There's much interest these days in experimental cooking, a relatively recent approach to food that invents new dishes, and explores new ways to make traditional dishes, with the help of the tools and ideas of science. Its sudden blossoming around the turn of the 21st century has been a fascinating development in the history of food and eating.
Misinformation and misunderstandings about experimental cooking have been accumulating from its very beginnings. They're now hardening into bad pop cultural history that tags very different chefs and their ideas with the impressive but empty terms "molecular gastronomy" and "molecular cuisine."
"Achatz followed in the footsteps of the molecular gastronomists, who believed that the standard repertoire of cooking--the roasting, boiling, and sautéing that dominated the kitchen since the time of Auguste Escoffier--was out of date. . . . The world's best restaurants, Adrià and his ilk believed, needed to catch up with Nabisco"
and the other innovative snack manufacturers that gave us Cheetos and Reddi Wip.
Much of the confusion about experimental cooking begins with confusion about the term "molecular gastronomy" and the pioneering workshop in Erice, Sicily that introduced it in 1992. To my knowledge, the origins of the Erice workshop have been accurately recounted only once, in a little-known article by David Arnold in the trade journal Food Arts (June 2006). As a result, a key figure in the story remains unacknowledged, and the nature and influence of the workshop itself have been misunderstood.
For anyone who's interested in understanding the evolution of experimental cooking, I've put together a brief account of the Erice workshops, including the original documents on which it's based. You'll find it here:
And anyone interested in what Ferran Adrià actually believes about modern cooking should visit his dazzling website and the
For his view on "molecular cooking," go to
and click on "about molecular cuisine by Ferran Adrià."