Last April, French chef Pierre Gagnaire claimed to have created the world’s first entirely synthetic gourmet dish with molecular cooking made from ascorbic acid, glucose, citric acid and a few grams of 4-O-a-glucopyranosyl-D-sorbitol, a sugar substitute known as maltitol. Gagnaire debuted his celluloid creation in Hong Kong with a starter of jelly balls in apple and lemon flavors — creamy on the inside and crisp on the outside. World renown chef Ferran Adria’s El Bulli restaurant near Barcelona — five times voted the best restaurant in the world — is booked for years in advance in anticipation of Adria’s food-as-art-creations that include frozen foams and oyster cubes.
But not everyone is singing the praises of high-tech molecular gastronomy. And I must admit, I have myself suppressed distant, nagging questions regarding the health effects of all these wild chemical concoctions made by chefs who refer to their kitchens as laboratories.
So needless to say, I was rather intrigued to read the musings of German food writer, Jörg Zipprick who warned that El Bulli’s menus should carry health warnings informing diners of the additives in the dishes. “These colorants, gelling agents, emulsifiers, acidifiers and taste enhancers that Adria has introduced massively into his dishes to obtain extraordinary textures, tastes and sensations do not have a neutral impact on health,”says Zipprick, who also claims that the polysaccharides from seaweed used by molecular cooks are suspected of causing intestinal cancer. Adria denies his dishes pose any risk to health.
And Zipprick is not alone. Top Spanish chef Santi Santamaria who authored The Unappetising Underside of Molecular Cooking, asks: “Can we be proud of a cuisine which fills plates with gelling agents and laboratory emulsifiers? It would not occur to any fast-food chain to stuff us with 20 or 30 dishes full of chemical additives,”he says, referring to the El Bulli menu.
Personally, I think there’s enough chemical additives in the food we eat. Why wait for years to get into El Bulli so I can pay $500 to add more. I’ll stick to good old-fashioned organic ingredients.