Science and science of nature: objects of confusion
"The natural sciences seek the mechanisms of phenomena by a very codified method, which relies only on the handling of mathematics, equations, while the kitchen is the activity of production of food seeking to make "good". The reason for the confusion between "science of cooking" and natural sciences? The word "science" has often been used in the sense of "knowledge", which is much broader than the meaning retained by the natural sciences.
Can cooking be "scientific?"
"Contrary to what is sometimes believed because of faulty statements by great cooks of the past, cooking will never be scientific, in the sense of the natural sciences such as physics, biology... On the other hand, it is most certainly a knowledge! Better still, I propose to think that the knowledge of professional cooks cannot be reduced to the knowledge of amateurs, even when they cook every day at home. Cooking is a very specific profession, where technique, hygiene, economics, history, etc. have an essential role, which home cooks do not have to worry about in the same way."
What about the elders?
"Lent refers to science...but what science? If it is the "science of cooking", in the sense of knowing, why not, although Menon speaks, before Lent, of "quintessence of sauces". On the other hand, if the science evoked is a science of nature, then Lent is mistaken: cooking will never be a science of nature. Before him, natural sciences, practiced by scientists (of nature: we used to talk about "natural philosophy"), have explored cooking. For example chemists or pharmacists like Jean Darcet (1724-1801), as early as the 18th century. That said, to understand why cooking will never be a science of nature, one must know what exactly a science of nature is. It is not simply a specific activity, as is often believed, but an entirely "speculative" activity (Louis Pasteur distinguished between natural sciences and the applications of these sciences). The natural sciences have an objective which is quite different from the production of food: it is a question of understanding the mechanisms of phenomena. And this particular research is done by a very particular method as well, which consists in: (1) identifying a phenomenon; (2) characterizing it quantitatively; (3) gathering the data into quantitative "laws", that is, into equations; (4) looking for theories quantitatively compatible with laws; (5) looking for consequences of the theories in order to refute them, again quantitatively. This is an entirely different activity from cooking, whether the latter is precise or not. And cooking will never be this activity.
Let's move on, and read Lent, quoted: "Cooking also wants to be a science". What does this mean? A science is either a knowledge or a very particular activity, which seeks the mechanisms of phenomena by the implementation of a method which owes everything to numbers and to the refutation of theories. As cooking is the preparation of food, it is therefore not a science of nature, and this will never be the case! The meaning retained by Carême is therefore necessarily: a knowledge. And yes, the culinary activity is full of technical knowledge. In other words, since Lent uses the meaning "knowledge", his statement is obvious.
Then, when Lent indicates: "Culinary science is more salubrious to the health of men than all the doctrines of those who prolong diseases by speculation", it is indeed, again, the meaning of knowledge that he retains.
Urbain Dubois, Emile Bernard, Jules Gouffé or Joseph Favre pursue the idea, but when they say they use precise measurements, they do not make science of nature for all that, because production, on the one hand, and the research of mechanisms, on the other hand, have nothing in common. One produces, while the other analyzes. It is worthwhile to reread Louis Pasteur, who explained the differences well.
For Favre, he evokes a "scientific cuisine", which would be, of all the sciences, the one that focuses on "the art of preparing food well". Scientific cooking? If this is the meaning of "knowledge", then scientific cooking is a pleonasm, like going up and down; but if the meaning is scientific, then Favre is wrong on principle. Besides, it is not the fact of being precise that makes an activity a science of nature; a precise cuisine is a precise technical activity, which, moreover, is doubled with an artistic and a social component.
Hervé This: "cooking will never be scientific
Even the great Escoffier...
Let's move on to this quote from Escoffier: "Cooking, without ceasing to be an art, will become scientific and will have to submit its formulas, which are still too often empirical, to a method and a precision that will leave nothing to chance". I take issue with this proposition, which is either false or tautological. Cooking will never become scientific, in the sense of the natural sciences, because, I repeat, cooking is a production, and not a research of the mechanisms of phenomena. But we have said it enough. I propose now to introduce a new distinction, between technique, technology, and science (of nature).
Cooking, since it is a production of food, will always be a technical activity... but it will always have an essential artistic component, and is therefore absolutely similar to painting, literature, music... In cooking, one wants to make "good"; and good is "beautiful to eat". Yes, you need to have the technique to achieve this, but the artistic choice is preponderant. Cooking consists in choosing the ingredients, their quantities, the processes used to achieve a taste, which must be good. You have to be a good technician to be a good artist. And I propose to distinguish two cuisines: the artisan's cuisine and the artist's cuisine. Not to mention the social component of cooking, but that would take us too far. On principle, cooking can never become scientific, otherwise it would no longer be an activity of producing food, but a science, which would then no longer be cooking.
We must also discuss the question of technology, which is either technical reflection or the application of the results of natural sciences. Cooking is the production of food. It is not forbidden to have a technological reasoning, upstream of the act of cooking, but technique is not the same as technology. And, as said before, natural sciences are not the same as their application. An engineer, a technologist, is not a scientist (of nature).
A little detour through molecular cooking...
Molecular cooking is a technological activity (not scientific in the sense of the natural sciences): Jean-Pierre Poulain proposes that the expression "molecular cooking" designates the application of modern chemical and physical knowledge to cooking. However, since I was the one who introduced the term "molecular cuisine", I can testify that this is not perfectly accurate. In fact, I defined molecular cuisine as the form of cooking that uses renovated utensils (as opposed to those of Paul Bocuse, in La Cuisine du Marché, published in 1976). Going from utensils to the application of knowledge, there is not much difference, but I propose to keep my definition rather than that of J.-P. Poulain.
And since molecular cooking was the application of a particular science of nature, which analyzes culinary processes, a name was needed to designate this science which seeks to understand why sautéed meats turn brown, why soufflés inflate... This science of nature, we named it molecular gastronomy, in 1988, and the term gastronomy was chosen wisely, because it does not mean "ceremonial cooking", contrary to what many believe, but "reasoned knowledge of what relates to food". For the rest of time, there will be cooking, the activity of producing food, which will never be a science of nature, and molecular gastronomy, a science of nature, which will never produce food.
Edouard de Pomiane introduced the word gastrotechnics at the beginning of the 20th century, but I have analyzed the chimerical nature of the proposal: as a microbiologist, he confused technique, technology and science of nature (in addition to publishing many errors in physics and chemistry).
... and cooking Note to note.
All this being said, having hopefully separated natural science and knowledge, molecular gastronomy and cooking, we must discuss a sentence I said during my conference in Strasbourg, which takes on another meaning when taken out of context. Yes, cooking will only evolve if cooks make it evolve. I can make all the proposals for innovations I want, but cooking will only change if these innovations are implemented. Better yet, we must continue the tireless work of explanation, presentation, and collaboration so that the culinary world will take hold of the new techniques proposed, especially in note-to-note cooking. This being the case, I maintain that the natural sciences, and in particular molecular gastronomy, have much to contribute to cooking. For "note-to-note cooking", this cooking that uses c