A short history of Note by Note Cooking
In the scientific circles, there is a traditional joke : when an innovation is proposed, the « Dear Colleagues » begin with saying that it's impossible, then « it's not new », and then « I thought about it first ». These three behaviours were indeed observed after I proposed Note by Note Cooking, in 1994.
However, on can remember that, at the beginning, I was myself – a chemist !- hesitating about this possibility of simply adding compounds in dishes, considering that I was perhaps too provocative. I needed some months about thinking it possible to make fully synthetic dishes.
What is more interesting is that in any cultural activity, there is a prehistory, a birth and an history. Note by note cooking was almost coming after drinks but also after sweets, that created low quality products by mixing gelatin, sugar, water, colorants and citric acid.
This is prehistory, as it's not cooking. And I proposed note by note cooking only in 1994. This is the birth. And I even have to say that my old friend Nicholas Kurti was reluctant about this proposal, as he writes clearly in his 1969 lecture at the Royal Society : chemistry has nothing to give, but physics can be introduced more.
How did note by note developped later ?
I showed it in lectures only in 1998, in France. At that time, the name « note by note » was not given, and I was simply discussing using pure compounds such as vanillin, cinnamic acid, paraéthylphenol… first in whiskies, then in food. I was even doing practical demonstrations during my lectures, as I was demonstration Maillard reactions from pure proteins and reducing sugars such as glucose.
Hoewever, in 1999, I observed that the number of invitations to make lectures and to give interviews was decreasing : at that time, because the world feard the 2000 year bug, the public feared chemistry. I decided to stop my provocations, and I came back to traditional « culinary precisions ».
The big bug did not come, and the rythm of interviews and lectures developped again, as before.
In 2006, as molecular cuisine and molecular cooking were spreading all over the world, I understood that I did a mistake stopping the promotion of note by note cooking, and I decided to do it again. A name was needed. As I was writing my book about the fact that cooking is art, I chose « note by note », because there is a relationship with music. Of course, the parallel with music shows that this is slightly wrong, as it should have been « wave by wave »… or synthetic cooking, but who cares : there was anyway a metaphor. And I wanted to avoid any reference to « molecules », because the name « molecular cuisine » was a mistake of the past.
In 2008, as I was lecturing in the Réunion island, I came to the idea that it would be good that my friend Pierre Gagnaire would be the first chef to serve a note by note dish. I remember that I was in the harbour of Saint Paul, at dawn. I called Pierre and he accepted.
Then, I had to work withi him, in order to design this dish, that was shown to the press and to the public in Hong Kong the 24 th of April 2009. This first note by note dish served in a restaurant was called "Note à Note N°1"
What next ? As Pierre Gagnaire is not the man of a particular trend, he had no reason to go entirely forward in this direction. But I usad a lecture at the meting of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, in Strasbourg, in 2010, in order to invite two Alsatian cooks, Hubert Maetz and Aline Kuntz, to make two note by note dishes, that they did in front of the audience, helped by me.
Then, still in 2010, because I was the president of the Educational Committe of the Instute for Advanced Studies in Gastronomy, I organize a note by note educational dinner at the Ecole du Corbon bleu, in Paris. The chefs were Patrick Terrien, Patrick Caals, Frédéric Lesourd, Bruno Stril, Philippe Clergue, Marc Thivet, Franck Poupard, Patrick Lebouc, Jean-François Deguignet, Jean-Jacques Tranchant, Nicolas Bernardé (MOF), and Xavier Cotte. And the menu was the following:
|Royale de sous bois, blanc-manger truffé et bouillon
Profondeur iodée de poulpe et Saint-Pierre, écume et transparence de spaghettis aux cèpes
Pigeonneau en deux cuissons, sa compotée de cuisses, potimarron fondant, gelée aux polyphénols, asperges virtuelles
Mille-feuille de chèvre frais au siphon
Guimauve en deux textures
Ardoise « This »
Sucrette glacée au parfum de Menton
It can be observed that these first dishes contained still fruits and vegetables. At that time, cooks did not had easy access to appropriate dilutions of odorant compounds.
I jump over the large number of lectures, shows, talks, interviews, and I give only the most important steps. The next one was in 2011 : for the International Year of Chemistry, the official partner was the Dow Chemicals Company, who accepted to fund a note by note banquet, the day before the official opening at UNESCO, in Paris : the 26 th of January, the team of the catering company Potel & Chabot, under the direction of the chef Jean-Pierre Biffi, served a wonderful menu :
|Sur une idée d'huitres : huitres de tapioca, bavarois
d'amylopectine, tapioca de citron vert, eau de mer gelée, crème
d'huitres, vapeur cristallisée
Soufflé au homard, sauce wöhler et gelée de framboises
Fibres de bœuf, capellini, cylindres orange
Boule de cassis
Here, one has to interpret the names of the dishes. For example, there was no lobster in the « lobster » dish, but an artificial flavouring of lobster. Lime was not present as well. For raspberries and black currants, it was the powder of these fruits… and this is indeed note entirely note by note. And there was a real mistake in the end, because the team put reals fruits in the plate, around the main element.
However it was so good that Potel & Chabot served it again in April 2011 to the 450 guests gathered for the French Michelin stars, at the Espace Cardin, in Paris.
This same year in October, another note by note dinner was served by the chefs-teachers of the Cordon bleu School, in Paris. The chefs were Patrick Terrien, Patrick Caals, Philippe Clergue, Frédéric Lesourd, Patrick Lebouc, Franck Poupard, Bruno Stril and Marc Thivet, Jean-François Deguignet, Xavier Cotte, Nicolas Jordan and Jean-Jacques Tranchant, and the menu was:
|Mille feuilles terre et mer trois couleurs, souligné des deux
sauces Kientzheim et crustacés
Recherche note à note en pot-au-feu
Reconstitution d'une mozarella, huile d'olive et mâche
Le dessert Cordon bleu
One month later, the Association Toques blanches internationales was doing his first « Workshop innovation », on note by note cooking : Jean-Pierre Lepeltier (Hôtel Renaissance La Défense, Paris), David Desplanques (Hôtel Crowne Plazza République, Paris), Michael Foubert (Hôtel Renaissance Arc de Triomphe), Marie Soyez (Hôtel Renaissance La Défense, Paris), David Crenn (Hôtel Renaissance La Défense, Paris), Vincent Vitasse (Hôtel Concorde Lafayette, Paris), Julien Mercier (Hôtel Pullmann Bercy, Paris) were experimenting, after some products were shown.
This workshop led, this same year in December, on culinary courses given by the chefs of the same Assocation, during the raise funding event Téléthon: Jean-Pierre Lepeltier (Hôtel Renaissance La Défense, Paris), David Desplanques (Hôtel Crowne Plazza République, Paris), Michael Foubert (Hôtel Renaissance Arc de Triomphe), Marie Soyez (Hôtel Renaissance La Défense, Paris), David Crenn (Hôtel Renaissance La Défense, Paris), Vincent Vitasse (Hôtel Concorde Lafayette, Paris), Julien Mercier (Hôtel Pullmann Bercy, Paris) were educating public that had paid for the courses and taste the dishes.
Then, in Montreal, April 2012, a serie of lectures and press conferences were organized at the Institut du Tourisme et d'Hôtellerie du Québec (ITHQ). For the first press conference, the chef Ismael Osorio and the scientist Erik Ayala Bribiesca, along with chefs and students of ITHQ, served four bouchées note by note to about 150 journalists. A funny phenomenon appeared : the new dishes were dividing groups of « like » and « don't like », but these groups were not the same for all bouchées.
The next day, a note by note meal that was less « art moderne » was served to international journalists, with comments.
2012 was also the year in which the public and free Courses on molecular gastronomy discussed note by note cooking. During three podcasted days of lectures, chefs were invited : Philippe Clergue, from le Cordon bleu, and Jean Pierre Lepeltier, the president of the Toques blanches internationales.
In July this year, at Euroscience Open Forum, Dublin, Ireland, my own lecture was followed by the production of note by note food samples by the chef David Desplanques. And, in August, note by note cooking was shown to the students of the Eramus Mundus Mastre Program Food Innovation and Product Design, at AgroParisTech, Paris. The chef Jean-Pierre Lepeltier (Hôtel Renaissance La Défense, Paris) came to show new note by note dishes.
Later, there are too many things, such as a new workshop of the Toques blanches internationales, in August 2012, a press conference with demonstrations when the book "La cuisine note à note en 12 questions souriantes" was shown to the press, with dishes prepared by chefs Jean-Pierre Lepeltier, chef Hôtel Renaissance Paris La Défense, Laurent Renouf, sous chef Hôtel Renaissance Paris La Défense, Julien Lasry, chef de partie Hôtel Renaissance Paris La Défense, Marie Soyer, chef de partie Hôtel Renaissance Paris La Défense, Mickael Foubert, chef Hôtel Renaissance Arc de Triomphe, Lucille Bouche, sous chef Hôtel Renaissance Le parc Trocadéro, Yannick Jaouen (sous-chef Hôtel Mariott Rive Gauche Paris)
In 2013, the first International Contest for Note by Note Cooking took place in Paris. Pierre Gagnaire came and showed the dish named « Chick Corea », that was previously shown at the Book Fair of Paris, some weeks earlier.
Now, the Contest is having its sixt event, after :
- 2014 : using methional
- 2015, playing with proteins, octenol
- 2016, using cellulose and trigeminal compounds
- 2017, fibrous consistencies and acidities.
In July 2013 the Company Mane produced a box of about 20 compounds that was offered to some French chefs, allowing training chefs in the restaurant of Akrame, then at the Plaza Athénée.
After works on multiscale food elaboration, students were trained at doing note by note dishes. The same year, a rich Georgian was introducing a note by note dish in a fast food chain that he owns, whereas the chef David Desplanques was working with Elham Tehrani, student of the Master FIPDes, for designing note by note dishes.
In Canada, a company was designing kits for children, and the Dublin Institute of Technology was inviting new students to work on a note by note educational program.
Since, all went fater, with about 200 lectures per year, all over the world, showing note by note cooking.
Some items only.
- in Denmark, in 2014,the University of Aarhus and chefs produced a note by note meal served to the king family.
- in Estoril, Portugal, in Boston and New York, in some French culinary schools, as well, note by note cooking is taught.
- in Japan, 2015, a collaboration of the Corbon bleu and Ritsumekan University led to showing note by note sushis to the press, by the chef Guillaume Siegler.
Texture de riz « Note by Note »
Feuille de texture recouvrante “Note by Note”
Then, in 2015, when a journalist of the New York Times came to Paris in order to make a piece on note by note cooking, the chef Pierre Gagnaire accepted to make a whole menu in which all dishes were based on one single odorant compound. The menu was :
gaïacol et 2,4,6-triisobutyl-5-dihydro-4H-1,3,5-dithiazine
acétyl méthyl carbinol acétyl propionyl
Now, the most important : in 2017, a company was created by a young French entrepreneur to sell note by note compounds… whereas the chef Andrea Camastra, of the restaurant Senses, in Warsaw, Poland, moved entirely the restaurant in the note by note domain.
Which will be the next steps ?