samedi 17 janvier 2009

Please don't confuse Molecular Gastronomy and Molecular Cooking!

Dear Friends

After the publication of a "reflection" in IFT Magazine, I was invited to comment this :
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"Those of you that know me always know that I take the position of the chef with the deep appreciation of our food science counterparts...but did all chefs start off stupid babbling fools with no intent goals to create no methods beyond creating emotion? I defer to a comment made in the article; Science is an activity which produces knowledge while art produces emotion. You probably cannot blend science and art as these activities have different methods and goals. Have not chefs over the decades gained and passed on volumes of knowledge of food to the predecessors for more knowledge to be gained and so on the path goes! My goal is to create fantastic tasting food, my counterpart uses their scientific creativity to bring that food in a manufactured arena vs the food service kitchen with the same net results. I ask you where do our goal and methods deviate. I may not be a scientist but I know if I put acid in a cream base it will curdle ...is there not a scientific reason there? Does my technologist counterpart not know that if they freeze milk without stabilization that the net result will be a mealy finish...something not wanted in culinary? We are here for a reason through all the differences in opinions we need each other and we find that balance to create foods the world has not seen in the past 15 to 20 years. So in closing I will ask you Herve when I read this statement "I defined molecular cooking as a culinary trend using ‘new’ tools, ingredients, and methods. Molecular gastronomy is science and science only". When dinning this style do you ask your friends if they want you to make reservations for eight at the bench in the lab...science is science after all!"
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My point-by-point answer was the following :

If I am invited to comment (whereas I decided some time ago that it was useless to discuss such matters, because people often hear only what they want to hear), I would say :


Original Sentence : Those of you that know me always know that I take the position of the chef with the deep appreciation of our food science counterparts...

Comment : I am happy that chefs are proud to be chefs, and that scientists are proud to be scientists. These are different activites. For the first one, technique and art are the key, including a good sense of « love », because you have to love people to make them happy through food.

Science is an activity based on the hypothetical-deductive method, including calculations, producing models (theories) that you try to refute. You produce only knowledge, not emotion.




Original Sentence :
but did all chefs start off stupid babbling fools with no intent goals to create no methods beyond creating emotion?

Comment : sorry, but my understanding of English is not enough to be sure that I understand really what is said there. Let me add only that I prefer to good technician to a poor artist, and a good artist to a poor technician. I prefer a good scientist to a bad cook, but a good cook to a bad scientist. Who can oppose this ?




Original Sentence : I defer to a comment made in the article; Science is an activity which produces knowledge while art produces emotion. You probably cannot blend science and art as these activities have different methods and goals. Have not chefs over the decades gained and passed on volumes of knowledge of food to the predecessors for more knowledge to be gained and so on the path goes!

Comment : I don’t understand « gained and passed on volumes of knowledge of food ». the issue is « volumes of knowledge of food ». sorry, my poor English. Let’s change this discussion list for French, and it will be easier.




Original Sentence : My goal is to create fantastic tasting food

Comment : of course, but the interesting question is « what ca nit be ? ». In my book, Cooking, a quintessential art, I am trying that cooking is first love, then art, and technique last. A poor sandwich with very good friends is better than a meal at Pierre Gagnaire’s with awful people (I had it once, because of students of mine that I cared about)



Original Sentence: my counterpart uses their scientific creativity to bring that food in a manufactured arena vs the food service kitchen with the same net results.

Comment :
your counterpart ? scientific creativity ? I object the words. But I object mainly about « bring food in a manufactured arena » : this is technology, not science. May I repeat after the main scientists of the world, past and present, that technology is not science, but rather the application of science ? We have to fight such faulty expressions such as « applied sciences ». This does not exist, like « round square ». If it is science, it’s not applied (I am not saying that there is no possibility of application, please read carefully. I am noly saying that the scientific actifivy is not applying. This is technology, remember the etymology of the word : techne, means doing, and logos means study ; technology improves technique (and art) through the use of knowledge produced by science (and not only).



Original Sentence:
I ask you where do our goal and methods deviate. I may not be a scientist but I know if I put acid in a cream base it will curdle ...is there not a scientific reason there?

Comment : sorry, but I have the feeling (indeed I know) that you make a mistake here. When you use scientific knowledge, you don’t make science. If you know that your cream curdles through acidity, you don’t make science, but only use knowledge to understand something that happened. Science is very different : it would be starting from this phenomenon, trying to understand the mechanisms of curdling, not because you want to understand the mechanisms, but rather because you want to discover mechanisms.

A comparison : if you light the lights on, and you know that this is because of electrons, you don’t make science. You just know something about the world.



Original Sentence: Does my technologist counterpart not know that if they freeze milk without stabilization that the net result will be a mealy finish...something not wanted in culinary?

Comment :
same comment than above. The question is that science is an activity of looking for the mechanisms of phenomena, not predicting the result of a process ! Moreover, let’s us remember that science is not just proposing mechanisms, but rather trying to refute proposed mechanisms through calculation (generally differential equations). The so called « experimental method » does not mean to make experiments, alas ! It means a whole scientific process that it would take to long to explain here.

Indeed, I have to add that there is no superiority in science over technique. Let’s stress this point again. Someone doing well is wonderful.

And finally, there is a big confusion in education (does it mean the same than teaching, in English ?) : science courses are generally courses where you learn the result of science, not courses where you do science ! And in my idea, it is stealing the name, and creating confusion.



Original Sentence:
We are here for a reason through all the differences in opinions we need each other and we find that balance to create foods the world has not seen in the past 15 to 20 years.

Comment : Indeed I am not sure that we need each other. I could work very well without the cooks, but it’s a bigger pleasure to work with friends. In this meaning, yes, we need each other, but only for the pleasure of having wonderful friends.

May I tell you that in my daily collaboration with Pierre Gagnaire, who is probably one of my very best friends, Pierre never goes in the science area, and I never go into the artistic field. Indeed, I have the feeling that art and science have really nothing in common, because their objectives are completely different. As a scientist, I don’t care about the happiness of the guest through food, and I can tell you taht Pierre does not care about differential equations, or the Diels Alder mechanisms. We have our own way, but we meet because we are friends, and we are friends because we discover (let’s say I) wonderful, marvellous characteristic into the other.



Original Sentence: So in closing I will ask you Herve when I read this statement "I defined molecular cooking as a culinary trend using ‘new’ tools, ingredients, and methods. Molecular gastronomy is science and science only". When dinning this style do you ask your friends if they want you to make reservations for eight at the bench in the lab...science is science after all!

Comment : again, there is no relationship between my quotation and the second part of the argument. Is it because there is this awful confusion about cooking and gastronomy ? I have to say again that gastronomy is not cooking (I don’t speak of « molecular gastronomy » here, but only gastronomy ). This is a big mistake. The word gastronomy means knowledge, not cooking, contrary to a wrong idea.

Finally, let me say that I did my best, because your langage is very difficult for me. Please be indulgent, and be sure that my only idea is to contribute to the advancement of cooking, but mostly in clarifying things. And I have the feeling that contributing to explaining wha science is and is not is important. Many of my ideas are developped in my books, where the translation was done (I hope) by people that can better than me write the English words. Sorry, I can be accurate (and this is important for this kind of debates) only with French. But please be sure that I am VERY PRECISE in French.

And to finish, let’s drop the question of science, technology, etc. The main question is « how best say « I love you » through food ?

Happy new year to all, congratulation for being chefs : you are artists who love others. Isn’t it a wonderful job ?