The Mad Science of Cooking

December 16th, 2011 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on The Mad Science of Cooking


Happy Friday everyone, and for your viewing pleasure – a really interesting video about what you can do with food flavors. It’s basically food alchemy or flavor transformation. The first couple minutes of the video are a bit slow, but then things get pretty interesting and it’s worth hanging around for the entire video.

The presenters are Ben Roche, who is the pastry chef at Chicago’s Moto Restaurant, and was the co-host, with Homaro Cantu, of the TV show “Future Food., and Homaro Cantu who is the executive chef at Moto’s and describes himself as creating postmodern cuisine and futuristic food delivery systems.

Two points in the video that particularly caught my attention were their veggie burger creation and their experimentation with miracle berries. Cantu describes their veggie burger:

We actually attempted to shorten the food chain by creating a burger out of the ingredients that are found in livestock feed. The three ingredients we used were corn, beets and barley. For that savory, char-grilled flavor, we charred the corn until it was sweet and blackened, and mixed it with cooked barley, which when blended, has an almost identical texture to a cooked burger protein. Oven-dried beet pulp provided the right texture. Beet juice added color to the veggie patties as well as an eggless mayonnaise to mimic the fat and blood in a burger. Corn oil was used for sautéing and cornstarch was used for binding. It actually looked and tasted like the real thing. No cows were harmed and we created the world’s first vegan burger made from what cows eat – instead of eating the cows themselves.

The miracle berries they discuss ( also known as Synsepalum dulcificum), are native to West Africa and have been known to Westerners since the 18th century. The berries makes bitter and sour foods taste sweet. As Cantu says,

“It’s not a trick and it’s not a chemical. The berry contains a glycoprotein that prevents the sour receptors on your tongue from tasting sour flavors. When you eat sour foods, they taste intensely sweet. Lemons taste like lemonade. Limes taste like . . . well, the best limes you have ever tasted. Love soda? Make your own with a lemon and some soda water. No sugar. No calories. No chemicals.”

The cause of the reaction is a protein called miraculin, which binds with the taste buds and acts as a sweetness inducer when it comes in contact with acids, according to Linda Bartoshuk at the University of Florida’s Center for Smell and Taste – a scientist who has studied the fruit. Dr. Bartoshuk said she did not know of any dangers associated with eating miracle fruit.

It is important to realize, however, that miraculin changes the perception of taste, it does not change the food’s chemistry, leaving the mouth and stomach vulnerable to the high acidity of some foods, such as lemon juice, that may cause irritation if eaten in large quantities.

Anyhow, it’s all very interesting – enjoy the video.