Molecular Gastronomy: New Cooking Techniques with Familiar Food Flavors

In the Fire

Imagine an orb shaped dish brimming with fluorescent orange foam is placed in front of you. As you place the spoon on your tongue, the foam vanishes leaving behind nothing more than the essence of fresh, sweet carrots lingering in the back of your throat.

Culinary Arts

A single peeled grape, still attached to its stem, is dipped in creamy peanut butter and then wrapped in a gossamer sheath of brioche. In a play on a childhood classic, it elicits at once the comfort of familiarity and the shock of the completely unexpected.

This is molecular gastronomy, the trendy new chapter of the ever-progressing culinary movement.

Molecular Gastronomy: What's in a Name?

Molecular gastronomy, a term often considered to be vague and off-putting, was coined in the 1990's by a duo of culinarily enthusiastic scientists. Ultimately, the term came to define an entire movement, although many in the field prefer the terms "post-modern cooking" or "experimental cooking."

The Kitchen: A Chef's Laboratory

The term molecular gastronomy conjures images of laboratory derived experiments more than a dining experience, but in most cases it's actually both. Many practitioners do create in laboratories, which are simply modern kitchens outfitted with new high-tech equipment.

  • Anti-Griddle. A reverse cook top that instantaneously, at minus 30 degrees, transforms liquids to frozen solids.
  • Sous vides cookers. Food encased in plastic is placed in water and slowly cooked at a precisely maintained temperature.
  • CO2 dispenser. Converts practically any liquid into an ethereal froth or foam.

Progress for the Food Movement's Sake

Despite the ultra-modern equipment and strangely presented food, the goal is not to completely alter the concept of cooking, but rather to find a new way of expanding on a foundation that has been building for centuries.

Ferran Adrià, the chef/owner of the restaurant El Bulli, explains it as a way of using "new techniques to elicit new emotions." He considers this type of cuisine a play on tradition, one which is at once both familiar and jolting.

Many of Adrià's contemporaries agree that the transformation of technique and application is the key to progressing the food movement. While the tastes and flavors remain familiar, it is the form, the presentation, and the manner of preparation and consumption that are unique.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Perhaps the concept is best explained in a film called "Decoding Ferran Adrià." The film documents chef Anthony Bourdain's visit to Spain, on which he followed Adrià through his process from inspiration to inception. Mid-way through the film Bourdain dines at El Bulli and before entering the restaurant he is nervous, not knowing what to expect and fearful that he just won't get it.

As the meal progresses, however, Bourdain's facial expressions alone seemingly capture the essence of the entire philosophy. With each bite his expression shifts from fear to curiosity to confusion and ultimately morphs into to a huge smile that at once exudes the whimsy of childlike wonderment and the realization that the concept does make sense. You cannot help but smile along with him.

The intent of molecular gastronomy is consistent with the chapters of the culinary movement that have preceded it--innovation, amusement, inspiration, and ultimately pleasure.


Wall Street Journal
The Observer

About the Author:

Featured Culinary Schools

Refine School Matches
Hide filters

    See More


    See More



    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Matching School Ads
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
            • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
            • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
            • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
            • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            1 Program(s) Found
            • Provides students the opportunity to train at home in their spare time to get their high school diploma, train for a new career, or enhance current skills.
            • Offers programs in psychology/social work, business management, medical billing, criminal justice, and more.
            • Member of the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE), and the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE).
            • Features a fully flexible schedule with no classes to attend, leaving the study pace up to the student.
            Show more [+]
            • Online Courses
            1 Program(s) Found
            • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Lets undergrad students try classes before paying any tuition.
            • Has an average class sizes of 18 for undergraduate and 13 for graduate-level courses.
            • Offers numerous scholarship opportunities that can help students save up to $750 per term on their tuition.
            • Tends to educate degree-seeking online and campus-based students who are adult learners with families and students who work while pursuing higher education.
            Show more [+]
            • Online Courses
            • Financial Aid
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Received the 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            3 Program(s) Found
            • Culinary Arts program includes the 3-week Farm To Table® Experience, where students gain a direct, in-depth look at where food comes from.
            • Numerous scholarship opportunities and financial aid are available to students who qualify.
            • Accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET), and the Council on Occupational Education (COE).
            • 2 campuses located in Boulder, Colorado and Austin, Texas.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            1 Program(s) Found
            • Ranked among the Best Colleges in the South in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Ranked the 13th  Best College for Veterans in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • A private institution founded in 1977 with a current total undergraduate enrollment of over 15,00.
            • Its student-faculty ratio is 11:1, and 89.3% of classes have fewer than 20 students.
            • Has students attend one class at a time to ensure easy access to faculty and a more hands-on education.
            Show more [+]
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Le Cordon Bleu provides hands-on training from professional chef instructors.
            • Offer Flexible schedules and online programs to fit busy lives, Certificate, Associates, Bachelors and online programs available. Programs vary by location.
            • Le Cordon Bleu provides a pathway from essential foundational training to advanced culinary degrees.
            • Building on 100 years, Le Cordon Bleu is a leader in the culinary arts with a well-known name and quality reputation in the culinary and hospitality industry.
            • While attending, you’ll spend significant time in the kitchen practicing precision techniques.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid