Maui No Ka 'Oi Magazine September-October 2014 - September-October 2014
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Kitchen Chemistry

The Banyan Tree chefs whip up a science lesson no foodie should miss.

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Lobster foams . . . fruit caviars . . . popping candies—these are the delights inspired by the food-science movement, now in its second decade. In the early nineties, food-loving French chemist Hervé This began testing the science behind what he called the “old wives’ tales” populating many cookbooks. This and his colleagues broke recipes down to their essential components. Precisely why do soufflés rise, or fail to? Can the chemical reactions be manipulated? Coining the term “molecular gastronomy,” they pushed the frontier of culinary arts and turned traditional dishes inside out.

What the chemists learned in the laboratory, top chefs put into practice in the kitchen. Champions of molecular gastronomy include El Bulli in Spain and the Fat Duck in England—both restaurants that have captured the title of “Best in the World.” While the United States has been slow to adopt molecular gastronomy’s high-falutin’ fare, island gourmets don’t need to hop on a jet to find it. They can try this cutting-edge cuisine right here on Maui, at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua’s Banyan Tree restaurant.

While the Ritz was under renovation last year, former chef de cuisine Jojo Vasquez toured Spain and France. He returned with delicious ideas and sophisticated equipment. Vasquez has since moved on from the resort—stay tuned for updates on his exciting new project. But before the chef turned his toque over to his capable crew, he welcomed me behind the scenes to witness the Willy Wonka-esque fun.