Alton Brown, author and host of the cable television shows “Good Eats” and “Iron Chef America”, told the American Culinary Federation national convention that he fears molecular gastronomy may corrupt cooking education.
Brown was the featured speaker Sunday as about 1,200 chefs and culinary professionals gathered for the national ACF convention in Grapevine, Texas.
“My worry about molecular gastronomy, especially with young cooks, is that they will try to use it to replace knowing how to cook food,” Brown said during his presentation. “Show me you can cook a chicken breast properly. Show me you can cook a carrot properly. Now do it a hundred times in a row. Then we can play around with the white powders.”
Molecular gastronomy, he added, is part of the cyclical evolution of food and cooking.
“It’s an interesting skill set, but you can’t live on it. It’s not food,” Brown said. “Don’t think you can replace cooking technique with throwing a whole bunch of flavors on top of something any more than you can making it into a caviar or making it into a foam. If I live the rest of my culinary life without a seeing another foam, I’ll be OK.”
While sick of foam, Brown admitted to being “obsessed” with salt, even after the recent round of health concerns about its overuse.
“You cannot have good food without salt. You cannot have good cooking without salt,” he said. “But we do have to be responsible in its application.”
He said he is becoming a fan of “performance salts,” such as smoked salts, to enhance flavors with more judicious use. He also exhibited several techniques, such as roast meat in a salt dough, stovetop salt “roasted” shrimp, and microwaving new potatoes in an improvised “salt dome.”
Brown said that chefs must understand and master three things in cooking: heat, water and seasoning, of which salt is the primary ingredient.
“The ability to season means the ability to apply and use salt,” Brown said, “because that is the only molecule that actually defines seasoning.”
Click to watch a video of Brown at the convention.