Ce n’est pas un oeuf.


Late last year, The Guardian in London published an open letter from Ferran Adria, Heston Blumenthal, Thomas Keller and penned my Harold McGee disavowing the term "molecular gastronomy." It was published here this past Spring in Food arts.  But the media keeps ooo-ing and ah-ing about "molecular gastronomy" and it’s becoming really wearying.  The latest circle jerk happened week before last when Top Chef contestant Marcel was accused of swiping a Wylie Dufresne preparation on Grubstreet, the NY mag blog, after an article in Wired, which inspired a response to grub street, and much discussion on the excellent Gurgling Cod–all of which amounts to little, really, since Adria really originated the idea, and I saw an egg yolk trompe-l’oeil at Trio in 2005.  So did Dufresne steal it from, Achatz?! Or Adria?I Who gets the credit?  Who cares? 

Only Homaro Cantu, perhaps, who has a copyright notice on his menu. (Pete Wells said all there was to say on the issue of actual legal credit.)

What’s important to see, and what’s significant about the letter from Adria et al is not that the Father of Molecular Gastronomy is disavowing the term (though that’s pretty interesting), it’s that they all do WANT a term, a name.  Not for agar and foam, but for the more general changes that have swept through the culinary landscape of which avant garde cuisine is an interesting and meaningful sliver.  In my column from this month’s Restaurant Hospitality magazine, they say we are at a turning point in culinary history, and it’s every bit
as substantial as the changes that happened in the late 1960s called
Haute Cuisine.

This IS an egg.  And there is no better garnish for a poached egg than asparagus, with the molecules of lemon zest and the protons and neutrons of freshly ground black pepper.



66 Wonderful responses to “The New New Cuisine”

  • the pauper

    that is pretty ridiculous. i’m sure chefs have better things to do than to disavow terms given to their cuisines. it’s not as if there’s an incentive for the media to be subversive and purposefully disregard the old term for a new one yet to be named.

    shut up and stop reading so much newspaper is probably the best option for them.

  • szg

    I beg to differ about the poached egg and its garnish.

    I prefer a slice of Canadian Bacon under the egg, and a nice slice of toasted bread. Garnished with just a touch of salt and pepper.

  • Tags

    Copyright notice? I can’t wait until we have the technology to embed the unseen copyright notice in the food, only to become apparent after your digestive system has done its duty.

  • Kara Nielsen, Trendologist, Center for Culinary Development, San Francisco

    What no one seems to be talking about in the U.S. is how the name “molecular gastronomy” is associated with noted French chemist Herve This, the Harold McGee of France. His book of the same title uses chemistry and science to explain kitchen myths and beliefs. He has worked closely with many French chefs, notably Pierre Gagnaire, to contribute to this new cuisine. They also have a bi-annual conference with this title in Sicily, so too bad these guys are rejecting the name. In any case, call it what you will, I agree that this style of cooking is taking culinary arts another step forward and by looking at culinary arts history and the regular arrivals of “new” cuisine, this is just one more (intriguing, exciting and usually delicious) step forward. Parts of it will surely be with us going forward. How cool to watch it spread.

  • Scotty

    I think an egg in any form requires the ionization of a good hot sauce, my own or Cholula are fine. But isn’t any form of cooking “molecular gastronomy”?

  • Bob delG

    There is a interesting and growing body of literature coming out of places like Stanford and NYU business schools that looks at and quantifies how high status chefs like the Troisgros brothers and the Haeberlin’s pushed the boundaries of the haute cuisine to create nouvelle cuisine.
    This stuff is notoriously difficult to read but I think I can take a tentative stab at making an inference from two of the papers I have read by way of suggesting that Adria at least, has the status and the drive to begin to convince other high status chefs to move haute cuisine in a new direction. Thing is, in order for a shift to occur it seems that there needs to be more people on board than there is at the present time.
    Michael, do you know how many other chefs in Europe are cooking in a manner that is similar to the way Adria cooks? We know about Cantu, Aschatz, Dufrense, but are there any others?

    I’m also a bit “concerned” by the secrecy most of these guys seem to practice (e.g. copyrighting menus and recipes). Can’t imagine that that sort of behavior is going to help to facilitate much of a shift. I think they are going to have to make their code “open source” for you to see much of a revolution any time soon.

    As for Adria not wanting to call what he does molecular gastronomy, well, he is certainly accomplished enough to call it whatever the hell he pleases. I’m certainly comfortable that what it is, is enough unlike This’s conception that it should be called something else. This’s idea on molecular gastronomy has a strong didactic component that is lacking in the work of these chefs who seem to not be especially interested in teaching anyone the science of what they do. Not yet at least.

  • Claudia

    If Ferran, et al. had only given their cutting edge cuisine a name or term way back when, there’d be no need to disown the term “molecular gastronomy” now.

    My vote for the egg? Eggs Benedict. Nothing beats . . . well . . . anything, with ham (!!)

    “Nobody can resist home made ham. Maybe if they’s dead.” (The Color Purple, paraphrasing).

  • fiat lux

    Bob said: I’m also a bit “concerned” by the secrecy most of these guys seem to practice (e.g. copyrighting menus and recipes). Can’t imagine that that sort of behavior is going to help to facilitate much of a shift. I think they are going to have to make their code “open source” for you to see much of a revolution any time soon.

    I see where you’re going with that, but if you’re talking about the tech world, then the fact is that “closed source” code tends to make a hell of a lot more money than “open source”. There’s good reason why neither Microsoft nor Apple (nor Cisco, not Oracle, for that matter) are major proponents of OSS — they make a lot more money by controlling the keys to the castle.

    Translating that business approach back to food — chefs stand to make a lot more money if they can keep their techniques proprietary and sell licensed versions of them than they can by telling everyone how they do what they do. Why write a cookbook when you can have your own training and licensing operation?

    Sooner or later, of course, the information will leak out, but even then you can monetize things by suing people who’re using your techniques outside your authorized channels.

    It is not a pretty view of the food future, but it is certainly lucrative if you can get in early enough.

  • Nick

    “I’m also a bit ‘concerned’ by the secrecy most of these guys seem to practice (e.g. copyrighting menus and recipes)”

    Bob, Colonel Sanders has been up to these secretive shenanigans since 1930?!? If I were clever enough to invent a mouth watering treat irresistible to the general public, I sure as hell wouldn’t be publishing the recipe!!

    “To this day, the Colonel’s secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices remains one of the best-kept trade secrets in business. According to a profile of KFC done by the Food Network television show Unwrapped, portions of the secret spice mix are made at different locations in the United States, and the only copy of the recipe is kept in a vault in corporate headquarters.” In 1985, investigative journalist William Poundstone wrote a book, Big Secrets, which analyzed and revealed (among other things) the secret recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken (lab tests found only traces of salt, black pepper, and MSG, not eleven herbs and spices), and provided readers several methods for duplicating the product.

    MSG :0 Colonel Sanders was a Molecular Gastronomic!

    (Coca Cola, or the Flaming Moe!)

  • Jennie/Tikka

    For me this brings up the issue of losing control of a recipe just as soon as you prepare it and someone eats it. As soon as that happens you’ve lost it – its out there for everyone. Why try to protect it?? Isn’t that an exercise in futility when you get right down to it?

    Not every cook can accurately copy another cook’s style – its very hard to do. Even given a detailed “how to” sometimes it just never tastes the way the originator made it taste.

    Eggs?? Either scrambled with cream and the best parm. reggiano I can find (and topped with pesto or pesto/beurre) or,

    Scrambled with Masala sauce, lemon zest and yogurt. These go particulary well with jam & cream cheese stuffed french toast and vanilla infused syrup. Yeeees, I know – very “IHOP” of me, but hey – this is at home when I need comfort food 😉

  • Tags

    The best name I’ve come up with for Adria’s style of cooking so far is component collusion cuisine. Not particularly lyrical, but descriptive enough. We’ve only scratched the surface, though. I’m sure if we put our heads together, we’ll hammer out a new moniker that Adria, Blumenthal, Keller & McGee would feel comfortable with.

  • Bob delG


    How about “High Junk Food?” 🙂

    When I look at the ingredients used and processes followed by these guys what I see are classic French cooking types using the tools and ingredients of the commercial food industry.

    Nick you wrote

    “Bob, Colonel Sanders has been up to these secretive shenanigans since 1930?!”

    I think that the closer you look at this type of cooking the more you are going to see that what they are doing is something that could have been done a long time ago if the economic and demographic conditions had been favorable: using the tools of food science and standard commercial business practices to make haute cuisine.

    Expect patents soon.

    Hm…think I’ll do a Google patent search soon as the youngin’s are off to school.

  • Chris Hennes

    Re: Copyrighting menus, etc.

    Copyright protects the expression, not the information, so is of limited use for recipes and/or menus as far as I can tell. Better is trade secret or patent protection, but really, both are probably overkill. In this type of fine dining it is my experience that people want something new and different on a fairly regular basis (certainly *I* do…). So by the time you’ve filed the patent application and paid off the attorney, whatever it was is probably off your menu anyway. Of course, this doesn’t apply to KFC, Coca-Cola, etc.

  • Tags

    True enough about the tools & ingredients. I think the difference is the focus on taste by ABKM as opposed to the pecuniary imperative pursued by Coca, Cola, KFC, and other cornographers.

    Like the difference between “Nude Descending the Stairs” and this month’s Hustler. It’s not the meat, it’s the motive.

    I don’t see people with the munchies flocking to El Bulli so much as to the corn syrup syndicate for their junk food ;-}.

  • Scotty

    It has been a long time since I studied any intellectual property law, and maybe there is something missing in what I have read, but we are not dealing with standard patents. From what I have seen and heard, what is referred to as “molecular gastronomy” is the application of various existing technologies and adapting them to food. However brilliant the mind that conceives of the new use, it is not something new. Sous vide is just the combination of poaching at low temperatures combined with the existing technology of vacuum sealed pouches.

    This is more akin to industrial design patents. You cannot patent a fork, but you can patent the design of an Adam Tihany fork. But, I could make a good argument for the other side, that existing law does not and should not apply to cooking processes, and that new law is required.

    Shoot, makes me wish I hadn’t quit the law – there is money in them there hills! 😉

  • Jennie/Tikka

    Sous vide may not be new – (i.e., is definitely not new) but noodles in a toothpaste tube is. Then again, I’m thinking the folks over at JPL/NASA would likely take issue with me (they’ve probably had those for years now) and may just claim they invented them first, for obvious reasons and uses.

    Keep in mind that chefs/cooks also produce things for their own boredom aleviation. What may be viewed as grand art is more often a Chef in a kitchen saying to him or herself, “I’m so damned bored…if I have to make one more sauteed this or grilled that I’m going to quit!” Hence the odd recipes and new discoveries….its to entertain the person preparing the food as much as the diners in the dining room.

  • rob

    I hesitate to wade into the mire of both the Marcel egg and “molecular gastronomy” label debates, but here goes. First off, I think the accusations of plagiarism levelled at Marcel are unjustified. This is not to say that his dish isn’t derivative or just a flat out copy, it’s just that I have a visceral dislike for the very notion of “culinary plagiarism.” The simple fact remains that a dish, unlike the written word or a piece of music, cannot be eaten beyond the confines of the city (and, really, restaurant) in which it’s produced without being copied. Food doesn’t travel, but that doesn’t mean that people don’t want to sample those dishes. This is a practical issue, I know, but I have philosophical objections, too. Cooking may well be the first and oldest “open source” discipline. Not only are most recipes decipherable to a skilled cook, but — and this is the most important part — review, reproduction, and revision by other chefs often improves dishes, which is the cornerstone on which the open source movement is built.

    When I read about the trompe l’oeil egg controversy, I revisited a post I wrote on February 21. That post is for my version of just that dish, which I made with a mango sphere, coconut foam, and toasted rice powder. At the time, I had this to say about my creation:

    “Admittedly, pairing mango and coconut is not especially novel, even in the context of molecular gastronomy. Neither is mimicking an egg, a visual conceit that is obvious to anyone who has ever seen an egg yolk, like Wylie Dufresne at WD-50 and Ferran Adria at el Bulli. Tired cliché or not, I use it because it makes for a fun presentation.”

    The irony, in hindsight, is even more delicious than the dish.

    As for the debate over the “molecular gastronomy” label, it strikes me as just semantic hot air. The whole point of a label is to be linguistic shorthand. No one or two word term is going to encapsulate AND clarify the many facets of this new style for the masses, so leave it be. The only other term I somewhat like is “postmodern gastronomy.” This, I think, suffers from a similar, yet opposite, problem as “molecular gastronomy,” however: though it references one of the fundamental aspects of the discipline, deconstruction, it completely neglects the scientific aspects that are the focus of the current term. Perhaps “postmodern molecular gastronomy” is the way to go, though I say that with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

    I’d also like to answer two of Chef Bob’s concerns. First, there are a number of other chefs practising molecular gastronomy around the globe, they just haven’t achieved the same level of stardom as the Adrias, Blumenthals, and Achatzs of the culinary world. Khymos.org has a list of MG restaurants (and other resources):

    Second, there are many, many molecular gastronomy recipes available, they’re just difficult to find and/or expensive. There’s a wonderful Spanish site, that lists recipes for some gorgeous Italian and Spanish creations. Check them out (the unappetizingly named “Dripping of Fish” is one of the most visually stunning dishes I’ve ever seen):

    Also, Ferran Adria has published every recipe he’s created from 1983-2005 in five of the most expensive and beautiful cookbooks you’ll ever lay eyes upon. On a more basic level, I was shocked to open my newspaper, The Globe & Mail, this past weekend, and find two recipes from Grant Achatz:

    Beyond this, the impact of molecular gastronomy has already expanded into mainstream cuisine, I think. Foams and airs are everywhere these days, and they were created at el Bulli about a decade ago. Sous-vide is another technique that seems primed to explode. The biggest obstacle is finding ways to make techniques and ingredients available to the home cook. That, I hope, is just a matter of time and ingenuity.

  • Jennie/Tikka

    Rob –

    Sous vide: french for “without life.” There’s nothing fancy about it at all. Every Stouffer’s frozen boil-in-a-bag dinner is “sous vide.” It simply means its something in a bag and there’s no air. It is merely boil-in-a-bag cooking, nothing more. The theory behind it is protecting something you’re cooking from air and direct (and more violent) heating will protect the texture of what you’re cooking.

  • Jennie/Tikka

    I should probably mention why that’s important.

    In classical french cooking, things like grill marks are considered burning the product. The french dislike the fancy grillmarks we work so hard to make here in the U.S. A french diner or french chef would consider the food burnt if they saw grill marks. So for classical french cooking, you need to cook the food without toughening up the texture. This is why a french omelette has no coloring whatsoever, you’re just cooking it to barely coagulate (which is somewhere between 160 and 185 degrees), vs. the greasy spoon/diner version which has browning and toughening.

  • Jennie/Tikka

    Ok, correcting myself:

    Omelet is the correct spelling.

    Egg whites coagulate between 144 and 149. Egg yolks between 149 and 158 (which is why they’re tricky to get right unless scrambled).

  • Scotty

    “Sous vide may not be new – (i.e., is definitely not new) but noodles in a toothpaste tube is.”

    But isn’t that it, Jennie/Tikka? Someone developed the collapsible metal (later plastic tube) as a delivery system. Whether it delivers toothpaste or Preparation H or noodles it is pre-existing technology. The Chef may have property rights to his/her name or restaurant name, but what we are dealing with here is the contents of that tube, and that leads to the question of whether you can patent a recipe, or the process which leads to it. Does the addition of gums, etc. make a substance less of a standard forcemeat.

    I don’t know, but it seems fertile ground for my former colleagues. Now, I must stop thinking about the Law or I will have flashbacks to that drive from Toledo to Columbus through a Blizzard to take the Ohio Bar . . .

  • Jennie/Tikka

    Scotty –

    I still think that once you’ve cooked it – you’ve lost it. There’s no way to protect it. Somebody will figure it out after they’ve tasted it.

    NOW, legally protecting one’s Mise-en-Place from poachers, THAAAAAT’S a legal area that needs some attention!! 😉 Somebody needs to institute a death penalty to the people who poach your necessary stuff right before dinner service begins.

  • Scotty

    Agreed, Jennie. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a debate (or that lawyers couldn’t make money over the issue).

    To heck with the Mise-in Place, I used to issue a fatwa for the person who dared steal that one pair of heavy-duty Vollrath tongs I used to hide at the end of service each night . . .

  • rob

    Jennie, I understand that sous-vide has a history that pre-dates molecular gastronomy, but let’s be honest, it took molecular gastronomy to popularize it here as something other than a way to create boil-in-the-bag meals at home. There are inherent benefits to cooking foods under vacuum — like increased juiciness, even cooking, and better texture — that most boil-in-the-bag afficionados couldn’t care less for. Moreover, molecular gastronomy has ported the technique into previously unexplored areas (witness, for example, Grant Achatz’s sous-vide broccoli stems: http://www.foodtv.ca/recipes/recipedetails.aspx?dishid=7440 ). Stouffer’s might be “sans vie,” but it’s not fair to paint MG sous-vide with the same brush. Hell, MG doesn’t actually even boil sous-vide; it’s a low-temperature method. To label MG sous-vide “merely boil-in-a-bag cooking, nothing more,” is about as fair as describing what these chefs do with liquid nitrogen as “merely freezing.”

  • Ed

    By and large, I think that most of the practitioners of this style are very open source really…How many stagiers does Adria accept every year? A lot, the same goes for all the post modernists practicing in Europe that I am aware of. The entire Madrid Fusion Conference is dedicated to the exchange of ideas.

    Here on this side of the pond even more so, the vast majority of chefs I am in contact with are more than willing to share technique, sources, inspiration and so on…Look at blogs like Ideas in Food, Studio Kitchen and so on. Even in the cases of blatant plagarism (entire menus, exact renderings of dishes with out credit) most of the originators responses have been “whatever…” they are following their own muse and are already on to the next thing.

    I think it also bears mentioning that, as a creative field, there is a great deal of collective consciousness that needs to be considered. It happens all the time…several people are working on similar concepts simutaniously. I almost got angry when Joan and Jordi Rocca persented the smoking gun at Madrid Fusion, I was messing around with electric pot pipes for smoking food prior the conference…apparently Grant Achtaz was as well. Now if I use this technique, am I ripping someone off?

    This highlights the problem with patents and copyrights in many artistic fields. What if Picasso were able to protect the style of Cubism? On some level I can appreciate the sentiment on the part of the creator…but even Adria hs borrowed concepts in his, and will be the first to admit it. This is why Cantu frustrates me, he and those who support this thinking are ultimately shutting down the free exchange of ideas. While I admire his work, and he has been definitively original with some of his dishes (the class 4 lazer has to be a first), his claims that Moto is an independant think tank are laughable. We know where the pipettes came from after all, and the entire thrust of this movement (regardless of what we call it) is clearly derived from the progressive work of hose who came before us. If there are law suits 10 years down the road because of this sort of thinking, is it really going to make the industry better? Perhaps a few will prosper from the litigation (pricipally the lawyers) but I must caution agaist going down this road…it really is Pandora’s Box if you ask me.

  • Bob delG

    Boil-in-bag technology dates to the late 1930’s (e.g.http://tinyurl.com/2elpr9) while sous-vide was developed in the early 1970’s. Both technologies involve putting food in bags that are subsequently vacuumed and put in water, but that’s where the similarity ends.

    Sous-vide preparations are in effect , if not by definition, designed to optimize the retention water, fat and aromatic molecules during most of the cooking cycle. Moreover, because the cooking takes place at temps. between 130-140 degrees F, the rate of coagulation of protein is very slow.

    I don’t want to go bonkers on the science here, so I’ll simply add that lower-temps mean fewer protein to protein collisions and fewer protein to protein bonds. Fewer bonds mean a looser final protein “mesh,” and a more tender product that will not only squeeze out less water and fat but will also reabsorb these more readily.
    Also there is less melting of fat at low temps so there’s less fat to reabsorb.

    Boil-in-bag is a good name for that technology because that’s about what it is. Drop the bag in 212 degree water and let it rip. Also I believe that boil-in-bag products are fully cooked before they go in the bag, which is not the case with preparations of sous-vide.

    When I was teaching at the CIA I ran dozens of experiments that involved cooking foods at low temperature. I did not have a sous-vide set up, but even under the primitive conditions available to me, I could see the effects predicted by the science.

    Once I was given 24 lobes of grade A foie gras by Hudson Valley Foie Gras and asked to vary the method of cooking and calculate yields.
    No surprise that the highest yields were from methods that mimicked sous-vide.

  • Jennie/Tikka

    Sorry, Rob – I’m just quoting what my culinary instructors told us, ver batim when we asked the question, “So what is sous vide cooking, anyways?”

    You’ll notice that the Stouffer’s stuff is pre-cooked food that is frozen and reheated. Sous Vide cooking is still sous vide cooking – whether you start with fresh ingredients or pre-cooked that you’re reheating. Its the same TECHNIQUE. There’s less mystery to haute cuisine than there appears to be.

    Look more closely at what I posted – I’m not saying the RESULTS are always the same, I’m saying the TECHNIQUE is always the same. If you start with bad ingredients in the bag – the result will be likewise bad. If you start with absolutely beautiful fish (a la Keller’s Sturgeon dish at TFL) you’ll have an absolutely beautiful result.

    Again we’re talking about your starting point: Great quality ingredients vs. poor quality ingredients. The COOKING techniques are always the same (there are a limited number of ways to heat food).

    In the US., sous vide at the restaurant level has been around for 40 years now. It was done HEAVILY prior to Alice Waters in nearly every restaurant you went to. Everything was:

    -Not fresh
    -Heavily sauced
    -Not local ingredients
    -Frequently sous vide

  • Ed

    I am sure as you go along, you wll find out that much of what your instructors told was wrong. I still hear teachers claim that searing seals in the juices.

    While you are correct in your observation that the technique for sous vide is the same and has always been, the major change in its use relates to the impetus behind its use. Previously it had been used to preserve poor quality ingredients, for airplanes, large banquet service and so on…it may have improved the quality in these sorts of operations as a by product but it was not the focus. The focus was efficieny and economy of scale.

  • Brett

    Although I’m not a fan of that style of cooking, I prefer to use the term “vanguardista” (the term many are using in Spain). I can’t recall where I first read it or heard it, but it just seems to fit. Very Spanish and Catalan, reminiscent of Gaudi and the “modernista” movement of a century ago. By the way, I ate Adria’s version of the egg (coconut foam with a mango “yolk” — one of the few dishes that tasted as good as it looked) last summer, and I was highly amused when Dufresne’s sous chef claimed that it was a WD50 invention.

  • Jennie/Tikka

    No disrespect to anyone, but I don’t see it.

    If you drop your oven temp while baking, you’re still baking.
    Drop your flame while sauteeing, you’re still sauteeing.
    Drop your temp when you’re braising, you’re still braising.
    Drop your water temp to below 212, you’re still cooking something in a sealed bag in hot water.

    The only difference I see, is you’re doing it a la minute.

    Start with crappy spaghetti. No matter what you do with it you’ll never get those low-grade tomatoes to taste any better. No matter how you cook it you will get crappy spaghetti.

    Start with sturgeon that’s still moving (its that’s fresh). You CAN ruin it by how you cook it. But one man’s “ruined” is another man’s “just right.” Standard response: throw it on the grill like its a steak. Others would call that blasphemy. You want different texture so you have to change cooking methods. You revive an old method that was horridly misused in the past. Everyone applauds like spastic squirrels after too much Mountain Dew as if its a brand new idea in cooking. Its not – its the revival of a method that was previously applied badly.

  • Ed

    Do you really think things are that cut an dry?

    Lower the tempertature enough when you are baking and you are warming.

    Drop the flame while sauteeing and at some point are you not sweating? Big difference there in my opinion.

    Drop the temperature while braising and at a certain point it loses its effect and ceases to work.

    Drop the temperature in sous vide and you can accomplish braising, sweating, and warming you can even blanch vegetables by going to the extreme and freezing them.

    Holding such a narrow view of cooking will only limit your potential, the fact is that the precision sous vide provides is unparalleled. A few degrees of temperature can make an amazing amount of difference…have you even tried it?

    No one has asserted that it is a new idea, but the the thought process is new (or newer.) Who applauded like spastic squirrels? It appears that you do not like this particular approach, which is fine with me, is it really neccesary to disparage it by exaggerating and calling it “boil in the bag.” You, and your instructor are using the phrase in a derisive manner, as if sous vide as it is practiced in modern restuarants is somehow inferior to traditional methods. I can assure you, it is not easy!

  • Scotty

    I have to side strongly with Jennie here. We started out with this issue of patenting or otherwise legally protecting cooking processes or recipes. We are not speaking of creativity or ingenuity. The fact is that “boil-in-bag” and “sous vide” are the same process – the containment of food in a vacuum sealed environment cooked in a liquid medium. The ingenuity of sous vide is the use of high quality ingredients and very slow heat. A brilliant concept, but not enough unlike boil-in-bag to merit legal protection.

    We can debate forever the relative merits of Chefs and their concepts, but I have yet to see anything that is not a variation, albeit a REALLY creative variation, on an existing theme or process.

    So, Jennie, does this make me your “sous vide” chef?

  • t-scape

    On the term “vanguardista” – my first reaction is that it is a bit on the vague side, as it just means “vanguardist”. Lots of things can be on the vanguard, so it doesn’t seem to me to really capture much of the actual style, other than that it’s different from the norm.

  • Ed

    We may have started there, and I am against patents with regards to cooking as well. Bus sous vide and boil in the bag are not the same. Are blanchng and poaching the same? This is the essentially the argument you are making.

  • Ed

    We may have started there, and I am against patents with regards to cooking as well. But sous vide and boil in the bag are not the same. Are blanchng and poaching the same? This is the essentially the argument you are making.

  • Jennie/Tikka

    Sweating is still sauteeing – without carmelizing. There’s heat. There’s oil. There are onions. Its just a lot quicker to say, “Sweat those” rather than “Throw those in a sautee pan for 2 or 3 minutes but don’t carmelize them” especially when you are in a hurry.

    Blanching and poaching are quicker versions of indicating what temperature you want the liquid at and how long you want your item in it. Its just shorthand. You can blanch or poach the very same item, depending on your intended result. Here’s an example. Take french fries. You blanch them before you deep fry them again at a higher temp. Rather than spelling all that out, its easier to say: “Blanch then fry.”

    I’ve never said I was against it – I use it myself and like it. But to pretend its a whole different technique – that doesn’t make sense to me.

    I’m not being derrogatory towards it – I’m pointing out that’s its an old technique that’s been spin-doctored by a savvy set of Chefs who know how to work new life into old standards. (Ever wondered why you can’t quite put your finger on just what MG is and when it started??)

    And yes, Scotty – you can be my Chef and I’ll be “Sous” you 😉

  • Jennie/Tikka

    (Sous Vide) Its the “Emperor’s New Clothes” of cooking, if you will.

    Its the “New & Improved” on the side of the box.

    Its “Guissepe Verdi” instead of Gus Green.

    You have to understand that there’s a little more “used car salesman” in Chefs than Grand Artist. Don’t be fooled.

    Hugs all around 🙂

  • Ed

    So are stewing and braising the same proceedure as well? You are failing to recognize the intent of any of these proceedures which is what differentiates them from one another. By your logic, grilling, broiling, roasting and sauteeing are all the same thing because they are all dry heat methods. Grilling just uses grates, sauteeing uses a pan, broiling is just upside down grilling etc.

    Commonalities are not conclusive elements the justification of sameness. I ask a cook to sweat something because there is precission in its meaning, it is different than sauteeing. Sauteeing means to jump, IMPLIES moderately high to high heat…sweating seeks to use the products moisture as part of its cooking medium and IMPLIES lower temperature.

    As far as I know, no one can really put their finger on when Nouvelle Cuisine started either, there are a range of dates generallly agreed upon, but we also have the context of history to give perspective. When did classic cuisine disappear? Has it? When did the New American movement start? Just becuase we cannot precisely define a starting point doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    Adria has basically stated that this “thing” is really just a continuation of Nouvelle Cuisine…and I basically agree. I am curious, who do you think has claimed to invent anything (besides Cantu)? Most earnest chefs modern, molecular or otherwise are pretty clear about where these ideas and evolutions came from, their foundation in earlier (and often) more industrial applications. If you know of some recent chef who claimed to invent sous vide, its news to me. Perhaps we have digressed to far, perhaps I should go back through your earlier posts. None-the-less the specificity of culinary nomenclature IS important. These words have meanings that are specific, and their sole purpose is not to avoid saying something more cumbersome.

  • Bob delG

    Sous vide and boil-in-bag technologies are not the same. Scroll up to my last post and if after you read it you still think they are the same then for you they are alike.

    Sous vide is only similar to the other in that the food is put into a bag that is subsequently vacuumed and submerged in water. Otherwise they exploit two very different sets of physical principles and target different outcomes.

    If you don’t believe me, dig down into the literature of why sous-vide was developed (to find a way to increase the yield of foie gras) and it will all become more clear.

    Nuff said.

  • Jennie/Tikka

    The differences between things like “braise” and “stew” “or “sweat” and “saute” are well-known by anybody who works in a kitchen (myself included). You’d have to drag in somebody off the street who’s never studied cooking to find someone who needs that explained. Why belabor that? I’ve never made the argument that poaching temp and boiling temp are the same temp. Find that. Show me where I said that. When I’m told to sweat something I don’t trundle my ass over to the stove and crank it up to nuclear, and then present little black specks as sweated onions. Give me some credit. When I have to cook for the Fire Chiefs and the Governor of California in the near future, I think I’ll be able to swing something that’s properly cooked and be able to instruct my linecooks. Likewise, if one of them gave me little black specks after I told them to sweat some onions, I’d throw them out of my kitchen for not knowing what should be obvious.

    The larger point I’m making (and you’re missing, Ed) in all of this is that there is way too much reverence given to these terms; hell, there’s way to much reverence given to food in general is what I’m saying.

    Cooking for dignitaries is something I do in my spare time, Ed – in between hurricanes, tornadoes, major fires, floods and SWAT standoffs. These are important situations. These are life and death. Belaboring the minute (and obvious) differences between braising and stewing (as if its truly important) just annoys me.

    The C.I.A. is important (just ask them) but not nearly as important as the Firemen I know, the Paramedics, EMT’s, etc.

    I’m a chef, yes I am – but the reason that’s important is because I save life, limb, and property more than I cook and believe that THAT is what is truly important in life. Cooking is just another way I express care. When cooking doesn’t have anything to do with caring anymore – I tune out. When it becomes mechanical and technical instead of pleasing and comforting – what’s the point? When it becomes hair-splitting…..zzzzzzzzzzzz.

    Adria may have a great restaurant….but unless he can peform CPR in the midst of a tornado – I’m not all that impressed.

  • Ed

    Wow, sorry I care about what I do (what we do) I never claimed I was saving lives…if you want to pull that trump card so be it. Clearly you are a saint and I am a schmuck who cares only about his lowly craft and can’t recognize what is truely important in life. Perhaps I could articulate my concern for homeless people, my work at food banks and so on, perhaps that would redeem me in your eyes? I can only hope…

    I will drop my sarcasm for a moment (perhaps you could drop your sanctimony?) If you really feel that the work of firemen and EMT’s is more important than your other job, perhaps you should stick with those lines of work. I, on the otherhand, view this pursuit on a seperate but equal plane. I am, when at my best, in the business of providing joy, creating memories, and giving people pleasure…these are, im my view, among the principle reasons for living. The pleasures of the flesh are what ultimately sustain us, if anything there is not ENOUGH reverence for food in this world. If you are refering to the fetishization of food objects, then I might agree.

    On a related tangent, you take a swipe at Adria becuase he may not be able to perform CPR in a tornado…is this really your criteria for validity? A major thrust of Adria’s work is the precise codification of new(er) areas of our craft…the same thrust that allowed other human beings to discover CPR in the first place.

    I come here, and very few other places to talk about food and subjects related to it, if this is such a low thing to do, why are you here?

  • ruhlman

    have been meaning and wanting to comment on so many points raised in this great conversation, damn, but i’ve had too much stuff going on, and too much writing to do…on a sous vide cookbook.

    …oh the irony of fate.

  • Russ H

    I have to admit, I really don’t like the term ‘molecular gastonomy’. It sounds either like some sort of name Star Trek would have for a chef, or something that requires a LOT of Immodium AD to relieve.

  • Bob delG

    Ed you wrote:

    “When did classic cuisine disappear? Has it?”

    I believe that almost nothing that humans do disappears entirely, but becomes subsumed into subsequent practice and expression. (Excluding perhaps the practices of unknown hermits or isolated demes -breeding populations- of humans who may have developed practices that could not be passed on to others. LOL)

    Sometimes an element from previous practice will maintain something close to it’s original identity, for example in Escoffier’s time a Chateaubriand was an approx 4-6 inch long cut from behind the head of a beef tenderloin. Nowadays it’s more likely to include the head, but it’s still more or less the same thing. Other things loose their original identity almost entirely and become metaphors. Back in the day a “supreme” was understood to be a skinned and filleted breast from a bird. Now a “supreme” might be anything that is skinless, boneless and understood to be somewhat refined, as in a supreme of salmon.

    That said, if by classic cuisine (Warning: I’m not sure the term cuisine has any real meaning unless it is understood to be a multidimensonal concept defined in time, space, processes and ingredients used etc.) you mean French international cooking and service typical of the first half of the 20th century I think you’d have to do it yourself to find it. However many elements of it remain in place and can be seen even in the far -out seemingly original work of Adria et al.

    But I suspect you know all this.

  • Ed

    It was a philosophical querry…there are few definitive answers when tracking the wax and wane of cultural movements.

    Your point does speak to a portion of what I was tying to say, the “new” cuisine is but a seris of points on a very long continuum. None of it would be possible w/o what came before it.

  • Scotty

    OK, so when you start off the day checking in on one of your favorite blogs and your first instinct is to take “The Hunger Artist” out back behind the wood shed and slap him for missing the point, it’s time for another cup of PG Tips before posting, Even if Bob del G beat me to first post.

    I am putting on my “lawyer” doing a jury summation hat for a moment. But, as Commander Loskene said in Star Trek, In the interest of Interstellar Amity, let’s kick back for a second.

    It is safe to assume for the sake of argument (arguendo in Latin) that, with the exception of a few 16 year olds who think that Ruhlman’s Jacket Photo is really hunky, the people who know who Michael Ruhlman is, let alone post comments on his blog, have more than a passing interest in food and cooking. There is a reason we are not at Rachael Ray’s site. We are safe in assuming that they understand the basic possesses involved. Some are passionate home cooks, some have worked professionally. Some have done both. I’d bet that many of us have copies of McGee in our libraries, some dog-eared. Some dog-eared and propped open on the couch to page 567’s discussion of taste receptors for a spec magazine article. Some can tell you about the time that idiot prep-cook launched the blade of a Robot Coupe into the air, and an even more idiot sous-chef instinctively caught it. (No stitches – great pain).

    The bottom line is that we can safely assume that anyone reading this blog and posting here has some experience with the subject, and move on from there.

    The point I tried to make, and was riffing with my new buddy Jennie about, has to do with intellectual property rights and patents. Let’s take a bottle of Emeril Legasse’s hot sauce off my shelf. The name “Emeril’s” and the phrase “kick it up” have been given trademark protection. The text on the bottle is copyrighted by the manufacturers, (who also licensed the rights to Emeril’s name, catchphrase, and picture). But, there is no patent, as anyone can make a hot sauce. Even Tabasco, who protect their rights with a vengeance worthy of Don Corleone, do not hold an apparent patent for the manufacture of their sauce.

    You don’t see Eric Ripert or Alfred Portale looking for patent protection for their creativity. The only place I have seen it arise is the “MG” (or whatever they end up calling it) arena. In most cases I have seen it is not something new, but the adaptation of existing technology in a new way. That’s why I want to slap Bob del G (actually I’d rather have a beer with him!). I was talking from a legal standpoint about protecting chef’s rights, though from even a cooking standpoint I stick with my assertion, The quality of the product may vary, the cooking time and temperature may vary, the end result may vary, but, if you put something in a vacuum bag, and cook it in a liquid medium, the process is identical.

    Be it LASERs or Liquid Nitrogen it is adaption, not invention.

    Not to clog Mr. Ruhlman’s space, if you want to chat further, or think you know of a new cooking process, e-mail me at Scottycooks@gmail.com


  • Bob delG


    If you still want to slap me after you read this, I’ll assume that I have failed to communicate and move on. From your last post [I paraphrase]:

    1) all cooking that takes place in a vacuumed bag submerged in water is the same process.

    While fundamentally true this is not practically true.

    I don’t want to rehash or expand on different physical principles exploited by boil-in-bag and sous vide but instead call your attention to the patent streams of each technology -they are not identical. The processes are different enough to require very different tools with different patents. At this writing I’m not sure if the two methods carry unique patents.

    Like you, I’m not aware of any “dishes” (as opposed to methods and machines) that have been patented, and never meant to imply that there could be. When I wrote “Expect Patents soon” I was referring to methods and machines, but did not make that obvious.

    Okay, don’t hurt me 🙂

  • Scotty

    Don’t worry Bob.

    Aside from the fact that we are now close to being on the same page, you are probably bigger than I am, and certainly better with your knife skills.

    It also appears that (not surprisingly) you have access to info about patent streams that I do not. So I will shut up about it.

    But there is certainly an interesting thread to be had over where and when a cook’s property rights vest. If you adapt an existing technology to food, is it protected? As opposed to a new technology created just for food? I don’t know.

    Does anyone?

  • veron

    You’re writing a book on sous vide Michael? Interesting. I’m taking a 3 day class by Harold McGee in July. I think the last part of the class deals with sous vide…

  • Kay A

    Never met Homaro Cantu, never tried his food, but I have seen him throw internet hissy fits befitting a 9 year old child whenever his brilliance was questioned, and that coupled with his indomitable hubris makes him one of the biggest douchebags I’ve ever seen. How technically brilliant can he possibly be if typing coherently presents such a challenge? Oh, but he can draw up plans for a sauce squirting fork–man, that’s just like living in space or some shit! An invention as fantastic as this will truly render all previous methods of sauce dispensery obsolete and expand our collective culinary horizons faster than his own bottled-up nerd rage induced love handles.

    If he didn’t get his ass beaten on a daily basis when he was in high school then someone needs to start making up for lost time. Preferably his own parents.

  • Claudia

    Ohh, I’m glad you kissed and made up, Skawty and Bobby D – Jenna and I will take you BOTH out for a beer if you promise you’ll never change . . . won’t we, Tikka?


    wuz-up wit dis …”molecular gastronomy”… head ache ur givin’ me?

    I think all of you are so far off-base here that it just aint funny!!

    All of this seems to be about the “BEEN THERE — DONE THAT!” factor.

    GOOD food & GREAT food are made by GOOD & GREAT CHEFS … PERIOD! We all want to eat Keller’s “HOURS OLD” veggies and ooo Beluga on top of Perigord Truffles by the bucket full because it TASTES GREAT, not because some obscure chef once added melted butter to egg yolks and sauce was borne a hundred ++ years ago. So who is responsible for any of this? Tailevent, Guillaum Tirel, La Varenne, Careme, Escoffier, Bocuse, Keller, Adria or Dr.Herve This & Dr. Kurti ??

    # 1 BIG-BOY, elBulli CHEF FERRAN ADRIA, and the other lesser-boys that make “molecular gastronomy” must say thank you, and give “all credit” to Dr. Herve This & Dr. Nicholas Kurti for passing it down to them. Granted — they are making ‘FANTASTIC FOOD’ of “fuzz, foams, bubbles, smoke & mirrors” but what it all comes down to is do you want to go back and eat it again and again and again? Not from my past experiences.

    My answer is no! I want to crave the deliciousness triggering a sensation of wanting another taste of a sea urchin souffle or a hot steamed Jumbo Jimmy Maryland hard crab … NOT THE FOAM THAT SURROUNDS THE DECONSTRUCTED BELUGA ooo-ASPARAGUS – WAGYU-COLIS-GILEE-SPHERE of hydrocolloids!!

    Give us a break … and give us UMAMI instead of FOAM.

    by Wilbur M. Reeling
    epicurean raconteur

  • Don Luis

    I don’t THINK you need to COPYRIGHT “your posts” (if that’s a LEGITIMATE copyright notice). I DOUBT that ANYONE will be “using” your WORK anytime SOON.

    “GOOD food & GREAT food are made by GOOD & GREAT CHEFS … PERIOD!.” Well, no, of course not. Home cooks like my mother, her mother, and their ancestors, have been making good food for generations, and none of them are chefs.

    I’ll admit that I’ve never been to your website, and I probably never will.

    Forget Escoffier, he’s been dead for years, likely because he ate foam.

    A raconteur is a person who excels in telling stories Frankly, this was neither a story nor excellent.

    By the way, “Ain’t” (or, as you might say, “AINT”), has an apostrophe.

    As Frank Zappa said, “If I want foam, I’ll go to the ocean”. (Actually, I made that up.)


    Dear Ms. or Mr. D. Clueless-Luis, 6/3/07

    You should get out of Puerto Rico more often … there’s a whole culinary world out there you’ve never visited and maybe you should before you are qualified to make such “STUPID” comments. It is obvious this blog stuff ‘aint’ for you — per your BLOG-Biography & PROFILE you are a CULINARY CLUELESS TWIT.

    Your comments on Ruhlman’s BLOG about me and …”molecular gastronomy”… is all WAY-OVER-YOUR-HEAD!! Why don’t you stick to your ancestor’s cocina and Mommy’s HOT PEPPERS, PAPAYA GRUEL that you’ve been eating for years? You are much better qualified for that.

    As to the © symbol that you also do not UNDERSTAND — I am a ‘World Famous Artist’ and painter, as well as an epicurean raconteur. This QC Copywrite is one of many that I hold and was done to protect my intellectual property, done over 15 years ago, for the photography, books, TV shows and movies, etc. etc. that I have done for decades. It (©)doesn’t refer to any BLOG POSTING … just the crooks, like you, that would steal from others without giving credit or remuneration.

    I did CLICK your BLOG to see what “you” are about, “Ms. or Mr. D. Clueless-Luis”,and we do agree that your POST …”Papaya & your Medalla, a popular beer”… will be a big hit with all your ancestor’s home-boi and culinary cocina folks interested in “Puerto Rican Hot-Pepper-Momma Gruel with Medalla Beer molecular gastronomy” Those ancestors are in line on your tiny Puerto Rican dirt street waiting for you to part with some of your Clueless-Luis knowledge.
    — LOL —

    Wilbur M. Reeling

  • kevinlimbo

    Boy, that escalated quickly… I mean, that really got out of hand fast. -Ron Burgundy

  • Don Luis

    More proof that Chianti and blog posting do not mix. I should not have posted that, but I think the response was over the top. I replied on my own blog if anyone cares.


    Hi Claudia,

    I’m sorry if I rubbed you the wrong way but I felt there was a good reason to reply to the

    If you read the BLOG on Ruhlman it was all about ‘molecular gastronomy’ and that is a subject that I am very familiar with. Instead of Don Luis commenting on ‘molecular gastronomy’ he decided to CALL ME OUT, on a personal level, because he did not and does not like the style of my writing!! NOTHING 2-DO WITH “MOLECULAR GAAAAASTRONOMY!” … he just directed insult after insult at ME and I insulted him back!

    I have followed the history of molecular gastronomy and referred in the BLOG to the most recognized food people in history (Honored Chefs like) …”Tailevent, Guillaum Tirel, La Varenne, Careme, Escoffier, Bocuse, Keller, Adria or Gurus’ of molecular gastronomy Dr.Herve This & Dr. Kurti” … and I’d add Alice Waters to the list also. Luis’ comment is only that Escoffier is dead, instead of arguing pro and con on any type of food history.

    So, who is responsible for any of this …”molecular gastronomy”… there is only one answer – “Dr.Herve This & Dr. Kurti” — that is a fact and Chef of elBulli, Adrian Ferran, is the first to be acknowledged by the International Press as the BEST of the BEST. All others stand in his shadow, and Ferran owes “Dr.Herve This & Dr. Kurti”.

    On his BLOG, D. Luis says, “What offends me is your (Wilbur M. Reeling) horrible writing style. It looks like you let 12 horny monkeys have their way with your keyboard … you typographically challenged individual”… so says Mr. Clueless-Luis about me – NO “MOLECULAR” ANYTHING MENTIONED, IS THERE?.

    Clueless-Luis TOTALLY ignored …”molecular gastronomy”… and instead attacked me directly by saying these things:
    #1 …”I don’t THINK you need to COPYRIGHT “your posts” (if that’s a LEGITIMATE copyright notice).”
    #2 …”GOOD & GREAT CHEFS … PERIOD!. His answer was; … his mother is a home cook and makes good food for generations ??
    #3 … I’ll admit that I’ve never been to your website, [yet he can make these opinions public]
    #4 … Forget Escoffier, he’s been dead for years.
    #5 … a raconteur is a person who excels in telling stories frankly, this was neither a story nor excellent [correction; raconteur = the dictionary defines it as a storyteller one who tells or writes stories…never does the dictionary mention excels and I was just telling a story … and he didn’t like it]
    #6 … By the way, “Ain’t” has an apostrophe.
    #7 … As Frank Zappa said, “If I want foam, I’ll go to the ocean”. (Actually, I (Don Luis) made that up.)

    Never once does he mention …”molecular gastronomy”… only that he does not like me & the style in which I write. So, I think you get my point by now.

    Usually, I will try and make things interesting – amusing or a little humorous on my blog or any reply on a particular subject, but this must have been to deep for d. l.

    And finally on your comment: …”Claudia says: I think it was over-reacting too – and racist, quite frankly”… yes, maybe I over-reacted but there is nothing racist about what I wrote. Puerto Rico
    is a tiny country and not a race of people. I did not use any derogatory terms or names. It’s like calling people that live in Texas — Texans.

    Wilbur M. Reeling

    PS — this is my final word on this

  • Ed

    Do you not see that the tone of your posting is insulting and confrontational? Calling people twits and such? Going to Ideas in Food and insulting their approach, essentially going into their forum and telling them they are off base…implying that their pursuit of new pardigms of preparation is without merit is no way to demonstrate your desire to enter into a conversation. You may have valid points, but you basically JUST START YELLING.

    By now it is safe to assume that the world gets your general dislike of DIS MELECULAR G thang’…you have blogged up and down the highway.

    Do what you will, espouse cultural eliteism and take it back, POST LIKE a NUTJOB. Its all good, but please try not to act like you are an innocent that was attacked. You may not be a troll intentionally…but you sure as hell sound like one in my experience…

    PS I secretly hope the above is really your final word.

  • Don Luis

    If you’re going to continue to refer to me as “Clueless-Luis,” may I call you “Witless-Wilbur?”

    Once again, your post is so filled with misconceptions (Puerto Rico is a country), typographical madness (“…NOTHING 2-DO WITH “MOLECULAR GAAAAASTRONOMY…,”), spelling and grammar errors, and mis-quotes as to make it more effort that it’s worth to read or attempt to correct.

    If your first reply was not racism, it was at least bigotry. Read it again.

    In your first post, you stated that “GOOD food & GREAT food are made by GOOD & GREAT CHEFS … PERIOD!.” I simply disagreed. I believe that was within the scope of the discussion.

    I’m just glad your last post was your last word on the subject.

  • kevinlimbo

    “raconteur = the dictionary defines it as a storyteller one who tells or writes stories…never does the dictionary mention excels and I was just telling a story”-QC

    I wonder if the dictionary he used had Crashing Bore as an alternative definition.

  • Claudia

    As I pointed out to Wilbur off-board, once you slag someone’s ethnicity, you’ve crossed a line – particularly as it has nothing to do with the subject at hand.

    By the way, aside from the aggressive, belliferent tone implied in typing in caps for more than a word or so, it’s a bitch to read for the rest of us “non-combatants”. I keep having to re-read the posts to get through the “cap-spatter”, and it certainly detracts from whatever point the poster is making.

    So, if this discussion is to continue, could we all just get back to (a) molecular gastronomy, (b) the quality of food in relation to the quality of the cook, and (c) no insults (academic, intellectual, ethnic or otherwise), and (d) NO MORE CAPS?!!!! Just an idea.

    Thank you.

  • JB

    Back to the molecular gastronomy, has anyone started using the term post modern, or post french?? it just seems that so much of the foundations of cooking schools r based on french techniques and although sous vide is a french term most of the new machines, and chemicals being used are really not from the french….so if u look at the movements in the art world, if u presume cooking is both a skill(specific forumlas and techniques) and an art(innate, intuitive feel and sense of aesthetics) then is the Wylie,Adrian,Grant, Blumethal, Cantu and all, a new movement and direction like the art world more than the scientific world..which is the great think about great chefs it is both art and skill…so it is definitely post something…post haute?
    And in terms of copywriting…it gets back to the issue the dish is more than the some of its parts(the recipe) it is the ingredients and how it is cooked which is never the same and which determines the virtuosity of the chef who cooked it…so maybe it is the exact same ingredients but no 2 dishes are going to be exact duplicates ever..Which for me is why restaurants,chefs are so fascinating and farmers markets so interesting….great food is far more than just a recipe…
    Just some thoughts……