Perfection: simple not easy
I am a believer in the perfectly poached egg. Once the protective albumen is punctured, out pours a river of golden richness. The warm egg yolk is hollandaise of the gods.
As a young Culinarian, I was initially swept off my feet by molecular gastronomy. The Rock concert of foams, glues and smokes dazzled me. All I wanted was to get my hands on some Albumina and go to town. After volunteering at the molecular gastronomy workshop in February, I've come back down to earth.
Molecular gastronomy is the art of applying chemistry to basic culinary preparations, but it's become much more than that. It's a fad, frenzy, a compulsion to change food in unnatural ways because it looks great and people will buy it. Some things are practical; some are not.
I watched in awe as a beet puree was turned into stable foam that could be spooned onto a plate or even frozen for later use. I could hardly wait to taste it, but when I did I found it was only hot air. The beets had given the foam a brilliant pink color, but the beet flavor was not there. The foam also had a faint rubber-glove smell which was rather unappetizing.
Other compounds were fantastic. The hot chocolate mousse or olive oil meringue were as tasty as they were beautiful. Frozen micro green garnishes were attractive as well, but once they thaw they are reduced to wilted rubbish heaps. When you alter food dramatically you may degrade it, whether by a loss of flavor, texture or beauty. The decision to apply molecular gastronomy is a very serious one; you must weigh the pros and cons. If it doesn't taste as good it's just fancy junk. Over time these failures will be forgotten; the practical and delicious will survive and hopefully be used to improve and expand many chefs' repertoires.
Young people like me are impressed by the newest and coolest culinary gimmicks. Sometimes the most delicious flavors are brushed aside as old fashioned or too easy. We forget that when done perfectly these elementary methods become magical. Their mastery produces unbelievable flavors that no powders or gels can reproduce. Innovation can never be allowed to replace skill.
Molecular is like any other methodology: it must be mastered and used properly. One or two cutting edge items are a delightful change, but simple and delicious food is unbeatable. I still think molecular gastronomy is exciting, but I have learned caution.
My faith in the perfectly poached egg endures.