February 12, 2015

Cooking and fire

Cooking with fire. Credit: Matthias Ripp / Flickr Creative Commons

Beeswax-encased deer legs, centrifuges, and powdered olive oil…Hungry yet?

While today’s chefs are using new flavors and textures to create innovative cuisine, all that science and technique is actually mirroring centuries-old styles of cooking, like dry-aging meats.

Many of these artistic chefs are also reflecting larger trends like the local food movement.

“Now that everybody’s so obsessed with local, they want to be creating local flavors…that means capturing the spores and the bacteria that are in your kitchen and nobody else’s,” says Corby Kummer, senior editor at The Atlantic, and author of The Joy of Coffee.

And famous restaurants aren’t the only ones pushing the envelope. Kummer sees this cutting-edge science trickling down to everyday dining — and even your own kitchen.

He recounts a recent trip to San Juan where he encountered a dish that included compressed watermelon. The chef “used one of these modernist techniques — sous-vide, under a vacuum — in order to intensify the flavor of an ordinary piece of fruit.”

Even a modest Boston restaurant features an olive oil chocolate cake with olive oil powder. “They have found a way…to gel fat so that you’re able to make it into a powder that you sprinkle on your food — and it becomes very lush and oily in your mouth even though it looked like dust on your plate,” says Kummer.

And it’s not just what you eat that’s changing. Kummer sees innovation coming to the world of cocktails.

“Everybody is now making their own infusions of herbs, they’re now trying to practically distill their own alcohol — craft cocktails have taken hold in a way, I just never would have expected even six or seven years ago.”

If you’re still hungry, check out a few of the places that Kummer sees as most cutting-edge:

Colby Kummer, Culture, food

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