Photography by Flora Tran
There is a new craze in the culinary world, many call it molecular cuisine. It is experimental cooking that focuses on the physical and chemical transformations of ingredients. Fortunately, Flora and I had the privilege to experience this modern method of cooking with Chef John Placko on October 24 at one of Nella Cucina’s culinary workshop sessions.

Molecular cuisine is all about manipulating the senses. Familiar food is presented in an unfamiliar and unexpected way so that our senses do not know what to expect. For example, coconut water is usually enjoyed as refreshing beverage on a hot summer day. Another familiar food, caviar, basically salt-cured fish-eggs, is commonly served on sushi. So how do these two foods relate?

Molecular Cuisine with John Placko - Caviar
(Sources: http://clubspa.spafinder.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/cocointro21.jpg, and http://pics.livejournal.com/world_blogger/pic/000b86gh)

That is when molecular cooking comes into play. Coconut caviar infuses the refreshing coconut water with delicate roe. Here are the ingredients:

Caviar mix

2 tbsp icing sugar
3 level spoons easy alginate
½ cup water
½ cup coconut milk

Setting Bath

2 heaped spoons calcium chloride
2 cups water

Add water and all of the ingredients into a blender on low speed and strain the mixture. Place the mix into a squeeze bottle. Then drip caviar mix into the setting bath mix. Rinse the caviar in cold water and it is ready to serve! Check out my video of this to see it in action!

Chef John Placko adds a teaspoon of the coconut pearls into a chilled glass of horchata paired with dried rice cracker and hummus. And a delightful snack is served.

The main event is a demonstration of how molecular cuisine works in the kitchen.

Starter: Walnut crusted salmon on sushi rice cakes with black rice salad and snowflakes.

Walnut crusted salmon on sushi rice cakes with black rice salad and snowflakes.

Starter: Walnut crusted salmon on sushi rice cakes with black rice salad and snowflakes.

The surprise factor of this dish is the white puffy snowflakes on the side. It plays an interesting spin on flavour. Snowflakes in my memory are tasteless just like water.  However, the aroma and flavour of the snowflakes here reminds me of nutty sesame seeds as it melts away in on my tongue. This is one form of manipulation that takes place in molecular cuisine.

Main: Seafood Stir-fry on Texmati Rice

Main: Seafood Stir-fry on Texmati Rice

This stir-fry tastes as delicious as it looks. Though I do not believe molecular cooking is used in this dish.

Dessert: White Chocolate Arancini with Puffed Rice Rocher and Raspberry Butter Sauce

White Chocolate Arancini with Puffed Rice Rocher and Raspberry Butter Sauce

Dessert: White Chocolate Arancini with Puffed Rice Rocher and Raspberry Butter Sauce

See the strawberries on the plate? They are frozen strawberries that fizzle in your mouth, much like drinking soda! The secret is carbonation; a recognizable technique in molecular cooking. Take a cream whipper and add strawberries. Then charge it twice with and leave it in the fridge to cool for two hours. After the cooling the fruits are ready to serve. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4HDfTJjzhU)

As the evening went on, I concluded that molecular cooking is all about creating unfamiliar sensation to the palate. The modern cuisine redesigns the texture, flavour, smell, and colour of food in ways that we have never experienced before. The element of surprise in molecular cuisine is key for entertaining an audience. Surly it does not disappoint, this food in science fiction is setting a brand new stage for modern cooking.

A special thanks goes to Jessica from FayeClack Communications Inc., Chef John Placko, Chef Brianne Nash, and the wonderful staff at Nella Cucina for such an amazing event!

About Chef John Placko
Chef John Placko has worked in Canada over the past 17 years in corporate food and restaurant organizations. Prior to Canada, he worked in Australia and Mexico, mainly in hotels and restaurants.

John’s culinary competition activity spans multiple countries; Australia, Germany, Canada and France, where he competed in the Bocuse d’Or competition. His passion lies in the culinary evolution most commonly known as molecular cuisine or molecular gastronomy. Over the past 6 years he has been invited to present, demonstrate and teach this modern cuisine to numerous culinary groups at GFTC, Humber College, George Brown College, The Cookbook Store and Nella Cucina.

You can register for molecular cuisine workshops at Nella Cucina by clicking here.

Chef John Placko showing the puffed long grain rice rice rocher

Chef John Placko showing the puffed long grain rice rice rocher on a baking sheet to be used for the dessert

Chef John Placko

Chef John Placko

Chef John Placko

Chef John Placko

Chef John Placko

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