Cooking with 'pure chemical compounds' is the future of food, says Hervé This

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food

In the future, we won’t cook with fruit, vegetables or meat. We will cook ‘note by note’ with the pure compounds responsible for taste and smell – and industry better start preparing, says molecular gastronomy inventor, Hervé This.

Note by note cuisine does away with traditional ingredients such as fruit, vegetables and meat in favour of isolated compounds like sucrose, protein, lipids or anthocyanins for colour, and reassembles them for an endless amount of culinary possibilities.

According to its inventor, Hervé This, who is a chemist at France’s National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), there are also compelling sustainability arguments to consider.

“In 2050 there will be 10 million people on earth. The problem will be protein and the solution will probably be plant or insect proteins,”​ he said. “We need expertise to cook these new ingredients. We are slowly introducing them so the public can use it. This is note by note cooking.”

The fact that note by note cuisine uses shelf-stable powders and liquids means it is a tool to fight food waste while vitamin fortification could tackle malnutrition.

He rejects the idea that it removes the pleasure from cooking or our connection with ‘real’ food, likening it to electronic music which is different to a symphony composed by Mozart – but is music nonetheless.

The definition of food is what you eat. If you make a note by note dish and then eat it, it’s food – not ‘false’ food or ‘wrong’ food."

Clean label is "a bad marketing game"

This hopes note by note cooking will reconcile people with the idea that food is naturally made up of chemical compounds.

The clean label movement, which has seen food manufacturers remove certain ‘chemical-sounding’ additives from food, has made the public afraid of ingredients that are present in ordinary food, is not good in the long run, he said.

“Look at citric acid, for example. It is in lemon juice, so what’s the problem? Why not write ‘citric acid’ on your package?”

“Caramel is considered an additive. Would you deprive yourself of caramel? It’s a bad game from the food industry [based on] marketing. The public has the feeling that natural is better. That’s not true.”

Michelin chefs are...taking note


In any case, the gastronomy world is taking note. Last week, Michelin-starred chef Julien Binz served up France’ first ever 100% note by note meal to curious connoisseurs and food journalists.

But its creator is determined that note by note spreads beyond the kitchens of high-end restaurants to become the food of the people, transforming the supply chain.

This says he is doing it for the public interest, and for suppliers and manufacturers, he has one message: get ready.

“I am creating the demand, lecturing in all countries to chefs, and the chefs need these ingredients. There is no reason why we shouldn’t find in supermarkets packets of proteins that coagulate, proteins that don’t coagulate […], lipids, sugar or glucose, which is wonderful for mouth feel. We need these ingredients, so please be ready!”

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1 comment

Dick Dagger

Posted by Dick Dagger,

Headline grabbing, and if the rich world cared about the plight of the poor world, then then yes we will all be sharing insect recipes at some point. But they won't. The poor will be left to starve or eat insects, and the relatively rich will get to eat what most of them want and when they want.

From a chemistry point of view. Where will all the raw materials for the new wave of lab created food come from? Want to make a protein, or a carb or a fat, you need to source carbon, oxygen or hydrogen (the basis of all our food and organic chemistry).

Yes maybe we could do that from recycled plastics, but why would the 1st world want to and also the energy costs associate with that?

Whatever is the solution to feeding an overpopulated world, what is presented here is not it.

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