peeling grapes. Now I understood why.

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Chef Peters' Peeled and Coated Grapes

Obviously, I think there is a great difference in speed and skill between Chef Peters and me. It would have taken me all day to peel those grapes, and they would have looked lousy. But my point is, I could peel 10 of them well – and serve them to guests – and it would be a lot of time and effort, just as it is for Chef Peters. There is no fancy grape-peeling gadget (at least, not that we know of…), and despite the difficulty, Chef Peters happily struggles through because it tastes better. And that is enough.

Watching Chef Achatz plate the Shellfish Sponge dish today was another eye opener. For several hours this morning he created the components to the dish. One of the key components, mussels, was cooked and then the mussel was removed. Then, Chef G spent another half hour removing small portions of the mussel to feature just the cutlet – a sort of filet of mussel.

Meanwhile, after reducing, gelatin in the form of alginate was added to the mussel broth and whipped for 30 minutes into the sponge. All of the complimentary flavor components were also cooked or cut delicately into their final form.

In and of themselves, none of these steps were significantly different than what I do for a typical dinner. I braise, I reduce, I sear. OK, I admit I don’t use much alginate, but once I see how that is done, I can blend in some alginate too if I need to. I can even use a kitchen-aid mixer!

But then, assembled before him are all of these components. And a mold ring. And 5 minutes later, using just a spoon and an offset spatula, there is this beautiful plate. It was nothing short of amazing, and it reminded me immediately why I am involved in this whole venture.

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Grant plating the Seafood Sponge dish... this does NOT look easy!

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CHef Achatz' "Seafood Sponge" as seen from above

All of this ends up sounding like a Monday-morning-quarterback watching a football game. Hey, he says, I can throw a ball, too. And it definitely feels that way. In the end, you know you can’t do it, but you think, just maybe, you can. And that is the fun of watching the process up close. The illusion of simplicity is right before you – there are no tricks – and yet, there exists this finely honed craft hidden just below the surface.

____________________________________________________

Very separate from the actual execution of the dishes is the process of conceptualizing them. In this regard, Chef Achatz considers everyone’s input and is one of those people who truly listens to what one has to say.

Today, one of the questions he had was, “what is pure bitter – how can we achieve pure bitter?” It sounds simple, but the contrast was: pure sweet is sugar, pure sour is citric acid, and pure salty is salt… so what is pure bitter?

In these exchanges Chef Achatz will listen to everyone. He is exceptional at taking in a divergence of thought and honing the concepts down to the salient idea. In this case, everyone had some input ranging from “burn anything and it’s bitter” to specifics like coffee, unsweetened chocolate, a tea of hops. As a first effort, Chef Duffy burned sugar (intentionally..), and then diluted that with water, then reduced it. The final dish might be self-encapsulated flavors of sweet, salty, sour and bitter… then again it may not. But the process is one of pure creation… of shouting out ideas without fear of judgment.

And here, in the purely conceptual realm, everyone is an equal player.

__________________________________________________________________

There are several techniques I will certainly take away from watching the chefs and use in my own home cooking….

The most obvious is cooking Sous Vide. I know that sous vide cooking has been covered extensively on eGullet, so I will not delve into the details. But it is a wonderful cooking method that can be achieved with a FoodSaver, a digital thermometer, and a pot of water. It is difficult to overcook items if the water temperature is properly regulated, and the flavor lives up to the ideal of chefs like Achatz, Keller, and Trotter: a purity of flavor based on the foodstuff itself.

On that same note, I am constantly struck by the fact that the best sauces I have ever had have but one main ingredient in them – the thing itself. So at this point if I wanted to make a grapefruit sauce, or a pea soup, or a tart lemon sauce, I would cryovac the grapefruit, cook it sous-vide for a few hours, and blend it smooth (peel and all) with a little cold water. At the end I might add some sugar or salt. That’s it.

gallery_21344_267_1098334790.jpg

Chef Achatz spices the vermouth for the mussels, while halved passion fruit cook sous vide

It is astonishing to see this method and then to taste the final product. Yet, despite the relative simplicity of the cooking method itself, and the ability to craft one component of the dish well, I am left amazed by Chef Achatz' ability to create a unified whole out of 10-15 flavor components. Ultimately, this is the real skill, the art, which eludes the rank amateur.

I am left with a note, Chef G ends up with a composition.

gallery_21344_267_1098322183.jpg

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Simply gorgeous. I'm astounded at the beauty represented here.

On that same note, I am constantly struck by the fact that the best sauces I have ever had have but one main ingredient in them – the thing itself. So at this point if I wanted to make a grapefruit sauce, or a pea soup, or a tart lemon sauce, I would cryovac the grapefruit, cook it sous-vide for a few hours, and blend it smooth (peel and all) with a little cold water. At the end I might add some sugar or salt. That’s it.

I am very happy to hear that very inspiring bit of advice.

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ChefG:

I have a question regarding the seafood sponge...

I came across a kilo of alginate and have only experimented minimally with it. I am amazed by the potential of this product. My problem is: there aren't too many resources regarding the use of alginate in cooking that I have been able to find. I love your use of it to create this ethereal, whipped mound of flavor...but I am curious: what ratio do you use it in? From experience I have found that a little goes a long way, but I thought it might be worth the time to ask the mad scientist himself. So far I have only used it to keep gelato from crystallizing and thicken lightly reduced sauces...but even then it was pretty much a guessing game as far as amounts. Can you lend any advice?

Thanks

B

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I cannot believe we are actually observing this process, the Alinea R&D oner could call it. It really is one of the most amazing things to see how these delectables are created.

With the broccoli dish, it is very interesting how rustic the stem/bread combination looks right before plating and how refined it becomes after it is plated.

Thanks for sharing this with us.

Elie

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Please keep this coming. It is amazing. I can't wait until I have the opportunity to try some or all of these dishes and others. The sheer creativity is phenomenal. The writing, too, is a pleasure to read.

As far as the dried creme brulee, are you going to discard the idea because someone else came up with a similar product presumably through a different process? That is the impression I got and I hope it ain't so as yours looked marvellous.

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ChefG:

I have a question regarding the seafood sponge...

I came across a kilo of alginate and have only experimented minimally with it. I am amazed by the potential of this product. My problem is: there aren't too many resources regarding the use of alginate in cooking that I have been able to find. I love your use of it to create this ethereal, whipped mound of flavor...but I am curious: what ratio do you use it in? From experience I have found that a little goes a long way, but I thought it might be worth the time to ask the mad scientist himself. So far I have only used it to keep gelato from crystallizing and thicken lightly reduced sauces...but even then it was pretty much a guessing game as far as amounts. Can you lend any advice?

Thanks

B

Actually that is a typo on Nick's part. We used gelatin to make the shellfish sponge. We use the alginates as thickening agents and as a method for encapsulation.

This seems slightly off topic but I feel your segue is the perfect opportunity to comment on something that has bothered me for some time now.

Mad scientist is not an image that I would proudly carry, and I think there is a real problem with the misconception and labeling of chefs that are executing forward thinking cuisine as being such. Science is important in cooking, and some might be able to argue that the techniques that are becoming widely known as of late seem very scientific on the surface. But I can’t say how different any of them are compared to the leavening qualities of baking powder.

We are somewhat to blame for this public perception. Simply calling our test kitchen a lab certainly doesn’t help matters, nor does the use of freeze dryers, syringes and memberships to IFT. The important thing is to understand is these things are tools and knowledge…… NOT the origin. The syringe is merely a tool, the understanding of the molecular structure of gellan gum is knowledge.

For some reason we all seem to enjoy the vision of a chef in the kitchen filled with test tubes and beakers mixing ingredients together in random fashion and impatiently awaiting the results. It happens quite the opposite. Each of these concepts are developed based on their intent. If one of us brings an idea to the table that requires the development of a new technique, the processes and ingredients must be sought out and worked on. Each step is guided by the cooks’ instinct far more than his knowledge of food on a molecular level. Food originating from science lacks a tangible comfort, it lacks sensuality, it lacks soul.

My commentary is not meant to be defensive. However, as this style of cooking becomes more popular I think the people involved in it need to take control of its image so the public perception is not false. At the core of any great meal is a great cook, regardless of the style of cuisine, not a great scientist. I want my food to be enjoyed just as Chef Keller,Trotter, and Adria want theirs to be, on every level.


Edited by chefg (log)

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I apologize, Chef... I certainly meant no disrespect towards your cuisine or the techniques and struggle and strain that go into its creation. If anything, I was attempting to show great respect for you and those chefs out there who do break down preconceived notions of preparations of food. Too often I hear disdain for what is referred to as avante garde cuisine. People who hear, see, think, and even taste dogmatically commenting on the lack of culinary value. Whimsy is as important to cooking and eating as I believe science is. Like you say, you can set a tone for an entire tasting just by appealing to an emotion, memory or philosophy of the diner with the first bite.

So again, I apologize...you are certainly not "mad"...

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Too often I hear disdain for what is referred to as avante garde cuisine. People who hear, see, think, and even taste dogmatically commenting on the lack of culinary value.

This is exactly what I am talking about.

No disrespect taken.

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okay, so all that aside, in making the sponge, you obviously use less gelatin than you would to make a firm gel, right? In the pictures in does appear to be very resilient (seeing the pool of green liquid suspended in the sponge suggests this), but I am curious as to what kind of proportions you recommend using for these results.

Also, with the alginate...do you use a digital scale to get the amounts needed for the encapsulation? I also have 100 g of calcium chloride, but I have yet to purchase a scale that measures in grams, so I am leary of experimenting quite yet. I know that you are supposed to make a 2% solution of the liquid being encapsulated and the alginate and a 1% solution of the calcium chloride...so in the kitchen do you measure these amounts out with a digital scale?

I am sure that this is not the exactly appropriate place to post these q's, but I figured they would be seen quicker. Thanks, chef...

with the utmost respect.

B.Lee

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okay, so all that aside, in making the sponge, you obviously use less gelatin than you would to make a firm gel, right? In the pictures in does appear to be very resilient (seeing the pool of green liquid suspended in the sponge suggests this), but I am curious as to what kind of proportions you recommend using for these results.

Also, with the alginate...do you use a digital scale to get the amounts needed for the encapsulation? I also have 100 g of calcium chloride, but I have yet to purchase a scale that measures in grams, so I am leary of experimenting quite yet. I know that you are supposed to make a 2% solution of the liquid being encapsulated and the alginate and a 1% solution of the calcium chloride...so in the kitchen do you measure these amounts out with a digital scale?

I am sure that this is not the exactly appropriate place to post these q's, but I figured they would be seen quicker. Thanks, chef...

with the utmost respect.

B.Lee

The sponge is the result of a ratio containing 1 sheet of gelatin to 75 ML of shellfish liquid.

Yes, very acturate digital scales are required for the measuring of most ingredients in the kitchen. All of our recipes are in metric and all of them are documented to the gram, some to the half gram if necessary. Your percentages seemed to be reversed. We basically use a 1% solution of alginate and a 2% calcium solution, but that can vary depending on what base liquid you are dealing with.

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ChefG

In the food lab, it looks like you guys are cooking sous vide in a pot over the range, albeit with a thermometer. Many of the folks on the forum swear that you need to have a lab water bath or super special equipment to cook via this technique? Is that true or can you use a regular range as long as you are careful to keep the temp within a couple of degrees?

Thanks again for sharing your vision with the group

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ChefG

In the food lab, it looks like you guys are cooking sous vide in a pot over the range, albeit with a thermometer.  Many of the folks on the forum swear that you need to have a lab water bath or super special equipment to cook via this technique?  Is that true or can you use a regular range as long as you are careful to keep the temp within a couple of degrees?

Thanks again for sharing your vision with the group

No special equipment required. However, I have neither used nor seen a special “lab water bath” as you stated, it may provide the ultimate control in regards to temperature. We have been highly successful with a conventional range and an electronic thermometer. We even used a food saver at Trio until we could afford a commercial machine to vacuum the bags. We feel that induction heat sources are the most accurate and economical type for the sous vide cooking we do. They provide very consistent, low maintenance temperature control.

Depending on what you are cooking, and the desired effect, determines the temperature range you must keep the ingredients in. For proteins we are within 2 degrees of the determined temperature. It is amazing the difference between 136-138-140 degree lamb when cooking in this manner. The fact that the entire piece of protein is the target temperature leaves little room for error. In other words if you are sautéing and finishing a piece of meat in the oven and you mis-time it a few minutes early the middle will be rare…but graduating out from the center you will find medium-rare, medium, medium well and well. So the rare in the middle becomes less obvious. If you mis-temp during sous-vide by a few degrees you will be left with the entire piece either chewy rare or protein coagulated medium-well.

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ChefG

In the food lab, it looks like you guys are cooking sous vide in a pot over the range, albeit with a thermometer.  Many of the folks on the forum swear that you need to have a lab water bath or super special equipment to cook via this technique?  Is that true or can you use a regular range as long as you are careful to keep the temp within a couple of degrees?

Thanks again for sharing your vision with the group

No special equipment required. However, I have neither used nor seen a special “lab water bath” as you stated, it may provide the ultimate control in regards to temperature. We have been highly successful with a conventional range and an electronic thermometer. We even used a food saver at Trio until we could afford a commercial machine to vacuum the bags. We feel that induction heat sources are the most accurate and economical type for the sous vide cooking we do. They provide very consistent, low maintenance temperature control.

Depending on what you are cooking, and the desired effect, determines the temperature range you must keep the ingredients in. For proteins we are within 2 degrees of the determined temperature. It is amazing the difference between 136-138-140 degree lamb when cooking in this manner. The fact that the entire piece of protein is the target temperature leaves little room for error. In other words if you are sautéing and finishing a piece of meat in the oven and you mis-time it a few minutes early the middle will be rare…but graduating out from the center you will find medium-rare, medium, medium well and well. So the rare in the middle becomes less obvious. If you mis-temp during sous-vide by a few degrees you will be left with the entire piece either chewy rare or protein coagulated medium-well.

Chef,

there was this cool sous-vide thread earlier on eGullet that had a link to an ebay page with medical waterbaths available at a great price.

the thread is here:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...st=60&p=741029&

i have had great success with the medical baths over the past year (they are very reliable overnight for 24+hour slow cooking) with gentle heat sources and narrow temp ranges that the med industry requires. I think they are worth a look/see.

We also have used the on-range technique you described above the with smaller packages/digital thermometer to much satisfaction also.

hope that is informative in some way and good luck in January.

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Chef(s) -

A question was posted earlier and I don't think it was answered, but I am also very curious to know. Are you still going to serve the Caramel orb creme brulee even though, Jose andres is doing something similar? It just looks amazing and it had a lot of time invested in it for it to go to waste.

Elie

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Chef(s) -

A question was posted earlier and I don't think it was answered, but I am also very curious to know. Are you still going to serve the Caramel orb creme brulee even though, Jose andres is doing something similar? It just looks amazing and it had a lot of time invested in it for it to go to waste.

Elie

This brings up an interesting point I think, and one that has been debated ad infinitum elsewhere: what is the value of originality and can you be truly original.

I read about the Jose Andres Caramel Light Bulb and brought it to Chef Achatz attention. The irony to us is that we had no knowledge of its existence and yet Chef Achatz independently conceived of a similar dish and the team was working to make it happen. No doubt, had Chef Achatz not acknowledged the existence of the "other" orb, he would have been accused of being derivitive or worse. So one is made sensitive by the nature of this medium - - the internet and its instant information -- and the nature of the critic and of creativity itself. Also, it should be noted, we still have not seen this other orb, and do not know if it is indeed similar to Chef Achatz' Orb of Dried Creme Brulee. Perhaps someone else could inform us on this matter.

I have even seen it happen with my ideas... as most likely you have as well. I have had a few notions of how to technically realize some of Chef's ideas only to find out that someone has done that already. At the end of the day, we may feel like we are a beaten to the punch... but then again, it is easy to point out, how many caramel orbs have you seen?

I may not be expressing my point very well here, but it is this: two artists within the same craft often arrive at similar ideas at or near the same time. Neither should be diminished by this... if anything it is empowering. It certainly has precendents that I can think of in other mediums - -- most obviously visual arts.

So in my book, this is an excellent, well achieved amouse that should remain on the Alinea tasting menu.... but ultimately this is always for Chef Achatz to decide... and I do not know his decision on this...

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Also, it should be noted, we still have not seen this other orb, and do not know if it is indeed similar to Chef Achatz' Orb of Dried Creme Brulee. Perhaps someone else could inform us on this matter.

Nick,

Check out this thread, page 3 (scroll down about half way).

José Andrés' Minibar, run, don't walk, to Café Atlantico

=R=

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Thanks Ron... I figured someone would find a picture for us.. just not that fast (and I did Google it!)...

Well, Chef's is quite different than that -- they are similar in that they are both (I assume) "pulled" sugar -- or in our case moulded sugar. Is there anything inside the Andres Bulb...?

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It would appear Jose's lightbulb has existed for quite some time now....

Mike


Edited by mikeczyz (log)

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Well, Chef's is quite different than that -- they are similar in that they are both (I assume) "pulled" sugar -- or in our case moulded sugar.  Is there anything inside the Andres Bulb...?

José Andres uses hot isomalt to make the bulb.

They place a blinking (usually blue) LED inside.

J.

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The sponge is the result of a ratio containing 1 sheet of gelatin to 75 ML of shellfish liquid.

Chef,

I remember a "dessert" course in the TDF that was a rutabega sponge, was this the same ratio that you used for that?

And have you used other "gelling" agents to be able to do the sponge warm?

Thanks in advance for the info.

Really enjoying the thread.

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Hi Chef Achatz,

I really enjoy reading the Alinea Food Lab posts. I think it is very interesting that you seem to be blending both culinary and food science knowledge. After reading about the Caramel Bubble and the PB&J, where do you draw the line in your menu development? Are there any ideas that are too absurd? I'm also wondering what it is you are striving for with the Alinea menu...what standards must these new items meet? What is it that makes you say "okay" to one menu item and "no" to another?

Thank you for your time,

Rebcameron

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Chef Achatz,

This is truely amazing stuff! I have to tell you that reading about your platings is a somewhat perplexing experience. I wish I had a 3D display (with zoom capability) on my computer! Flat images are coming up a bit short, IMHO, but please keep posting them. :cool:

- Would you please introduce your Sous Chefs in brief detail? Who are Mssrs. Peters and Duffy, and how did they come to be selected for duty in the lab? How far in advance are they made aware of your recipes?

Recently, on the serviceware thread, you show several images of the Nantucket Bay Scallop with roasted pear, oil and licorice being served on antennas.

- Forgive my ignorance, was this recipe developed in the lab? Is a close up of the Scallop serving available?

Thank you for your time.

Regards from DC,

- CSR

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Chef(s) -

A question was posted earlier and I don't think it was answered, but I am also very curious to know. Are you still going to serve the Caramel orb creme brulee even though, Jose andres is doing something similar? It just looks amazing and it had a lot of time invested in it for it to go to waste.

Elie

I have not decided what to do with the dried crème brulee. My first impulse was to abandon the dish. This undoubtedly stems from past accusations that my cuisine is imported directly from el Bulli. Of course the dish is like nothing I have ever seen produced by Adria, and after some research I discovered it is also very different than Jose’s. After realizing the originality of the dish was still intact, I was still reluctant to pursue the dish to completion. This was frustrating and it ultimately lead to more thought on the subject of “being first” and how important that was.

The priority to bring ideas to the table before the peers will undoubtably produce a cuisine that is very shallow. I prefer to let the process happen organically, this way the dishes that come out of contemporary kitchens will have certain maturity. If the point is merely to be first, the result will be a style of cuisine that is haphazardly conceived, executed and short lived. Each dish and technique destined to the garbage can at the expense of the next and so on. This will leave no grounding elements, no identifiers, and eventually the characteristics that make this style of cuisine so exciting will kill it off.

Creativity, originality and evolution are still the driving forces behind what we do.

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Recently, on the serviceware thread, you show several images of the Nantucket Bay Scallop with roasted pear, oil and licorice being served on antennas.

-  Forgive my ignorance, was this recipe developed in the lab? Is a close up of the Scallop serving available?

Here is the picture you requested:

gallery_21344_267_1099403290.jpg

Chef Achatz developed this dish for this benefit. It was conceived and prepared by Chef G and the Alinea team in the "lab".

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. This was frustrating and it ultimately lead to more thought on the subject of “being first” and how important that was.

Creativity, originality and evolution are still the driving forces behind what we do.

i was told by my former headchef who worked for the creative team at el bulli in this last season that ferran adria doesn´t read any cookbooks or has a favourite chef or anything else....

i like this attitude a lot because it shows that mr.adria is like an artist. inspired by almost everything he is getting in contact with visual, emotional etc....

challenged every year to be the "first" mr.adria is using the power of pr and marketing to announce his new creations before anybody else is coming up with something similar.

i think this new form of avantgarde cooking led to a head to head race. everybody wants to be first. new machines and techniques are essential and you don´t have to be a trained chef anymore which is, in my opinion, a little bit sad. where is the end of this avantgarde "cooking"? eating gels, airs or even just aromas? having the ultimate experience? time will show us....

anyway i like your version of "creme brulee" and i think you should share your vision with your audience. marco pierre white once said "at the end of the day it´s just food"

you are so right marco!

vue

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      Ferran Adria, with eyes sparkling like the finest cava, began speaking Spanish in a voice as gravelly as the beaches of the Costa Brava, while Conference Chairman Jose Andres translated. The crowd, hushed and straining for every word, moved forward in their seats as Adria explained El Bulli and himself, with a lesson in recent culinary history thrown in. Ferran explained that El Bulli is not a business. While offshoots of El Bulli are operated on a for-profit basis, the restaurant runs without profit as a primary motivation. For example, he said, the greatest difficulty they have is distributing reservations. Given the extraordinary demand and the severely limited supply, he explained that they could simply raise the price of a meal to the point where the supply and demand met. Indeed, the price of a meal at El Bulli is in itself quite reasonable given the stature of the restaurant and well within means of most motivated diners should they be able to get there, and this is how Adria prefers it. He stated that he was not interested in cooking solely for those with the most money. He prefers to work for people with a true interest in exploring the limits of cooking with him. To this end he showed a short film depicting “A Day in the Life . . .” of El Bulli set to the Beatles’ song of the same name. The film showed a couple’s response to the experience.

      Ferran’s voyage into creativity began with a visit to Jacques Maxima at Le Chanticleer Restaurant in Nice, France. He learned from Maxima that to be creative is not to copy. This idea changed his entire approach to cooking -- from making classic cuisine to making his own. Aware of elaborate books of French cuisine, Adria resolved to catalogue his work, the results of which are the richly detailed El Bulli books, published by period. These books, as wonderful as they are, are huge and extremely expensive. During his presentation, Adria announced -- and demonstrated -- that the individual dishes photographed and described in a chronology within each book are all now available online at elbulli.com.

      He finished the philosophical discussion by talking about the general style of haute cuisine that he and others are engaged in. While others have coined the term “molecular gastronomy” to highlight the scientific component of the creativity involved, Adria rejected it, saying that all cooking is molecular: most of his techniques are in fact rather simple and don’t employ radical new technology. Most of the technology that they do use has been around for some time; they have simply adapted it to their own purposes. Nevertheless, he applauds contributions to gastronomy from Harold McGee and other food scientists, and welcomes their collaboration in the kitchen. He has yet to find a term that describes the movement: as of now, he feels that there really is no good name for this style of cooking.

      More than any other single thing, Ferran Adria is known for the use of “foams” in cooking. While he is proud of his achievements with foams, he stressed that while appropriate in some circumstances, the real utility of foams is limited. He bemoans their ubiquity -- and wishes to not be blamed for others’ poor deployment of the concept. In the course of describing this and other techniques, Adria made a point of stating that using them should not be inferred as copying. Techniques and concepts are to be used and shared. He invited everyone to learn and harness whatever they found interesting, and to employ it in to their own pursuits.

      Another set of techniques discussed and demonstrated by the master and his assistant, Rafa Morales from Hacienda Benazuza, included three types of spherification. These included the use of calcium chloride (CaCl) and sodium alginate as well as the converse, and exploration of a new agent, gluconodeltalactone. The original combinations of alginate into CaCl for “caviar” production, and CaCl into alginate for larger “spheres” have chemistry-related limits as to what can be sphericized. In private correspondence, Harold McGee explained to me that Adria described encapsulating a mussel in its own juice. While this would make the dish technically an aspic, unlike conventional aspics it remains a liquid. Adria said that though gluconodeltalactone is very new, and they are just beginning to get a handle on it, he is very excited by it. He also demonstrated a machine for spherification on a larger scale than they had originally been able to do, as well as liquid nitrogen and freeze-drying (lyophilization) techniques. At the conclusion of his demonstration -- and thus the Conference -- the audience once again awarded him a standing ovation.

      While Adria’s appearance was the culmination of the conference, the energy it produced was not just because of his stature in the world of gastronomy -- it was also due to the excitement generated by the conference that preceded it. If there had previously been any doubt, Thomas Keller’s welcome of Adria was a clarion: Spanish cuisine has landed on North American shores and is finding a niche in the North American psyche. Spanish cuisine -- in its multifaceted, delicious entirety -- lives here, too.

      + + + + +

      John M. Sconzo, M.D., aka docsconz, is an anesthesiologist practicing in upstate New York. He grew up in Brooklyn in an Italian-American home, in which food was an important component of family life. It still is. His passions include good food, wine and travel. John's gastronomic interests in upstate northeastern New York involve finding top-notch local producers of ingredients and those who use them well. A dedicated amateur, John has no plans to ditch his current career for one in the food industry. Host, New York.
    • By docsconz
      About Jose Andres
       
      Throughout his career, Jose’s vision and imaginative creations have drawn the praise of the public, the press and his peers. José has received awards and recognition from Food Arts, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Saveur, the James Beard Foundation, Wine Spectator, and Wine Advocate. In addition, José has been featured in leading food magazines such as Gourmet as well as the New York Times, the Washington Post, Good Morning America, Fox Sunday Morning News with Chris Wallace, the Food Network, and USA Today.
       
      Widely acknowledged as the premiere Spanish chef cooking in America, José is a developer and Conference Chairman for the upcoming Worlds of Flavor Conference on Spain and the World Table at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, November 2 – 5, 2006.
       
      In 1993, Jose moved to Washington, DC, to head the kitchen at Jaleo. From there, Jose took on executive chef responsibilities at neighboring Café Atlantico and later Zaytinya. In July of 2003, Jose embarked on his most adventurous project to date with the opening of the minibar by jose andres at Cafe Atlantico. A six-seat restaurant within a restaurant, minibar by jose andres continues to attract international attention with its innovative tasting menu. In the fall of 2004, Jose opened a third Jaleo and Oyamel, an authentic Mexican small plates restaurant and launched the THINKfoodTANK, an institution devoted to the research and development of ideas about food, all with a view toward their practical applications in the kitchen.
       
      Every week, millions of Spaniards invite Jose into their home where he is the host and producer of “Vamos a cocinar”, a food program on Television Española (TVE), Spanish national television. The program airs in the United States and Latin America on TVE Internacional.
       
      Jose released his first cookbook this year, first published in English, Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America (published in the United States by Clarkson Potter) and shortly after in Spanish, Los fogones de José Andrés (published by Planeta). The book is an homage to Spanish cooking and to tapas, one of Spain's gifts to the world of good cooking.
       
      Jose Andres is passionate, intelligent, dedicated, witty and a fan of FC Barcelona.
       
      Jose has been a member of the eGullet Society since 2004.
       
      More on Jose Andres in the eG Forums:
      Cooking with "Tapas" by Jose Andres
      Vamos a Cocinar - cooking show with Jose Andres
      Jaleo
      José Andrés' Minibar
      Zaytinya
      Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, Crystal City
      Cafe Atlantico
       
      Jose Andres recipes from Tapas in RecipeGullet:
      Potatoes Rioja-Style with Chorizo (Patatas a la Riojana)
      Moorish-Style Chickpea and Spinach Stew
      Squid with Caramelized Onions
    • By gibbs
      With Modernist Cuisine I waited a couple of years and ended up with a copy from the 6th printing run the advantage of this was that all errors picked up in the erratta had been corrected in the print copy.  I am looking to get modernist bread soon and wondered if someone had purchased it recently to check or if someone knew of hand if they have printed any additional corrected runs 
    • By TdeV
      I'm thinking that one isn't supposed to add salt to meat which is about to be sous-vided. I have no idea from whence the idea came, nor whether it's correct.
       
      Also I'm thinking that raw onion is ok in the sous vide bag, but not raw garlic (because it imparts a harsh flavour).
       
      Either of these impressions have value?
    • By Fabio
      Last year I had dinner at Belcanto in Lisbon and one of the dishes featured a "tomato water snow" or "tomato water cloud" (translated from the original Portuguese: "Nuvem/neve de agua de tomate") that I'm trying to replicate without success. Imagine a thick and solid foam of tomato water that immediately liquefies when you put in your mouth. The cloud was atop smoked fish and olive oil was drizzled over it.
       
      I whipped a mixture of tomato water and albumin powder (2 tsp albumin, 2tbsp tomato water) along with a pinch of cream of tartar, getting to the stiff peaks point after some effort. Trying to dehidrate the foam even as low as 150F didn't work; the foam collapsed. I then tried the savory meringue approach with some sugar and salt. The result was indeed a meringue that tasted like tomato but completely different from what I had at Belcanto. What am I missing? I've attached a photo of the dish so you can see what the cloud looks like.
       
      Thanks!
       

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