The nation's most influential food scientist, Harold McGee, is going to be giving a three-day seminar at the French Culinary Institute from March 15 to 17, but we were at first a little hesitant about going. The last time we attended such a talk, by molecular gastronomist Hervé This, the great man’s pronouncements were so profound, and his insights into the nature of matter so complex, that we were stymied and had to be woken up by security guards long after everyone else departed. McGee, though, will be giving practical demonstrations for three days, including six ways of searing a steak, everything you wanted to know about eggs and emulsions, and, on day three, a futuristic tour of enzymes, hydrocolloids, and “equipment such as freeze dryer’s vacuum packaging, and rotary evaporators.” Who could resist such a curriculum? For three days and $1,200, you can be the chef of the future!
Harold McGee Lecture Series [French Culinary Institute]
Related: Molecular Gastronomy Made Complicated via PowerPoint
Wonder chef Paul Liebrandt, presumably having some time on his hands while he keeps the world waiting for his restaurant to open, has started a blog, we read in The Feed today, and what a blog it is! The usually garrulous and acerbic Liebrandt’s posts are so brief, pointless, and banal that they can only be read as a middle finger extended into the blogosphere. Among the bombshells dropped:
About a year ago, Argentine-born Fernando Navas, then a sous-chef at Nobu Miami, got the news that he was one of the 50 applicants out of 6,000 chosen for a four-month stage at Spain’s El Bulli, the stomping grounds of hallowed molecular gastronomist Ferran Adrià and pretty much the most famous restaurant in the world. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays in January, Navas will present an Adrià-influenced $110 tasting menu at his current restaurant, SushiSamba. We’re not saying it’ll be as hard as scoring a table at El Bulli, but only twelve people will be accommodated per night. We asked Navas what it was like to fulfill every young chef’s dream.
The genius of Hervé This, the molecular gastonomist whose lecture we attended the other day, is so far beyond our ken that we were unable to understand what the hell he was talking about, even with the aid of his Powerpoint presentation. Clearly, closer study was needed. So in the interest of furthering gastronomic knowledge, here are a few highlights from the Powerpoint presentation itself, in all their intellectual splendor. It would no doubt be more edifying if you had This speaking while looking at the slides, but then again maybe it wouldn’t be. We can’t say for sure. But just the knowledge that someone is thinking this deeply keeps us encouraged. In something.
Hervé This, the famous French scientist who coined the term “molecular gastronomy,” yesterday made a rare New York appearance, lecturing first at the Institute of Culinary Education, then at NYU before the Experimental Cuisine Collective, and finally before the Culinary Historians of America at the soon-to-open Astor Center downtown. We were fascinated by This’s PowerPoint presentation, which featured food images, mathematical formulas, Venn diagrams, and images of classical artwork, all accompanied by gnomic, rambling commentary on the nature of things edible. (There seemed to be a lot of stuff about emulsification in there as well.) The truth is that we could make neither head nor tail of the talk, which apparently was totally different at each of the three appearances.
Wd-50’s kitchen, headed by chef Wylie Dufresne, is the locus of cutting-edge New York cookery. But for all their originality, the dishes are still nice to eat. This ocean trout, with fava bean, forbidden rice, and root-beer-date purée, is especially easy to love. “We started with the rice,” Dufresne tells us, “and then figured out where to go from there.” As always, mouse over the different elements of the dish to read them described in the chef’s own words.
Note: Readers with only a limited appetite for endless Talmudic hairsplitting over chef etiquette might want to quickly scan this exchange between us and the Gurgling Cod, a blogger even more fascinated by the Marcel Egg Scandal than we are.
Grub Street, While Marcel Vigneron certainly rips off Wylie Dufresne, the charge of plagiarism does not make sense. There’s no assertion of the work's origination with Vigneron anywhere in the Wired piece that started this whole fuss. If you attend a musical performance, there is no such expectation that, say, Yo-Yo Ma wrote the cello suite he is performing. In this context, cooking is more like playing the cello than writing a book. If Dufresne wants to protect his intellectual property, he should write a book, which would be copyright protected. Like all artists, cooks rip each other off all the time. I suspect that the current mania for molecular gastronomy may work to create a notion of the molecular chef as auteur, rather than artisan, and thus these allegations of plagiarism. The Gurgling Cod
Marcel Vigneron, the memorably unpopular molecular gastronomist from last year’s Top Chef, can add the staff of wd-50 to the long list of people that can't stand him. The place is agog at the effrontery of Vigneron, since they believe he has brazenly ripped off one of chef Wylie Dufresne’s best-known dishes. By the looks of a feature in the current issue of Wired, Vigneron has created a showpiece dish of a “cyber egg,” the yolk of which is made of carrot-cardamom purée, surrounded by a white of hardened coconut milk. Very interesting, given that almost the exact same dish (minus a garnish of foam and carrot) has been served often at wd-50, is featured on the restaurant’s website, and, we are told by members of the staff, has been eaten by Vigneron at least twice. “It’s one thing to be inspired by a dish and to change the flavors to make it your own,” says line cook John Bignelli. “But to just steal everything? How can you do that?” Dufresne, staying above the fray, declined to comment.
Tasty Molecules From a Top Chef [Wired]
Related: ‘Top Chef’'s Marcel Doesn't Love Joël Robuchon That Much