Hervé This in the house
Hervé This, the French physical chemist (at Paris' Institute National de la Récherche Agronomique) and co-founder of Molecular Gastronomy, is in town promoting his latest book, "Kitchen Mysteries." Earlier this week, This held court at the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, where enthralled students watched This play with eggs. (Molecular gastronomists love eggs.) Here he is making a foam, from an egg white, sugar and orange juice, which he later put into a microwave and fed to a student in the front row.
In heavily accented English, This gave a PowerPoint demonstration (lively, endearing, often difficult to understand) that included a diagram of Homer's Odyssey, slides showing shallot cells, pictures of Grant Achatz's food, and a formula for Faraday of Lobster -- ((G + S1 + O)/W)/S2, in which S2 equals foam, or at least I think it does. This told his audience that he hates whipping eggs, that people should never play with liquid nitrogen without wearing safety "spectacles" (a drop will blind you), and that he does not "collaborate" with Michelin-3-star French chef Pierre Gagnaire. "We go to the bar, we discuss," said This. "If Pierre does not cook, he is sad." This also urged students to go to Gagnaire's website, to which This posts a "new idea" monthly. (FYI: Both site and ideas are in French.) This ended his presentation with a rousing, if slightly impenetrable, explanation of Culinary Constructivism, the successor movement to Molecular Gastronomy. "I long for the lab!" he concluded. Maybe so, but he looked like he was having quite a bit of fun in CSCA's Lab 3 too.
"Kitchen Mysteries: Revealing the Science of Cooking" (2007), Columbia University Press.
-- Amy Scattergood
Photo by Amy Scattergood