We are used to thinking about food preparation as a form of art. However, the process of transforming raw ingredients into a dish is governed by stern laws of physics and chemistry. Once one masters this interplay of molecules, the true magic begins.
Grant Achatz, the co-owner and chef of Alinea restaurant in Chicago, is one of the grand masters of the movement known as molecular gastronomy. Molecular gastronomy deconstructs the food we are accustomed to into constituent taste, texture, and shape, and then produces new and unexpected thrills for the senses.
On the menu of Alinea, one might find such strange delights as solid sauces, “spherified” dips, mustard ice cream, distilled liquid of Thai green chilies and lemongrass served in a shot-glass, honey foam, and liquid nitrogen frozen marzipan. Preparation processes for these dishes often include freezing to extremely low temperatures, rapid heating, or various kinds of chemical manipulations that make use of congealing or dehydration agents.
To emphasize the effect, each dish is served in a distinctive way using an elaborate construction of glass, porcelain and slick metal that is more akin to lab instruments than tableware. For example, the delicious applewood ice cream is served on the end of a foot-long steel wire.