What is Molecular Gastronomy?: A Definition & Short History

Moelcular Gastronomy Definition

What is molecular gastronomy? Molecular gastronomy is defined as the study and application of chemistry, physics, and other scientific principles on cooking. As part of a sub-discipline of food science that is characterized by avant-garde cooking techniques, molecular gastronomists study the chemical-physical processes that take place when you cook food. Some innovations that the movement has birthed include blood orange foam, transparent ravioli, cocktail ice spheres, hot ice cream, soy sauce crystals, and fried mayonnaise. Restaurants around the country have adopted the trend to transform flavors and presentations. Read on to learn the origins and concepts of this culinary craze.

History of Molecular Gastronomy

Originally Focused on Traditional Preparations

The term “molecular gastronomy” was coined in 1988 by French chemist Hervé This and his partner Nicolas Kurti, an Oxford physicist. In 1992, This organized a meeting with scientists in Italy to discuss what happens to food on a microscopic level when it is cooked. The scientists explored the science behind the preparation of dishes, such as determining why soufflé swells or why mayonnaise becomes firm. They focused on traditional preparation techniques in hopes of improving them.

A Shift to Experimental and Modern Cuisine

However, in 2001, a chef joined the scientists’ meetings, and subsequently, the focus of their work shifted to how the fundamentals of cooking could be manipulated to create new dishes. This fusion of science and cooking set the stage for the growth of the molecular gastronomy movement. However, some chefs reject the term “molecular gastronomy” and refer to their craft as “experimental cuisine” or “modernist cuisine.”

Molecular Gastronomy Today

Today, molecular gastronomy is considered one of the most exciting trends in the world of haute cuisine. Molecular gastronomy chefs think outside of the box by scientifically examining traditional kitchen techniques and adjusting them as needed. Cities in the US that have embraced the trend include Chicago, San Francisco, and New York.

Exploring Molecular Gastronomy Techniques

Molecular gastronomy chefs use high-tech equipment and chemicals and combine different textures, ingredients, and tastes to create multi-sensory dining experiences. Despite their seemingly outlandish techniques, molecular gastronomists prioritize quality and flavor. Popular molecular gastronomy techniques employed by modern chefs include frothing and foaming, dehydration, spherification, and sous vide.

Froths and Foams

There are a number of ways to create froths and foams, such as using a cream whipper or hand blender.


Molecular gastronomists use dehydration to preserve the crispiness and flavors of food, as well as create crunchy textures and flavored powders.


Spherification makes juices, sauces, and soups look like little balls of caviar. This technique consists of mixing a liquid in sodium alginate, dropping it into a mixture of calcium salt and water, and then scooping the mixture out quickly enough so that it jellies on the outside and stays liquid on the inside.

Sous Vide

Sous vide is a popular technique that involves sealing food in an airtight plastic bag and cooking it in a water bath for several hours on low heat. Sous vide allows food to retain its moisture and flavor.

Becoming a Molecular Gastronomist

So, what is molecular gastronomy? In the end, it is a cooking style driven by modern chefs who want to experiment with the variety of ingredients, tools, and techniques at their disposal. The experiments of molecular gastronomists have resulted in a number of innovative dishes, including olive oil spirals, faux caviar, and hot gelatin, among many others. Molecular gastronomy is a field with enormous potential and unlimited possibilities. Explore this trend if you would like transform dinnertime into an emotional and multi-sensorial experience.