We explore the world of molecular gastronomy, Michelin stars and kitchen tools that can take your dishes to the next level. For special occasions or those times when you’re just feeling fancy!
Molecular gastronomy is a term that was introduced approximately thirty years ago and is a branch of food science that explores the physical and chemical transformations of ingredients that occur in cooking. It is a modern style of cooking, as it takes advantage of numerous technical innovations and approaches food preparation from a scientific standpoint. Molecular gastronomy is not the same as food science, which works to analyze the chemical makeup of food and develop methods to process food on a mass scale. A large part of molecular gastronomy is incorporating new tools, ingredients and methods in the kitchen. Examples include using ultrasound devices to achieve more precise temperatures and the use of liquid nitrogen to flash freeze food and manipulate textures, like this process for making thin ice shells.
A large part of molecular gastronomy is incorporating new tools, ingredients and methods in the kitchen.
Molecular gastronomy has three components: social, artistic, and technical. It was first introduced by chemist Hervé This and physics professor Nicholas Kurti at Oxford University, who demonstrated that greater understanding of the science of cooking could revolutionize the culinary field. Though met with critics and skeptics at first, it has come to be largely embraced by chefs all over the world and is now a part of the curriculum at many culinary schools.
Exceptional restaurants judged to be of an extremely high standard are awarded between 0-3 stars by the Michelin Guide. Perhaps the most enviable job in the world for a food lover is that of the Michelin restaurant inspectors who access the star-deserving dining rooms through a very rigorous and delicious process.
It may surprise you to know that the Michelin guide and rating system all started when brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin, founders of the prominent tire company, were trying to encourage more motorists to drive. In an effort to boost the automobile and tourism industry, the brothers published a guide filled with convenient information for travellers, such as maps, information on how to change a tire, where to fill up on petrol, and a listing of places to eat or take shelter for the night. It was the restaurant list that would grow and become influential, so much so that the brothers recruited a team of secret diners to visit and review restaurants anonymously. In 1926, the guide began to award stars for fine dining establishments, initially marking them only with a single star. The guide now rates over 30,000 establishments in over 30 territories across three continents, and more than 30 million MICHELIN Guides have been sold worldwide.
Some notable stars include Chef Chan Hong Meng of Singapore who made a noodle bowl so good, it got a Michelin star. His street food stand is the first to ever receive a star from Michelin, not only in Singapore but around the world. French Chef, Dominique Crenn, is one of a handful of female chefs to hold three stars for her San Francisco based restaurant. In a male-dominated industry, this achievement is monumental and a sign of changing times.
Tongs that are long in length act as an extension of your arm and protect your hands from heat and possible oil splatters.
Without getting too fussy, there are a couple of tools that can transform you from a home cook to a home chef: a pair of tongs and a microplane grater.
You might think that tongs are only for high end restaurants but they are actually a very versatile tool that can help everyone to be more efficient in the kitchen. You can use them to move, rotate and lift items with precision, especially when grilling. Tongs also provide leverage and won’t pierce through meat, which is always undesirable. You can use them to serve salad, pasta and even place ice cubes in glassware, eliminating contact with your hands – something that is especially desirable these days. Tongs that are long in length act as an extension of your arm and protect your hands from heat and possible oil splatters.
A microplane grater is a miniature grater that shaves things finely and accurately. The grate sizes range from very fine to medium. A finer sized grater works well for zesting raw garlic, citrus, and spices like whole nutmeg. Yes, whole nutmeg! The flavor of ground nutmeg deteriorates quickly, whereas whole pieces will keep indefinitely. Larger microplane graters are wonderful for shaving chocolate and cheese for pasta dishes. In fact, it’s common for Italians to place a grater on the dinner table for guests to use as they wish. Other uses for microplane graters include shaving root vegetables such as carrots and beets to finish off salads, which really elevates the presentation.