The Inventor Of Molecular Gastronomy


Quick: who invented molecular gastronomy?

No, not Grant Achatz or Wylie Dufresne.

No, not Pierre Gagnaire.

No, not even El Bulli's Ferran Adrià.

As Wired (yes, Wired) points out, it's renowned chemist Hervé This.

Back in 1980, This (pronounced "Tees") started fiddling with "cooking precisions"--rules he found from sources ranging from 19th-century cookbooks to old wives' tales to modern chefs' tricks. In short, he basically wanted to see which precisions were true and which were not. It became a hobby for This and his friend, the late Oxford physicist Nicholas Kurti. Soon enough, the term "molecular gastronomy" was coined. Over the past two and a half decades, This has continued to expand his knowledge base, gaining both followers and a wealth of "precisions":

In 2001, This came up with a formal system of classification for what happens when foods are mixed, baked, whipped, fried, sautéed in lime juice, and so forth. It shows, for example, how the 451 classical French sauces break down into 23 distinct types. More important, the system allows the creation and pairing of billions of novel, potentially tasty dishes. To demonstrate how, This randomly generated a formula describing the physical microstructure of a previously nonexistent dish, then asked chef Pierre Gagnaire to plug real ingredients into it. The result — a bitter orange, scallop, and smoked-tea concoction — delighted Gagnaire's customers.
As can be gleaned from his "hobby," This isn't interested in the flashy preparations and presentations of the likes of Adrià and Achatz, but rather the simple formulations of what makes food tasty; it's just a quest for simple culinary knowledge:

The Father of Molecular Gastronomy Whips Up a New Formula [Wired]

[Photo of a "margarita" in a snow cube with salted foam courtesy:]