Innovation is one of the aspects of humanity that has driven us to what we are today. Whether it be from curing polio, travelling to the moon, or having driverless cars; innovation is something that will continue until we die off. In the culinary world innovation, has also played a vital role. The first major innovation in my opinion was the utilization of fire by our ancestors, which drove the whole idea of cooking and shaped our evolution and what defines us as a species. No other animal cooks their food which is extraordinary.
In the late 20th Century moving into the 21st Century, molecular gastronomy has started to creep its way into everyday culinary endeavours, from sous vide, to foams and jellies. The method I will speak to today is Spherification. This is the method of turning liquid into balls, in its simplest terms. There are three methods, Spherification, reverse Spherification and a branch off that utilizes agar agar.
Spherification involves submerging a liquid with sodium alginate in a bath of calcium. Reverse Spherification consists of submerging a liquid with a high calcium content in a bath of sodium alginate. Both results in a ball of liquid with a thin layer around it, that bursts in the mouth.
The final process is a form of instant gelling using agar gar, these spheres are more resilient to heat and should be used instead of those formed by sodium alginate in some applications. A mixture boiled with agar agar is dropped into a cold oil bath then strained. These however are completely gelled and contain no liquid.
This process was first identified by Unilver in the 1950s (Potter 2010, p. 305). It was then spoken to by Herve This in the 1970s. It was also utilized in the food industry for stuffing olives.
However, until 2003 it was a concept that was not given much consideration by the culinary profession. This all changed by Ferran Adria and his restaurant El Bulli in Spain who are notorious for their explorations into food and chemistry. His first experience with this was in a Mexican Sauce that contained small balls in suspension that popped adding acidity to the dish. From there taking a sample of alginate and the experimentation began. The first spheres created were liquid pea ravioli that were served in 2003. Other flavors were utilized stretching to mango and raspberry and others of egg shaped size that popped. They moved onto smaller sizes that they dubbed caviar with the Cantaloupe melon caviar, the making of this caviar also spawned the Caviar Maker which was a contraption with a series of tubes that allowed for multiple to be made quickly and efficiently especially in the rush. of service.
This was followed by Reverse Spherification which allowed them to make these spheres with items such as milk and olives that have a high calcium content, introducing a new branch of Spherification, that was not possible before and more stable than basic Spherification.
The above innovation falls under a Process innovation, a new process was developed to further enhance the dining experience of the customer; being able to eat a sphere of your favorite liquid that popped in your mouth would have been an amazing experience that would keep diners coming back time and time again.
I believe this innovation was important as it pushed the boundaries of food and fused them with chemistry to introduce new and exciting ways for Chefs to illustrate their ideas and put them on a plate for the customer. Not only furthering their strengths as chefs but causing a mutual benefit for the customer as they have a once in a lifetime experience. This opens doors for up and coming chefs showing them the positives of experimentation and what beautiful art, flavor and tastes can arise.
This innovation and other forms of molecular gastronomy has truly excited me about the future of the culinary industry that I will be moving into after school. The amazing ideas, and possibilities that are out there makes me hunger for more experiences and knowledge to build my culinary repertoire. It has always been my goal to put Barbadian Cuisine on the map past the overseer of the Caribbean; Jamaica, and by utilizing these new techniques and possible new ones I may discover, I feel I will have a good chance of accomplishing my goal. Moreover, these techniques and molecular gastronomy on a whole are playing a huge role in the finer restaurants in the world and the need to understand the concepts is essential for my development.
For this blog, I decided to practice Spherification by making Chardonnay caviar for the dish below which I title Salmon Trio, Crispy skinned salmon served on polenta with quick pickled carrot, arugula, candied lemon zest, chardonnay caviar, and lemon vinaigrette. It was a lot of fun and very informative as I was becoming more familiar with the practice of it and what to look for. Sadly, I didn’t have a caviar maker so I did not get the consistent size I would have liked but I was pleased with the results none the less.
Who knew making balls could be so much fun and pretty cool!
Potter, Jeff (2010). Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food. O’Reilly Media, Inc.