Herve This and Pierre Gagnaire on Synthetic Foods

Herve This
A recent article in the Times of London discusses how Herve This, author of the recently published Building a Meal: From Molecular Gastronomy to Culinary Constructivism, and legendary chef Pierre Gagnaire have created the first entirely synthetic gourmet dish.

Created from chemical compounds, the recipe entitled le note à note is a starter of jelly balls tasting of apples and lemon; creamy on the inside and crackling on the outside. The ingredients? Tartaric acid, glucose, and polyphenols.

In what is seemingly a movement that goes against the grain of our current obsession with everything natural and organic, This believes that chemistry and the use of pure compounds is the future of haute cuisine: From the article:

If you use pure compounds, you open up billions and billions of new possibilities,” Mr This said. “It’s like a painter using primary colours or a musician composing note by note.”

He says compound cooking will enthral our taste buds — or, rather, our trigeminal nerve — and help to end food shortages and rural poverty because farmers could increase profitability by “fractioning their vegetables”.

Critics will complain that none of the ingredients in le note à note is what they might call natural.

Mr This has little time for such thinking. “Sugar is not natural. Chips are not natural. They are both artificial. And if you tried to eat a wild carrot, you’d find it disgusting.”

Man has refined, modelled and selected these foodstuffs into edible commodities, he argues — so why not go a stage further and break them down into chemical compounds, which are “better allies for chefs than brute vegetable and animal products? It is a question of common sense in terms of culinary technique”.

Mr This is hailing culinary constructivism, as he describes the discipline, as the next stage in the appliance of science to the kitchen after molecular gastronomy. His earlier work involved the input of chemistry and physics into cuisine.

As the article mentions, not everyone is on board and there is an interesting response to This’s embrace of synthetic compounds on Chadzilla, an excellent food blog.

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