When it comes to molecular gastronomy‹or mad-scientist cuisine or postmodern
cooking or whatever you want to call the kind of kitchen magic people like Top Chef Masters competitor Wylie Dufresne are famous for, I’d always been a nonbeliever. Don’t get me wrong; I get the appeal: chefs want to push the boundaries of cooking by concocting fanciful edibles (“spherified” mashed carrots, for example) made with unorthodox tools (immersion blenders,
vaporizers), and diners are dazzled by their inventions. But paying serious cash for the privilege of eating such food had always struck me as silly. My idea of good eating is a well-crafted meal made with basic ingredients, like the dishes I learned from friends when I was living in Indonesia: crisp salads made from vegetables just gathered from the garden out back; vibrant curries seasoned with local spices.
Then Episode 2 happened. About two-thirds of the way into the show, I made a pretty big pronouncement and said, “Molecular gastronomy is profoundly not my thing.” Sure, I’d eaten Wylie’s food before, and I’d liked (though not necessarily loved) some of it. But the dishes he created for the “Lost Supper” episode — the chicken and the egg cooked in the immersion circulator the delectable mustard sauce — caused me to see the light. His cooking was far
more honest and direct than I’d expected it to be. I forgot instantly that it involved utensils that would be at home in a science lab. It was just soulful food made by an inquisitive chef. Wylie transformed those ingredients into something new and wonderful, not just for the cerebral
effect but for the sensory pleasure of the diner. I liked what the other chefs prepared for us that night: Suzanne Tracht’s satisfying “holiday” boar; Elizabeth Falkner’s yam-papaya pudding (yes, it looked like baby food, but so what? It tasted great); Graham Elliot Bowles’s knockout tuna niçoise. Still, for me, Wylie was the real winner. Was I disappointed that Gael, Jay, and the “Lost” judges didn’t agree? Sure, but at least I got to have my lightbulb moment.
I'm so glad "the lightbulb" went off for you because disparaging remarks about molecular gastronomy are always kinda of irrirtating in thier close-mindedness."--I'm not a chef, but I'm not sure why anyone would take exception to the way in which good food is prepared. Good food is good food. If it has a sense of humor and an identifiable thought process and some interesting technique along with it, so much the better, No?
I too wish Wylie would have won. I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone more passionate about food,--and his food always seems as if it would taste amazing, which is the entire point, yes?
I'm really enjoying this series on Top Chef. And the new judges are doing a nice job of giving the viewers a sense of what is successful and not as successful in the chefs' food.
Thankx for taking the time to blog each episode and give us your insight. This was a fun episode and it's a really fun series, and I'm like you with the "post-modern" thing, I can't see paying three times the price for food that can be cooked traditionally. With that said, though, I'm glad you had an "awakening" and shared that with us!
Thanks for the blog and the insight. I am warming up to this show. I think it is great to see past judges realize what it takes to win a Quick fire, or a regular challenge and to see what the past contestants have had to overcome when things go wrong. The look on Wylie's face when he saw the quickfire judges was hilarious. But Bravo, why have losing contestants as judges? I have never understood that. Wish I could have tried all the dishes. They looked great!
I love your honest review and how despite what you've encountered in the past were willing to open your mind when presented with a with an example that was contradictory.
I myself will admit that Wylie's form of cooking does make me a bit nervous but no more than the risk one takes from eating any other food from a chef you don't know personally. So I believe in the end I just see it as another tool... much the way like fire and ice is used.
If you think this is unusual, can you imagine what the future will now bring?
Love the show! I'm so excited that Bravo decided to do it!
I love the show so much that I watch it in reruns as often as its shown. I noticed today for the first time that Wylie pushed his hair behind his ears while he was cooking. I work in a field where food prep is done, and one of the most important things we are taught that touching your hair, face or clothes contaminates. He should have gone to the sink and washed his hands after he did that. I hope in his restaurant he wears something on his head.