Molecular gastronomy is a mind-bending new approach to cooking that blends culinary passion with scientific precision. Taste for yourself at the Banyan Tree at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, where Chef Jojo Vasquez, ably assisted by Pastry Chef Ashlie Koehler, conjures up molecular magic: wafer-thin crisp leeks, gelled apples, dehydrated chocolate mousses, and mangos reconstituted into trembling spheres that pop like caviar in one’s mouth.
While most of Chef Jojo’s techniques require advanced skills and obscure ingredients, he shared one secret that can be acquired from your local health food store: agar-agar. Derived from seaweed, agar-agar is a thickening agent used in soups and jellies. Chef Jojo employs it in the creation of the jellied squares of pure apple flavor that serve as pedestals for divine beignets drizzled in rum sauce. “When you cut through the beignet, you get the gelee at the bottom—the best of the both worlds,” says Chef Jojo.