An artist uses a syringe to inject a pomegranate seed into the mouths of gallery-goers. An eccentric billionaire cooks short ribs in a science-lab water bath for 40 hours. A counterculture technogeek in San Francisco stages an event during which flavored foam is spread over a bath of liquid nitrogen.
Welcome to the world of geek gourmet.
It's happening all over the world, inspired by a handful of genius chefs. Restaurants such as Heston Blumenthal's the Fat Duck outside of London; Ferran Adria's El Bulli in Rosas, Spain; and Wylie Dufresne's WD-50 in New York are routinely ranked as among the best in the world, and three-star chefs flock there to see what kind of wizardry will be cooked up next. Adria and Blumenthal practice a unique, cutting-edge kind of cuisine called molecular gastronomy. Essentially, they have reinvented the cooking process, setting aside thousands of years of tradition and working from the ground up to create dishes based on the molecular compatibilities of different ingredients by using all the techniques of modern science to create flavors and textures never before experienced.
Molecular gastonomy, for most of its short history, has been the exclusive domain of chefs and scientists, food experts with immense resources and the skills to put them into play. But nothing stays out of the mainstream for long, and molecular gastronomy -- or geek gourmet, as it's sometimes called -- has been picked up on by amateurs. The best place to look for these food hackers is in the technological counterculture, right along with the people who joyfully rewrite Microsoft code or reedit Star Wars movies to make them better. One of the leading food hackers is Marc Powell of San Francisco, a member of the Bay Area's hacker/artist/activist community. Powell is a resident of Unicorn Precinct XIII, a self-described "home to artists, musicians, hackers, anarchists, spiritualists, freaks, cooks, and family." The 29-year-old maintains a blog (www.foodhacking.com) that chronicles his ongoing experiments. One post describes Powell's demonstration of making a frigid almond-brandy sweet foam, cooled with liquid nitrogen, at a Dorkbot event -- a kind of hootenanny for technogeeks. Of course, Powell also has access to a 200-mph blender, five computers, and a naturally synthesized substance called meat glue when he's concocting his delicacies.
For Powell, there's no major difference between the kind of cooking he's doing now and the computer hacking he has done in the past. "Chefs are a lot like hardware hackers," he writes. "Both geek out, absorbing the specs of (vegetables\technology) for the purpose of something that nobody else has: (innovative food\new machines). So what happens when the kitchen becomes a hack lab? Something delicious. Something geeky."
To Be Continued...