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His Inventions Get You... Right In The Taste Buds

Is it every chemist's secret dream to become a chef? Think about the benefits. Virtually unlimited ingredients, immediate feedback, safer work environment, fewer deaths, fewer law suits... Chefs are chemists, and though their creations may not lead to patents, they are inventions. This year Time Magazine has recognized one chef's work as a Best Invention of 2008: Heston Blumenthal's Sound Enhanced Food.

Blumenthal, a kind of kitchen neuroscientist, tested his thesis that taste and environment are strongly interconnected by wiring his subjects to an iPod playing sounds of the sea as they ate one of his signature seafood dishes. The results, not surprising to Blumenthal, were that the sound of breaking waves made the seafood taste 30 percent saltier than the sounds of barnyard animals. (quack quack!).

Now, at Blumenthal's The Fat Duck restaurant, just west of London, Blumenthal serves his Sounds of the Sea dish with a side of iPod sounds of the sea!


Blumenthal takes his research seriously; it's the basis for the special combinations in his culinary creations. He studies the molecular compounds of foods so that his recipes take full advantage of all aspects of taste. Recently, Blumenthal researched and published an article about glutamate content in tomatoes, found in the seeds and pulp. While chefs are taught to throw out tomato seeds and pulp, these tomato contents create a fifth taste sense, that is described as meaty or savory. Blumenthal's research suggests that there may be reasons to re-think tradition in tomato cooking and eating.

 

Häagen-Dazs Double Chocolate & Banana Baked AlaskaHäagen-Dazs Double Chocolate & Banana Baked Alaska

In 2006, Blumenthal received an honorary degree of Doctor of Science by The University of Reading for his dedicated research and commitment to the exploration of culinary science. A gaze at The Fat Duck's sampling menu, a twelve course, 120£ culinary extravaganza, or the à la carte menu, gives you a hint that Chef Blumenthal has been inventing gastronomical dishes for years. Here are just a few:

  • POMMERY GRAIN MUSTARD ICE CREAM, RED CABBAGE GAZPACHO
  • SALMON POACHED IN LIQUORICE GEL
    Artichokes, vanilla mayonnaise and “Manni” olive oil
  • MANGO AND DOUGLAS FIR PUREE
    Bavarois of lychee and mango, blackcurrant sorbet, blackcurrant and green peppercorn jelly
  • PETITS FOURS
  • Mandarin aerated chocolate, Violet tartlet, Carrot and orange lolly
  • NITRO-SCRAMBLED EGG AND BACON ICE CREAM (2006)
    Pain perdu, tea jelly

I had read about Blumenthal's hot ice cream, but the egg and bacon ice cream really got to me, and I found this 2-minute You-Tube video so that we could watch it being made:



Among many recognitions since the The Fat Duck opened in 1995, was the 3 Star Michelin accomplishment in 2004. This year, not only did Chef Blumenthal make it into Time Magazine's Best Inventions of 2008,but The Fat Duck won the 2008 Good Food Guide's Best Restaurant in the UK and the 2008 Second Best Restaurant In The World by Restaurant Magazine's International Academy.

Chef Heston Blumenthal writes a Sunday column for the Times Online and has some recipes posted on the BBC website. His books, The Big Fat Duck Cookbook, and In Search of Perfection: Reinventing Kitchen Classics are available from Amazon.com. He is great about sharing his recipes!

Sources: The Fat Duck, Chow, Time, TimesOnline, Telegraph Sounds of the Sea photo by PhotographyByDiana.com

The recipe for the Häagen-Dazs Double Chocolate & Banana Baked Alaska is available here.