We have all grown up reading fairy tales. Other than the ornamental costumes and fantastic characters, food has always been one of the main parts of the plots of these tales. The images of flowing chocolate fountains, rich nutty buns, roasted potatoes, caramelized chicken have been fixed in our minds by these fantasy stories. It is impossible to narrate the story of Cinderella without mentioning the faithful pumpkin which turned into a cart that carried Cinderella to the grand ball. How would the story of Snow White have ended if she had not taken the bite of the poisoned apple? Imagine the story of Hansel and Gretel without the gingerbread house of the cannibal witch or the world of Alice without food! It is unthinkable.
“Food is life” is the motto of many people. Parties, weddings, birthdays and other celebrations are inconceivable without a soul-satisfying menu. Cooking is not just an activity; it is an art that turns simple vegetables and fruits into exquisite cuisines. The artists who deal with this intricate art of cooking are called chefs and we should be grateful to them for introducing us to innumerable ways of savouring a dish.
If food is the offering of nature, technology is the gift of human genius to the world. Scientific techniques are the modern day spells that help us accomplish different tasks. From the moment we get up in the morning to the point we sleep at night, we carry out our chores with the aid of technology. It would not be wrong to say that science has made life easy. Some people were clever enough to find a connection between the two things—food and science—and create dishes with innovative scientific techniques. We can call them science chefs as they use molecular gastronomy to prepare science based cuisines.
Preparing a list of 12 top chefs is a very subjective and wide area because each chef, who has made a name for himself/herself, specialises in something or the other. The top 12 list can be prepared on the basis of wealth quotient, popularity, awards, etc., but we thought of going a little off stream. So, our top 12 features those chefs who have created extraordinary flavours with whimsical and avant-garde techniques of cooking.
Let us get acquainted with 12 best chefs who have introduced the miracles of molecular gastronomy to the world.
12. Adam Melonas
Born in Canberra, Australia in 1981, Adam Melonas is an Australian chef of Greek heritage particularly famous for his progressive style of cooking. He is the founder and CEO of Chew, which is a food innovation lab that partners with companies all over the world to create game-changing products.These products are not only delicious but also nutritious. With restaurants in five countries, Melonas has pushed the limits of experimental cooking and has become a veteran of the culinary world.
11. Marcel Vigneron
Born in Washington, United States in 1980, Marcel Vigneron is best known as the runner-up of the second season of Top Chef. Through this reality TV series, he became famous for his scientific techniques, especially for his use of foams. In 2011, he started and ran a molecular gastronomy catering company in his own television program on Syfy— Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen, but the programme was cancelled after six episodes. Vigneron is the owner of the restaurant Wolf which is located in the heart of Melrose/Fairfax district. Beefsteak is his most recent “conscious plant-based cuisine” restaurant.
10. Richard Blais
Born in New York, United States in 1972, Richard Blais is an American top chef, TV personality, restauranteur and author. He currently owns and operates Trail Blais, a forward-thinking culinary company and is the author of the books So Good and Try This At Home. He is an important entity in the genre of progressive cooking.
9. Sat Bains
Born in Derby, United Kingdom in 1971, Satwant Singh or Sat Bains is best known for being the owner of the “working- class two Michelin star restaurant”— Restaurant Sat Bains with Rooms— in Nottingham. In 2009, he was named the Chef’s Chef of the Year by the Restaurant magazine. Despite his success, Bains keeps evolving and perfecting his menu which is like a personal holy grail to him. His aims to offer unique food items to the people through his style of cooking.
8. Pierre Gagnaire
Born in Apinac, Loire in 1950, Pierre Gagnaire is the owner of the three Michelin Star eponymous Pierre Gagnaire restaurant at 6 rue Blazac in Paris. He is known for his iconoclastic style of cooking. A true pioneer of molecular gastronomy, he has changed people’s outlook on classic French cooking by introducing jarring juxtapositions of flavours, tastes, textures and ingredients. Gagnaire won the “Best Chef in the World” award in 2015. He owns 11 restaurants around the world and these have repeatedly appeared in the “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” list prepared by UK media company, William Reed Business Media.
7. Michael Carlson
Born in Chicago, Illinois in 1974, Michael Carlson is known for his unstressed and well-balanced approach to food. He loves to create simple dishes from unusual and unconventional ingredients and has been described as a “culinary maverick” by food critics. His cooking style makes use of high-tech chemistry and innovative tools like emulsifying gels, congealing agents, foams and liquid nitrogen. Carlson was named the “Best Chef” by Chicago magazine in 2006 and won the Jean Banchet Award for the “Rising Chef of the Year” in 2007.
6. Wylie Dufresne
Born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1970, Dufresne is a science-forward chef who is famous for his deceptively simple style of cooking. Dufresne’s technique of cooking follows a simple formula— there’s more than that meets the eye when it comes to food. Dufresne rose to fame with WD~50 and Alder and is fondly known for his offbeat flavours. He applied his same methodical wizardry to doughnuts with his debut of Du’s Donuts in 2017, which is now the main gig of this molecular gastronaut.
5. Jośe Andrés
Born in Asturias, Spain in 1969, Jośe Andrés is a Spanish-American chef who is credited for bringing the “Tapas” or small plates dining concept to America. Andrés has been named one of Time’s “100 Most Influential People” and has received the “Outstanding Chef” award from the James Beard Foundation. He is famous for his culinary innovations, groundbreaking avant-garde cuisines and for being the owner of ThinkFoodGroup. He is the only chef who has both a two star Michelin restaurant and four Bib Gourmands.
4. Daniel Facen
Born in Switzerland by chance, Daniel Facen is another famous name in the world of experimental cooking. He is an Italian chef who describes himself as, “neither a physicist nor a scientist, but rather a cook with some mad ideas who likes to play with base ingredients. His motto is, “You’ll never discover new oceans if you’re afraid of losing sight of the beach”. His kitchen is the kitchen where technique wins. Modern way of cooking is the key figure in his style of cooking.
3. Ferran Adrià
Born in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, Spain in 1962, Ferran Adrià is considered one of the best chefs in the world. He is certainly one of most creative chefs who has been referred to as “the Salvador Dali of the kitchen”. He headed the restaurant El Bulli, located in the small town of Roses on the coast of Catalonia, which was named the “Best Restaurant in the World” by the Restaurant magazine. Adrià’s cooking experiments granted a higher pedestal to El Bulli in culinary history.
2. Grant Achatz
Born in Michigan, United States in 1974, Grant Achatz is an American chef known for his contribution to molecular gastronomy and progressive cuisine. According to Achatz, “People like to think the creative process is romantic. The artist drifts to sleep at night, to be awakened by the subliminal echoes of his or her next brilliant idea. The truth, for me at least, is that creativity is primarily the result of hard work and study”. Achatz was named the “Best New Chef” by Food and Wine magazine in 2002 and “Rising Star Chef” by the James Beard Foundation in 2003. In 2005, Grant launched his restaurant Alinea in Chicago where he worked in his trademark inventive style and soon in 2010, Alinea was awarded the coveted three stars from the Michelin Guide.
1. Heston Blumenthal
Born in London, England in 1966, Heston Blumenthal is known for his advocation of scientific understanding in cooking for which he has been awarded with honorary degrees from Reading, Bristol and London universities and has been made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. He is an avant-gardist in the fields of multi-sensory cooking, food-pairing and flavour encapsulation. He has won many awards and made many television appearances. His restaurants, The Fat Duck and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal have garnered many accolades for their “new cooking” methods.