What is Modernist Cuisine
Proponents of modernist cuisine would claim that while science has permeated most aspects of our daily life, greatly changing the way we do things, our cooking methods have remained fundamentally the same. This is what inspired Nathan Myhrvold, a former chief technology officer at Microsoft, to assemble a team of chemists and chefs from around the world and have them work on the cutting edge of applying scientific knowledge to the way we cook.
Modernist cuisine, a 2,438-page book spanning five volumes, has been the culmination of these efforts. It purports itself to be the ultimate guide to creating the food of the future, and covers everything from how to fry an egg to a guide to preparing Hungarian beef goulash.
What sets modernist cuisine apart is the manner in which dishes are prepared. It does away with the kitchen appliances we are accustomed to and brings in centrifuges, ultrasonic baths, liquid nitrogen and various other high-tech tools which would make any kitchen look more like a chemistry lab.
Quantifying the variables of cooking is at the heart of modernist cooking, all the while using modern scientific tools to transform cooking techniques. A key technique employed is called “sous vide,” a French term which means “under vacuum.”
Indeed, this is exactly how the dish is prepared. Prior to heating, all ingredients and flavoring to be cooked are placed in sealed plastic bags, from which air is subsequently removed by suction. A circulating water bath is then employed to cook the food.
Precision is essential here, with specific temperatures much lower than the ones used in normal kitchens utilized to lengthen cooking time to as much as seventy two hours. This can lead to extraordinary results and provides a tremendous level of control over the extent to which food is cooked.
Is modernist cooking the food of the future?
While it reinvents the cooking techniques we have grown accustomed to, this expensive, time-consuming and almost extravagant form of cooking is not likely to garner wide-spread appeal in the near future. Criticism has been directed towards how the ingredients and techniques that form the basis of the cooking are ones which have been fundamental to the processed food industry, which has long been blamed for creating health problems.
Safety is also a concern. The cooking technique involves food exposed to bacteria friendly temperatures for extended periods. The level of care required to prevent food from getting contaminated raises health concerns.
The standard of cooking is, however, far superior to what traditional cooking can achieve. Even if not widely adopted, modernist cuisine provides a scientific backdrop to the art of cooking. This serves to educate the educated by providing thorough scientific explanations for various cooking methods used by professionals, who have all the while only had a limited understanding of why these methods work as well as they do.
What is Modernist Cuisine