Transforming chemicals into food is nothing new for French chemist Herve This, the co-founder of molecular gastronomy.
Molecular and Physical Gastronomy was adopted by Hungarian physicist Nicholas Kurti and This, who held workshops in Erice, Italy where professional chefs and scientists once gathered to discuss a scientific approach to the preparation of food.
The molecular gastronomy concept exploded around the turn of the century thanks to chefs like Heston Blumenthal, Ferran AdriÃ , and Jose Andres, among others.
Herve This recently claimed to have developed a new concept which will solve the challenge of feeding an overpopulated world.
This says every foodstuff is made up of a basic chemical mixture, so it’s possible to create nutritious dishes from powders, oils and liquids that contain the building-blocks of food, rather than conventional raw ingredients.
He calls the principle “Note by Note cuisine” and says it is like a painter using primary colours, or a musician composing note by note.
In this video, This showed BBC News how Note by Note works, and explained why he thought it was so important for cooking to change.
This explains that instead of using plant or animal tissues, various pure compounds — amino acids, minerals, proteins, vitamins, color — can be separated and extracted, then converted into powders and liquids, and reconstituted to make food.
“So you have no vegetables, no fruit, no meat, no fish, nothing except compounds. And you have to create a shape, a color, a taste, a freshness, a pungency, an astringency, everything,”added This, who compared traditional cooking methods such as “cracking eggs”and using real food ingredients to “living in the Middle Ages”
Because of food and water shortages and an energy crises, This insists food will be prepared this way and eaten whether you as a consumer like it or not.
In 2009, This and celebrated French chef Pierre Gagnaire created what they called “The world’s first entirely synthetic gourmet dish.”
The main meal, a lobster fricassee, was served with polyphenol sauce, another Gagnaire-This invention, made of tartaric acid, glucose and polyphenols.
Other infredients included ascorbic acid, glucose, citric acid and a few grams of 4-O-a-glucopyranosyl-D-sorbitol, a sugar substitute known as maltitol.
“In this brave new world, chefs will shun vegetables, such as carrots, said This.
“Using the molecules which make up carrots” caroteniods, pectins, fructose and glucuronic acid ” instead. If you use pure compounds, you open up billions and billions of new possibilities. It’s like a painter using primary colors or a musician composing note by note”
This future view of food has critics, such as top Spanish chef Santi Santamaria: “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”
Reconstituted Food Is Not Real Food
You don’t have to be a celebrated chef or chemist to know that degradation to these compounds occur the moment they are extracted from their source. In other words, a reconstituted carrot is not remotely as nutritious as an organically grown carrot coming out of the ground.
And powders and chemicals contain no fiber. Whole foods, such as grains, fruits, and vegetables, provide dietary fiber, and fiber helps to prevent certain diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
According to Dr. Sharon E. Griffin, who also holds an M.S. degree in Nutrition, active substances in foods naturally occur in a complex matrix of other nutrients and substances, and removing them from this natural environment may affect their function in ways that we don’t fully understand.
Dr. Griffin explains that our bodies function in a delicate balance, with one action or nutrient often causing consequences in other areas. “For example, excesses of one nutrient can affect the bioavailability and/or function of another nutrient or action”
Powders are poor food substitutes because they can’t replicate all of the nutrients inherent in real food.
“Whole foods are complex, containing a variety of the micronutrients your body needs” not just one. An orange, for example, provides vitamin C plus some beta carotene, calcium and other nutrients. A vitamin C supplement lacks these other micronutrients”
Herve This is a chemist and views the world through the eyes of a chemist.
Maybe if Herve This was an organic farmer he would understand there’s only one logical future for food — locally grown organic fruits, and vegetables, and meat sources like free-range chicken and grass fed beef from small, community based farms.