Hervé This is also active in molecular cuisine: that is, cooking that applies the knowledge from molecular gastronomy. Under the influence of himself and his fellow molecular scientists, he says, "today's cooks use liquid nitrogen to make their ice cream and sorbet, and ... they distill, infuse, and jell with the aid of jelling agents long used by the food industry." (The Science of the Oven, Kindle location 173)
|Hervé This from Nature article|
An interview in the journal Nature provides some insight into his methods. He states:
"Meat, fish, fruits and vegetables are organized mixtures of compounds. Cooking traditionally means mixing mixtures, and is not precise. This is why I proposed the concept of note-by-note cooking — using specific compounds to build consistency, taste and odour. It is difficult, but a huge unexplored continent is ahead of us." (Nature, vol 464, March 18, 2010, p. 355)In the book The Science of the Oven Hervé This reviews a wide variety of research on specific reactions that take place during cooking or food preparation. He talks about "note by note" cooking, an advance beyond the original molecular cuisine. Purified flavors (specific molecular extracts) are added to a dish one by one, in contrast to the normal way using basic foods. Recognizable food products such as vegetables or chicken have many flavors -- in his view, too many unpredictable flavors. He asks: "In the twenty-first century, why could we not produce a sauce beginning with water, glucose, tartaric acid ... and polyphenols, such as certain producers extract from grape seeds, for example?" (Kindle location 2654)
In one example, Hervé This explores the question of whether one can make a jelly from tea. The chemicals in a cup of brewed tea aren't compatible with gelation -- so he suggests making the tea, removing the chemicals that prevent jelling, and adding back distillations of the flavor molecules. (Kindle location 1512)
To me this sounds like what industrial food processors do. In fact, many of the techniques used by Hervé This and the chefs under his influence sound like an artisanal version of industrial food to me, and he seems to admire some of the work of food chemists who work in their laboratories. In the Nature interview, he says: "The food industry already recaptures and reincorporates ‘essential oils’ that are lost during cooking processes. As a result, jams and orange juice, for example, are now much better." I wonder if he's read some of the American books about the food industry and how they manipulate consumers' tastes! Or similar French ones, if there are any.
Unfortunately, in his books Hervé This often repeats various linguistic quibbles, such as his dislike of the word "flavor," or his attacks on the term "applied science," where he spends a lot of time on peevishly attacking the names of a lot of existing university applied science departments, research programs, and publications. Aside from this annoyance, Hervé This is a very interesting author of many books, at least five available in English, and teacher of influential courses.
Hervé This acknowledges a variety of predecessors in exploring science as it relates to cooking. One of these is Edouard de Pomiane, the medical scientist and cookbook author that I've been researching. The book Cours de gastronomie moléculaire n° 2: Les précisions culinaires (not translated into English) offers a several page biography of Pomiane and summarizes many of the books he published between 1920 and his death in 1964. While acknowledging Pomiane's accomplishments, Hervé This is critical because Pomiane didn't do the type of laboratory research that has been done recently. He points out that Pomiane made some mistakes, or uncritically accepted commonly held ideas about (for example) the process of making mayonnaise and other chemical or physical reactions. He doesn't accept that Pomiane was a scientist -- though he's a little harsh considering that some of the science was still in the future.