In 2009, Herve This, the so-called founder of molecular gastronomy, along with celebrated French chef Pierre Gagnaire, claimed to have created the world’s first entirely synthetic gourmet dish.
The dish? Jelly balls in apple and lemon flavors and a lobster fricassee, made from 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.
Heston Blumenthal has created radical taste combinations such as Mousse Poached in Liquid Nitrogen, White Chocolate with Caviar, Salmon Poached in Liquorice, and Cauliflower Risotto Sprinkled with Cocoa Powder.
Thanks to chefs like Heston Blumenthal and Ferran Adrià, among many others, the popularity of haute cuisine and molecular gastronomy has captured the interest of many professional chefs, and now even weekend chefs around the world.
Books like Modernist Cooking Made Easy and Modernist Cuisine at Home have created the demand for online companies that sell ingredients like sodium citrate and transglutaminase along with pipettes to create “caviar”from various liquids or smoke torches that infuse smoke flavor into dishes.
The Washington Post notes that Amazon offers ingredients such as agar agar (to make gelatins) and xanthan gum (to thicken sauces), as well as whipping siphons to create foams and digital scales that allow the home chef to weigh down to the hundredth of a gram.
More retailers are also stocking Sous Vide machines, which allows you to cook food in airtight plastic bags in a water bath.
Two years ago, Chris Anderson, a software developer, founded Modernist Pantry with his wife when he couldn’t find the ingredients needed for his home-based interest in modernist cooking.
Sixty percent of Modernist Pantry’s customers are home cooks and the company now supplies equipment and more than 300 kitchen ingredients.
“We sort of just did it initially thinking it was not going to be a full-time business, just a little thing on the side,”Anderson said.
“But within two months we were getting more business than we anticipated. We were doubling our sales every month.”He went full time a year ago, and today employs three people.
Montreal-based Molecule-R offers do-it-yourself kits, and each of the company’s three kits contains recipes, pre-measured sachets of additives and equipment to create recipes.
Business development executive Jennifer MacDonald said the first kit was offered in 2009, and sales since then have at doubled. Roughly 80 percent of the customers are home cooks, she says, and they range from children to seniors.
“We get families, no joke,”she says. “We get a lot of people writing us and saying they did the arugula spaghetti with their kids. It ranges from children with their parents to people in their 60s doing it”
Daring home chefs that want to duplicate dishes like Heston Blumenthal’s Mousse Poached in Liquid Nitrogen, can now obtain the gels, foams, and equipment to experiment with.
“It’s just taking a lot of really good basics and creating something different with them,”says Paul Edward, co-founder of the online culinary retailer Chef Rubber.
“You can take a really nice stock that you’ve made, and you can make a soup with it. Or you can make caviar or gelify it. You can do something really different. But at the end of the day it’s just a stock and it has to be a really good one”