Molecular gastronomy on the rise

Since the 1980s, European chefs have been actively adopting molecular gastronomy. However, it is now time for chefs in the Middle East to adopt this style of cooking

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By  Laura Barnes Published  July 1, 2006

Chef Stephane Buchholzer, chef de cuisine at Tang, Le Meridien Mina Seyahi, has called for more chefs in the region to take up molecular gastronomy. An advocate of this style of cuisine, chef Stephane first embarked on molecular cooking over five years ago, taking inspiration from Heston Blumenthal of Fat Duck and Ferran Adria from El Bulli. First identified in 1969, molecular gastronomy was defined by Peter Barham, one of the founders of this style of cooking, as: ‘the application of scientific principles to the improvement of food preparation’. “Chefs are looking for new ways of cooking and creating new textures that you cannot do at home. Although molecular gastronomy is still a new concept in the Middle East, chefs in Europe and the US have been perfecting it for years,” commented chef Stephane. “In this region I am adapting the menu to suit the market, but it is changing and the diners are becoming more and more sophisticated. It is only a matter of time before more chefs in the Middle East adopt this style of cooking,” he added. Brought into the public domain thanks to Ferran Adria from El Bulli restaurant in Spain in the 1980s, molecular gastronomy uses simple processes like fermentation, to other processes including food chemicals like sodium algenate and lecite, which act as emulsifiers. A number of technical apparatus can also be used, including a dehydrator machine and liquid nitrogen; both of which are regularly used in the kitchen at Tang. “Liquid nitrogen is one of the most technical pieces of equipment being used in the kitchen today besides the laser beam. It can freeze any type of foodstuff instantly, and I predict that in the next 20 years it will become a staple of every kitchen,” said chef Stephane. However, despite the rapid growth of molecular gastronomy across the globe in restaurants like El Bulli in Spain, The Fat Duck in the UK and WD50 in New York, chef Stephane has yet to see this style of gastronomy really take off in the Middle East, in part due to the conservative outlook of some hotel chains. “Some hotel companies are restrictive and do not always allow for this type of creativity as they are more concerned about cost, and not about pushing food forward. I am lucky in this respect, I have a carte blanche,” commented chef Stephane. “But it is changing, more and more talented chefs are starting to come here so the market will evolve; it has to in order to keep on appealing to visitors.” In order to evolve, chef Stephane says it takes a lot of reading and learning, not just reproducing what other chefs are doing. “You learn from the techniques others have used, but you have to develop on this. It is also important to read scientific studies; you have to understand the product and how to use it,” he added.

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