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By Hervé This

Note by Note Cooking: The next culinary trend?


With molecular cooking becoming all the rage among fashionable restaurants in india, we went ahead to speak with hervé this, the father of molecular cooking, who along with late oxford physicist nicholas kurti, had coined the term ‘molecular gastronomy’ as far back as in 1988. but hervé wasn’t interested in discussing the ‘old’ stuff! for since 1994, the french physical chemist has been working on a new concept called ‘note by note cooking. ready to f ind out about the radical style of cooking that might change the rules of cooking all over again in the near future? TSI let Hervé This do the talking...
ANU GULMOHAR | Issue Dated: October 2, 2011, New Delhi
Tags : nicholas kurti | molecular cooking | note by note cooking | herve this | mozart | beethoven | culinary skills |

In the early 80s, with my late friend Nicholas Kurti, we had the idea that the way the public and the chefs cooked was completely old-fashioned and irrational. For example, some stoves can waste up to 80 per cent of the consumed energy, and chocolate mousse doesn't require egg white for foaming (as was shown with the recipe of the chocolate chantilly that I introduced later). In the later years, we succeeded in making "molecular cooking" a world culinary trend, whereas we were developing a scientific discipline called "molecular gastronomy" in our labs. The idea is that sound and innovative technique has to be built on scientific results, instead of empiricism and tradition only.

However, the success of this molecular cooking trend made me think as early as 1994 that a new move should be prepared, and I came to the idea of "Note by Note Cooking".

In this new cuisine, the idea is to use compounds to make new food, with new flavours, just as musicians use synthesisers to make any sound. Reproducing plant or animal tissues is not interesting... as they already exist, but instead a whole "continent" is in front of chefs if they decide to try this new form of cooking.

Where do the "compounds" come from? Either from plants, or animal tissues, or also from fermentation, synthesis... As long as they are pure or as their impurities are controlled, this is not very important, as a compound is a compound, and synthetic molecules have exactly the same constitution and properties as molecules of the same species extracted from nature. But it is clear that in many cases, extracting fractions from plant tissues is more interesting than molecular synthesis, as the biological evolution had billions of years to produce such highly complex molecules as vitamin B12, whose synthesis needed some hundreds of skilled chemists, including some getting later the Nobel Prize in chemistry.


Of course, from a nutritional or toxicological point of view, this new cooking is much better than traditional cooking, as only the right compounds can be selected. From an economical point of view also, there is some interest, as farmers could get added value on their production if they fractionate fruits and vegetables, instead of selling them directly.

Should we fear to lose our curries, nan, pesarattu, panta-illish, palak paneer? Computer based music did not whip out piano, trumpet, violin, Mozart or Beethoven... It only added to the whole artistic repertoire that was elaborated since humankind has existed.

But tomorrow is already today: after the production of the first Note by Note dish by my friend Pierre Gagnaire in Hong Kong, we attended recently to the production of two Note by Note meals served respectively by professors of the Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris, and by Jean-Pierre Biffi and his team of the Potel & Chabot catering company (based in Paris). It was VERY GOOD!

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017