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ronnie_suburban

Inside the Alinea Food Lab

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

Mr. Kokonas - Thank you for posting the image. This is quite elegant. Did you sample? If so, please describe your experience...

Chef - Regarding the crème b... rather than abandoning the idea, perhaps this format is suitable for presenting other flavors and textures. What are your thoughts?

Thanks for your time.

- CSR

(edited to correct a misspelling; Mr. Kokonas, my apologizes, Sir. -CSR).


Edited by C_Ruark (log)

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Mr.  Kokonas - Thank you for posting the image.  This is quite elegant. Did you sample? If so,  please describe your experience...

- CSR

The wonderful thing about presenting food on the antennas is that Chef G is able to craft exactly how the diner will receive the bite.

So the surprise to me and many of the guests that I watched enjoy this dish was this sweet pear component coupled with the fennel-licorice taste up front -- it was the first, prominent taste. Then as the sweetness diminished you were left with a finish of scallop/seafood flavor. It was a well layered taste experience.

I enjoyed more than one... as did many of the guests.


Edited by nick.kokonas (log)

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My first impulse was to abandon the dish. This undoubtedly stems from past accusations that my cuisine is imported directly from el Bulli.

It seems to me that being first or not being first is not really the issue here.

The issue is being known.

Being the "first known" and being the "first" are not the same thing.

How many things have we created that we have been the first to do?

No one knows the answer to that question.

When you are in a position in which the products of your labor are available to and scrutinized by the public, the perception generated by introducing something before another that exists inside the same bubble of perception - will be that of being “first”.

This is actually an illusion.

No doubt that there are elements of your cuisine that are inseparable from that of Adria and Keller as well as others but, like all of us, you are the product of the sum of your experiences and in that way we are all derivative in some ways both directly and indirectly.

This does not make the things that we do any less relevant or individual – else we would have to give up using the same techniques and/or ingredients used by others – which is simply impossible.

Sincere effort that produces worthy results in and of itself is original.

Many do not follow this path.

As the old clichés go:

“Stealing from one person is called Plagiarism, stealing from many is called Research.”

and “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”

Only products of deliberate infringement are reprehensible.


Edited by sizzleteeth (log)

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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....

This seems a bit weird.

In the El Bulli 98/02 book, Adria not only namechecks quite a few chefs whose food him and his team are inspired by, but tells what food is basically a direct cop from, eg: Michel Bras: # 586:berry fruit cheese with junket( + the savory version of this dish.)

" 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...."

Not sure about the trained chef part of this but, Achatz is not only a CIA grad, but certainly put in his time at a few places.

A lot of chefs are learning on the run/

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For nearly the whole of the second page now, the subject is around origionality and more to the point the fear of plagarism.

what is important about any chefs work is the journey taken, and its creative process within ourselves. If we worry too much about being first and binning any ideas that we see, or are told, are similar then full evolution of any dish isn't achieved and then the time wasted and our enthusiasm dampened.

I a couple of years ago heard of Ferrans Air of carrot and thought as many, Wow and went about trying to replicate it using every emulsifying chemical or gelatins I could lay my hands on. The closest I came to was a Carrot angel delight and, enthusiasm dampened, binned the idea. Imagine how sick I was when 10 months later I am lucky enough to see him demonstrate at the royal horseguards hotel in London, how bloody simple it actually is.

My enthusiasm returned I knocked up a special a couple of weeks later using my old Carrot angel delight as a solid sauce.

enough wittering, I wish to congratulate all the chefs involved in this project, all the work I've looked at appears phenomenal, and wish you every success with the developments both purely original and close replications. after all the saying is there is nothing new under the Sun, if you think of it all the new "clever" products we use in cookery are extracts (agar, alginates) or byproducts (gellan gum)

take care and thanks again for the fantastic insights into your creative, not at all mad, scientific culinary brains.

One quick question for anyone please, I'm having difficulty obtaining sensible quantities of Sodium Alginate and Calcium chloride, could someone point me in the right direction.

Alex.

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i just want to make clear that chefg is a great chef, even if i never tasted one of his dishes. the pictures alone are pleasing my imagination and tastebuds...

being a famous chef is also a lot of pr, interviews and a lot more blablabla...as words are taken like a promise nowadays. if mr. adria mentioned other chefs in his book it doesn´t mean that he changed his attitude at all. he is traveling a lot and his kind of "tortilla" made of milkskin is actually a "yuba" dish from japan. chefg isn´t mr. adria´s caliber yet, because he can do what he wants he always will be compared to ther chefs like adria. maybe he will manage to stand by his own and i wish him all the best. it´s not being the most "unique" chef it´s about the own challenge with yourself...that what cooking is about for me.

anyway this topic is about the foodlab and i just have to say: "keep up the great work chefg". and thank you very much again for sharing your vision.

maybe somebody should start a topic about the pro and contras of molecularkitchen/avantgarde cuisine or whatever you want to call it. it would be a very interesting topic for sure...

vue

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hey alex try here for alginate and this one for calcium chloride.

on another note, we've seen stuff like foams and gels become so commonplace these days that they are present on an immensely wide range of menus. we have foams on the menu where i work, which is NOT a four-star, contemporary restaurant. but it's become just another tool of the trade, like forcemeat, or any of the various standard cuts. my point is, how many "new" techniques and methods are there? please don't misunderstand, i love this sort of thing and wait with bated breath what the future holds, but i feel that eventually stuff like encapsulation using alginate, and sponges, and yes even caramel bubbles will be as commonplace as foams or microwaves or even sauteeing.

just a thought...

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Not to switch subjects, but there is a nice spread in metromix today, more so about the caramel orb, which looks like an incredible vehicle for a number of things, and an interview with chefg.

For anyone who's interested

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I would go as far as to make the argument that such things are already common place, only that the context is different.

Giant food companies have been doing this kind of thing for years and years yet no one marvels over Cool Whip which other than a few derivatives is almost entirely dairy free, no one marvels over pizza flavored Doritos or meat substitutes like Quorn or other items made from gluten. Walk through your grocery store and look at the forms and ingredients lists of the items sitting on the shelves. Pick up a trade magazine and explore all the companies who make flavorings and engineer food in food labs around the world.

Because these methods are being applied with better ingredients in a different context (i.e. fine dining vs. junk food) does not make them new by any stretch.

Take Sous Vide for instance, this method has been around since before I was born in the early 70’s, consumer vacuum sealers have been available for almost as long – search Ebay and see how many vintage vacuum food sealing products you find.

Also, nearly everyone has been exposed to this method in one form or another (enter boil in a bag rice or any number of commercial products that employ this method), yet because of the context many do not make the connection and the technique seems like something they have never seen before.

Just as “first known” is not the same as “first” – “new to me” is not the same as “new”.

It would be very difficult with the length of the history of cooking, the size of the world and it’s population cooking every day and the limited spectrum of techniques and types of ingredients, to come up with something that is not in part derived from something else either purposely or accidentally.

The context creates the perception and perception is reality – but perceived reality is not necessarily truth.

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I would go as far as to make the argument that such things are already common place, only that the context is different.

Giant food companies have been doing this kind of thing for years and years yet no one marvels

Yeah did you know that pimentos from the center of cocktail olives are made using the sodium alginate/calcium chloride method?

Funny. huh?


Edited by Bicycle Lee (log)

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This has been an interesting discussion. I would like to add a few thoughts. Novelty for its own sake is shallow and soon becomes worthless. What makes food like Chef Achatz' and Adria's and others interesting and great is not nor should it be that the food is only novel or original. That may be necessary for "greatness", but it most certainly is not sufficient. It must also be delicious and beautiful IMO to be considered creatively "great". This does nothing to diminish the work of someone less conceptually creative who is able to produce stellar food from within a tradition, but that is another discussion. What separates this kind of cooking for me is the sense of imagination, whimsy and playfullness that takes cuisine beyond a mere sensual experience and into an intellectual one as well. It is the succesful marriage of the sensual and the intellectual that defines the greatest and most unique dining experiences for me.

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Ultimately the taste will rule the day. all the tricks in the world are useless unless whatever food you are producing tastes fantastic, one of the first things I learned as a commis was that presentation only encouraged the first bite, and the flavour made you eat the rest.

I know that many of the chef Grant and Adrias etc food is only one bite however if one of them is a dud then it is almost impossible to regain that guests trust for the rest of the meal.

not that we should produce food that is so middle of the road it straddles the lines, however if something is perfectly executed then if someone doesn't like a particular product/flavour then they will accept it and move on eagerly to one they do like.

Itching to get to Chicago, as you can see the journey is a bit longer for me than others posting, but hopefully I will blag a "business trip" early in the new year.

can't wait.

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This has been an interesting discussion. I would like to add a few thoughts. Novelty for its own sake is shallow and soon becomes worthless. What makes food like Chef Achatz' and Adria's and others interesting and great is not nor should it be that the food is only novel or original. That may be necessary for "greatness", but it most certainly is not sufficient. It must also be delicious and beautiful IMO to be considered creatively "great". This does nothing to diminish the work of someone less conceptually creative who is able to produce stellar food from within a tradition, but that is another discussion. What separates this kind of cooking for me is the sense of imagination, whimsy and playfullness that takes cuisine beyond a mere sensual experience and into an intellectual one as well. It is the succesful marriage of the sensual and the intellectual that defines the greatest and most unique dining experiences for me.

True, food must taste great. I believe Chef Achatzs language of gastronomy is some of the most delicious food I have ever had. This is essential for repeat diners and Chef has many. I believe when someone REALLY commits to the basic fundamentals.....

a) delicious, well defined flavor structure that is desirable

b) forgetting everything else you know

.....you can end up with tasteful combinations that conventional preparations arent tapping into.

Sensualness and the intellectualization of consumption are equals and soon, one can no longer exist without the other. The "tricks" are guiding us into a world we have only begun to understand.


Edited by inventolux (log)

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Fascinating Thread. I echo the others who are in awe.

The caramel bulb problem reminded me of a school trip to the fornace on the island of Murano years ago where artisans made colorful glass vases and objets d'art. They said the kilns where they melted blobs of glass at the end of long tubes hadn't been extinguished since the war.

Is it too far a stretch to imagine a miniature kiln where blobs of caramel are heated, spun and "blown" into shapes of the chefs whim, and nipped by tiny pincers to form handles or flourishes? The balloons formed a perfect orb, but this technique, expensive I'll admit, offers alternative shapes.

My humble respect to all at the lab

Johnnyd

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I still want to know how the caramel orbs were formed around the balloons. Popped balloons and burnt fingers, and then it worked somehow. Maybe just a hint...

Isomalt? Caramel temperature?

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Last year at a chefs conference in sheffield we had the closing dinner which consisted of a peach sorbet intermediate course, Willie pike made these by blowing sugar and indenting it to look exactly like a peach.

eh showed how he made them during a demo earlier in the day. Then filling it with the peach sorbet and a schnapps granita. looked and tasted great but a bit blooming laborious for 330 guests, christ knows how long he and his team took to make them.

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Have you considerend making some sort of savory dish into a long, hard, skinny shell? sort of like a taquito, but perhaps out of a hard and crunchy shell (flakey?) fill it with just about anything and stand it up either straight or at a diagonal. you could do dungeoness crab, shredded apricot, and peanut or veal, truffle, mushroom, and bamboo, or any such crazy combination. I think, properly done, could be a medium all its own (like a carpaccio or fajita)

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Reading all the posts there seems to be several classic personalities. There is the young chef reading and hoping to get a secret clue so they can go back to their kitchens in smalltown, USA and wow all their foodie friends and adventurous customers with new tricks while distancing their bread and butter customers. And there is the group who don't cook professionally, but love new and interesting food and thought. I applaud any new, or shall we say, avant garde thought whether it is in music, art, food, architecture, etc, but I get this eerie feeling when I read about the 'food lab'. Like I've read about it before, in a book, published two years ago. I hope Chefg and staff continue to document gram by gram their research, with pictures, notes and commentary, but I would rather them do it behind closed doors. With all the reality shows thrown in our faces, you can't help notice the pandering to the camera. I think better and more original work can be done in private. Then published later.

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(...) I applaud any new, or shall we say, avant garde thought whether it is in music, art, food, architecture, etc, but I get this eerie feeling when I read about the 'food lab'.  Like I've read about it before, in a book, published two years ago.  I hope Chefg and staff continue to document gram by gram their research, with pictures, notes and commentary, but I would rather them do it behind closed doors.  With all the reality shows thrown in our faces, you can't help notice the pandering to the camera.  I think better and more original work can be done in private.  Then published later.

speidec, you appear to have quite the opposite reaction to mine. I think that this very public exposure of the development process is very valuable (not to mention unique). Sure, there are chefs such as Adrià who's every move is subject to close scrutiny and speculation (see here for example). This forum has provided us with an intimate view of the whole process, well before the restaurant has opened for business.

ChefG may be a bit too thin-skinned regarding the whole originality issue, so perhaps he's trying to inoculate himself against charges of being derivative. I say to hell with the whole Caramel Light-bulb thing! Not to mention the it's-been-done-in-Spain thing....

Creative chefs should be allowed to explore similar territory without worrying about "who was first?" - sizzleteeth summed it up nicely in a previous post. This ain't no "reality show", it's a fascinating window into the creative process.

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I love the fact the entire process is being recorded in detail and there should be no worry of 'who did it first', but I feel Grant really blossomed at Trio and made his mark without the 'pressure' of an informational outlet hovering over his back, watching and reporting every move, failure, and success. Don't get me wrong, its great entertainment and I am as fascinated by the work as anyone else. I only hope Grant feels he can create to his fullest potential while under the microscope.

The boys at elBulli only went public after many years of trial and error. This is similiar to the private space race recently chronicled on the Discovery Channel. The entire process was filmed and documented, but not released until much later.

Trust me I know what everyone is thinking, but my fear is peoples' best work is not always captured on film as it happens. I do understand this is Chefg's wont. And I merely speak on behalf of opinion.

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I suppose there is the question of the intentions of the suppliers of the information - is it truly to provide insight into the process... or is it a viral marketing tactic? Are successes and failures truly represented in the documentation?

In many cases not being able to see behind the veil is the very thing that protects people of any craft, it is the practice of artists especially, generally, to only show you successes – you never see the ratio or nature of the failures – you never see the bad photos on the roll of film... the failed painting.

You never see that the amount of money given by someone to charity is the exact ratio to work the tax angles to actually keep as much money as possible... while garnering plaudits from the public for being philanthropic.

If you could see inside the bubble of perception that is supported by and protects the people inside the bubble, YOUR perception may be much different – in other words if one could see the truth one may not think what one thinks.

The caveat being that “seeing inside the bubble” in these days is also a tactic that is manipulated by the presenter so that you see exactly what they want you to see – the only way to really see what is going on is to have it documented and presented by an impartial third party.

Be wary of anyone who offers to show you the truth about them… because they are the most likely to be biased and provide select information… this is true of everyone, including myself.

There is often a large variance between the truth and the “whole truth”.

The “whole truth” is often shielded from your eyes – a partial, manipulated truth offered in its place.

It is brave of anyone to offer a candid look into something as they bring it into existence or even after it exists – the difference here being that, on a reality show, the participants do not have control of the camera – but the producers and cameramen still manipulate your perception.

There are many levels of granularity to consider in assessing something like this, which brings me back to my first point – do you know the true intentions of the suppliers of the information?

Without that piece of information, an accurate assessment cannot take place, and how do you get that piece? Is it even possible?

“Do words agree with actions? – There is your measure of reliability.”


Edited by sizzleteeth (log)

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Also remember that Chefg was ASKED to document the evolution of his restaurant by the folks at egullet.com. He kindly obliged for not only the benefit of egullet's members, but for advertisment, hype, and insight to his restaurant.

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Also remember that Chefg was ASKED to document the evolution of his restaurant by the folks at egullet.com.  He kindly obliged for not only the benefit of egullet's members, but for advertisment, hype, and insight to his restaurant.

And even before that it was chefg who approached us, volunteering to answer our questions.

=R=

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    • 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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