There is a place called Moto , more precisely a molecular gastronomy restaurant in the Fulton River District of Chicago where the tasting menu starts with you eating the menu.
Moto’s Michelin starred chef Homaro Cantu is looking to create a shocking yet tasty experience with a WOW factor that grabs your attention. Eating the menu, namely the concept of printed food is only the first step; in an interview, Cantu explains how it all started, recalling that when Moto opened in 2004, everyone was convinced it was a Japanese restaurant. So after the hundredth request for a maki roll, Cantu and his team decided to fulfill the clients’ desires and created an edible picture of a maki roll, which tasted exactly like the real thing.
The idea behind Moto’s approach and the modernist experimental cuisine is the study of how food changes when it cooks. Breaking down the process and being able to understand every step of it, opens doors to creativity and experimentation. In Moto’s tasting menu, things are transformed into something you have absolutely no reference for.You would not normally eat a piece of paper and following the same associative logic you would expect nachos to taste like a Mexican dish of tortilla chips covered with chili con carne and melted cheese.But what if the dish that looks like nachos is actually made of candied chips, chocolate beef and some mango sorbet, that gets shredded into liquid nitrogen to make it look like cheese? What if a dish that looks and tastes like a tuna steak is actually an elaborately modified slice of watermelon? These experiments start looking like much more than a “mind ripper”: the economic implications of creating a tuna steak removing the tuna from the equation are immense.
Another main focus of experimentation at Moto is flavor transformation. In particular, Cantu mentions an ingredient that freaks him out every time he eats it: the so-called miracle berry, a natural product which contains miracoline, a glycoprotein molecule that has the ability to mask certain taste receptors on your tongue and to alter flavors , making savory food taste sweet. The west African fruit was discovered in the 1960s by Robert Harvey, a biomedical postgraduate student. In his words, “you can eat a berry and then bite into a lemon. It becomes not only sweeter, but it will be the best lemon you’ve tasted in your life”. Cantu started using it to help chemotherapy patients whose treatment made every meal taste metallic. The berry can also be used to manufacture sweet tasting foods without sugar or sweeteners. Given the low sugar content of the berry, this property could lead to immense potential health benefits. Cantu has already developed a cookbook around the miracle berry (“The miracle berry diet cookbook”) and plans to open his own next generation coffee house; imagine a world where you can eat a doughnut which instead of being unhealthy is actually with low sugar content and good for your body?
Molecular gastronomy and modernist experimental cuisine expanded the creative repertoire of what food is. It also sets the pace for future innovations and trigger chefs and people to ask themselves “where do we go from here?”.