Food in every molecule

Food in every molecule

Molecular gastronomy is the future of cooking

Chef Martin Lippo

A conversation with Martin Lippo, a new age culinary consultant trainer based in Barcelona, Spain, will tell you that there is much more to cooking than what meets the eye. In particular, his work has shown what one can do with liquid nitrogen, a popular tool that allows chefs to transform food in fun and surprising ways. With many of its applications still being discovered, Martin’s work in this area is nothing short of hard work and perseverance.

“I had been looking for something to do as I did not want to study and wanted to work as a chef. At that time, it seemed to be a nice job. However, I was wrong and it was a lot of hard work,” says Martin. When his work began to get a lot of press coverage, “it was good for my family as they did not believe me as I did not study. This pushed me to do better,” says Martin. It is of little wonder that Martin holds unique names such as culinary wizard, kitchen engineer, and even MacGyver for his inventive nature. In a tête-à-tête, Martin discusses his experimentations and journey so far.

What interested you about molecular gastronomy?
This is a complicated question. Molecular is a term that no one uses anymore from where I come from. So, I am not interested in molecular. Rather, I am interested in aspects of gastronomy: the most classical and the avant-garde, the newer one. For many, the avant-garde is molecular. I am interested in all ideas of gastronomy. Exploring all the different techniques that have come up in the field is what I am truly interested in.

How do new techniques help you make and present a dish well?
There is an evolution in every sphere of our life. Cooking is no different. One has two options: you take these new concepts, ideas and technologies and ingredients or you can be stuck in tradition. Everything is constantly evolving. Imagine Indian food without chillies. They were brought to India from South America. Years ago, I could not imagine Indian food without chillies. All this is a part of what we are doing. We are just incorporating new techniques without rejecting or changing the tradition. When these are mixed together, it is called avant-garde cooking.

What does avant-garde cooking mean for you?
Avant-garde allows me to create something new and inspire a new generation of chefs to create something of their own that is unique and open a window to their cooking heritage. Furthermore, in this type of cooking, I am given the opportunity to keep playing — something that I feel that adults have lost over time.

How important is experimentation while creating new dishes?
There are many different ways to develop something new. Specifically, it can be done in three ways: a new ingredient, tool or concept. These act as a window to explore new things. So, when we are confronted with one of these, it is difficult to come up with something new and our experimentations may not always be successful. So, coming up with something that is perfect is always a long trial and error process. While perfecting a dish may take some time, it is important to not give up. It is imperative that one tests everything and experiments constantly.

What has been your best work so far?
In my career, my best and most important work has been with liquid nitrogen. There are many techniques that I use to create different dishes like moulding with liquid nitrogen. Currently, my colleagues and I are trying to mould meringues using liquid nitrogen, which is a bit tricky as it is usually done with a piping bag.

Could you elaborate a bit more on your work with liquid nitrogen?
I like to focus on the technicality behind the use of liquid nitrogen. This is something that really interests me. Liquid nitrogen gives us the possibility to do incredible things. In fact, we created a school in Barcelona, Spain called Nitro School just to teach and expand the reach of liquid nitrogen.

Favourite dishes created using liquid nitrogen
The first one would be a dessert named ‘magic mushroom’. This is a dish that I created using just yoghurt and fruits in the shape of a mushroom. Another one is a drink called ‘nitro cocktail’. This is presented as a frozen, hollow sphere of blood orange. It is a hollow sphere and a hole is created to fill it up with the juice of blood orange and Campari, which is transformed into a sorbet. As the sphere is hollow, the sorbet is put inside after a hole is created. It is presented in a cocktail glass along with a straw.

The current trends…
Today, many people are looking to eat something that is healthy, whether it is at home or at restaurants. Many are shifting away from using exotic produce. Instead, many are now buying and consuming high-quality local produce. Chefs too are going back to the roots and are using traditional cooking methods without forgetting to move into the future.


Using liquid nitrogen

In cooking, liquid nitrogen is characterised by a temperature of -196ºC, which means that everything it touches freezes instantly. Here are some ways liquid nitrogen is being used:

1. With the different characteristics of frozen dishes, it becomes possible to bring together different textures. For instance, people can eat something that is both solid and liquid at the same time or even something that is crunchy and delicate.

2. Liquid nitrogen allows you to play with different temperatures. So, you can serve an ingredient in a dish that is cooked inside and kept at its ideal eating temperature, while the outside is completely frozen.

3. Looking to make ice cream instantly? Liquid nitrogen is the way to go and in fact, it has been used by chefs since the 1970s to make smooth ice cream.

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