In my mind, innovative chefs and organic chemists are cut from the same cloth. They both work in labs, wear white coats, they works with stainless steel vats, gas burners, sugar, salt, oil, and proteins.
They run ovens, stir pots, blend liquids and oftentimes burn themselves when it explodes or implodes. Both chefs and scientists are driven by the same sort of questions that keep them up at night, problems of texture, shape, size, and scale – all complex variables to bring something spectacular together in the process of synthesis.
Their greatest fears rest in contamination, their greatest joy in an ideal product for human consumption.
That brings me to my latest and greatest birthday gift from my neighbor Suzie, the “Fat Duck Cookbook” by Heston Blumenthal.
Susan never misses the mark when she gives a gift, and she was certainly on target with this one. It’s anything but your standard cookbook, in fact it looks more like an avant garde coffee table book crammed full of chic caricatures and food that resemble cubist sculptures.
It’s topped off by a good dose of hard core science, contributed by my idol, none other than the king of food chemistry himself, Harold McGee.
I know it must be good when I spied my husband, an organic chemist himself, leafing through it instead of his ACS Journal. This week I’ll take a crack at the “cumin caramel” sauce, just one piece from the “Delice of Chocolate” recipe. Since the recipes are too complex for mere mortals to recreate, I’ll have to content myself with the the sauce alone that will be lovely over some homemade ice cream.