Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Few Words on Culinary Technology

We caught up with Chef Herve Malivert, newly appointed director of culinary technology, to talk food, science, and tricks.

Q: Why should cooks learn about culinary technology?
Cooks need to learn the basics of culinary technology to have an idea of what is happening in restaurants now with the evolution in equipment and technique. I don’t think it’s a pillar of education, but I strongly believe that every cooking school needs to keep updating their curriculum and following the evolution in the real world. Here at the Culinary Center, we’ve been teaching sous-vide cooking for the past 6 years.

Q: Do you think there’s a stigma around culinary technology—like some chefs think it’s just a trend or not worth the time? Or is this a permanent movement that young chefs should latch onto? 
Anything that can improve quality, consistency, and cost in a kitchen, isn’t just a trend, but an improvement.  I remember as a young cook when the convection oven was introduced in the kitchen. A lot of chefs believed that it was just a trend. But some techniques like caviar and foam, which you see in so many plates, will slow down and chefs will move onto the new idea of plating. So yes, trend is part of our job, but some stay and some go.

Q: Are there any new developments within culinary technology? Can you give us any insight into what the future of culinary technology might look like?
I love sous vide, low-temperature cooking, and some hydrocolloids, but in the end, the flavor and the respect of the produce or protein are the priority. For me, the future chef should master technique before moving to experimental techniques. What I love to do is taking classic recipes and twisting them by introducing new techniques to shape and arrange all the ingredients on a plate to make an impact on your customer and have them enjoy and distinguish the classic flavor in another way. That is the future for me.

I see some new equipment like the sonicprep (ultrasonic homogenizer), which offers a wide range of techniques such as extraction, infusion, emulsification, and rapid barrel-aging. Imagine taking a port wine and being able to do 20 years of aging in two minutes by adding oak to your port and extracting the oak flavor.

Q: What are your future plans for the culinary tech program at the Culinary Center now that you’re the director?
My goal is to keep studying and researching all the new equipment and techniques, and figure out which ones will make an impact in the kitchen. Our goal is to continue to grow our technology program with the future chef in mind.

Q: What’s a feasible recipe that incorporates culinary technology for the home cook or culinary student?
Turn your favorite soup or puree into a foam with an ISI canister and a hydrocolloid called “foam magic” available at Foam magic is a combination of two hydrocolloids: xanthan-gum and methylcellulose. Xanthan is a thickener, and methylcellulose is an emulsifier. Combine the foam magic (1%) with your pureed liquid and transfer to an ISI canister, screw in the cream charger, and shake well. Keep in mind the extraction nozzle of the canister is narrow so your soup or puree needs to be smooth and free of lumps.

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