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How To Understand Flavours Like A Professional Chef

March 2018Words by Mr Ben Olsen

As anyone who’s experienced the mind-bending dishes produced by proponents of molecular gastronomy (aka the Full Heston) will know, there are food pairings out there that have to been seen, inhaled, ignited or, perhaps, eaten to be believed. Molecular gastronomy – or deconstructivist cuisine, if your name’s Mr Ferran Adrià (read our meandering interview with him here) – first emerged in the 1980s and stemmed from a desire to understand food on a cellular level. It pushed culinary advancements (think sous vide and spherification) and produced previously unthinkable dishes. And while Mr Blumenthal et al have largely moved on (current food trends lean towards simpler philosophies), the appliance of science in the kitchen has plenty left in the (liquid nitrogen) tank.

One man taking it in a fresh direction is Mr James Briscione, director of culinary research at the Institute Of Culinary Education in New York. His passion is the science of flavour and in his book The Flavor Matrix, he offers a new approach to the way we combine foods. Having studied the molecular properties of hundreds of everyday ingredients, he explains why certain combinations, from the classic (tomato, mozzarella and basil) to the contentious (white chocolate and caviar) work so well. Here are some of his findings.