An Education in Molecular Gastronomy

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ETOBICOKE, Ont .— The movement toward local, back-to-basics food continues to ignite passion among chefs, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a little room for science-based culinary innovation.

Such innovation was on display last night, Feb. 15, at Humber College where chefs, restaurant owners and other foodservice types packed into a lecture hall to watch chef John Placko, Maple Leaf Foods’ director of Culinary Excellence and  guru, give a demo, designed to entice onlookers to sign up for four upcoming workshops at the college about food science.

Placko’s passion for the culinary art form began a few years ago. Since then, he has become an avid traveller, learning about the trend that he sees in play at the top restaurants in the world, including Spain’s El Bulli, the U.K.’s Fat Duck and S. Pellegrino’s World’s Best Restaurant, the Denmark-based Noma. “If you visit Noma, you have no idea the food is [manipulated], it feels to so local,” explains the toque.

Placko wowed the crowed with stories of his culinary experiences, before demonstrating techniques such as spherification, sous-vide, aeration, carbonation and freezing, to name a few. He created everything from melon caviar, commonly used in mixology, to carbonated strawberries, basil snow and a doughnut popsicle.

The demo was well-received, albeit with cautious optimism. “I see this as proof positive that there are no boundaries when it comes to culinary creativity,” said attendee, Michael Bonacini of Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants. “I don’t think this is something I would see going full-on at the restaurant, but you could have nuances of it in something like a garnish.”

The series of four molecular gastronomy workshops, which will be led by chef Packo, will run from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays at Humber College, starting March. 26. For more information, click here.

 

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