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Food Matters

Food Matters

Science joins the table

Science, technology and the chef

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Chef Richie Farina is no stranger to scientific technology, yet he also has an eye for art. He’s executive chef of the Chicago molecular gastronomy eatery, Moto, which means he often uses high-tech scientific equipment and processes in making his dishes. But Farina employs these techniques for purposes beyond the “wow” factor, as he explains to Kelly Hensel in an interview for her Food Technology column “Culinary Point of View.”

“Right now a lot of stuff I am doing is taking the ‘science-y’ molecular ends and using them as tools to make the dish look more natural,” Farina explains in the column.

He cites Moto’s wild boar dish as an example. In this dish, he uses the food ingredient maltodextrin to absorb fat and create a powder that looks like soil, reminiscent of the dish’s natural roots.

“His whole goal … is to use these awesome scientific techniques that can take food to this next level, but use them in a way that reminds people ... where this food originally came from,” Hensel told me later.

The marriage of food science and the culinary arts is a growing trend, according to Hensel. Bridging the gap between these two worlds is one of the reasons the Food Technology senior digital editor started her monthly “Culinary Point of View” column last July. The column is part of Food Technology magazine, a publication geared at members of the Institute of Food Technologists. The organization’s members use the science behind food to understand everything from why people select certain foods to improving food packaging.

“A lot of our members are saying they’re either hiring a chef on staff or they’re consulting out with chefs to get that [culinary] insight,” Hensel said. One of her columns picks the brain of research and development chef Andrew Hunter, who works with food companies to create products that pair flavor and affordability.

As someone interested in the science of cooking, I found the culinary viewpoint in Hensel's columns to be interesting. It doesn’t hurt that each chef provides a recipe – for Farina, it’s Moto’s strawberries and cream.

 

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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