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Molecular gastronomy: basis for a new culinary movement or modern day alchemy?

Cousins, John and O'Gorman, Kevin D. and Stierand, Marc (2010) Molecular gastronomy: basis for a new culinary movement or modern day alchemy? International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 22 (3). pp. 399-415. ISSN 0959-6119

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To explore the phenomenon of molecular gastronomy by conducting empirical research focusing on renowned chefs. Design/methodology/approach - Literature review summarising past culinary innovations then focusing on the origins and evolution of molecular gastronomy, followed by 18 phenomenological interviews with a snowball sample of world class chefs from across Europe. There is far greater confusion about what molecular gastronomy might be than is implied in previous studies. The term has become wrongly used to describe a possible culinary movement mainly as a result of media influence. Leading chefs, whose new restaurant concepts have become associated with it, reject the term. With only 20 years of history molecular gastronomy is still a comparatively new phenomenon, this initial research presents a clear picture of its evolution so far and the increasing confusion the use of the term has created. It's still far too early to decide if these are heralding a new gastronomic movement. Although molecular gastronomy itself may not provide a foundation for a genuine and lasting development of cuisine it is generating fascination with the fundamental science and techniques of cuisine and showy culinary alchemy. As with Nouvelle Cuisine poor quality copycat chefs could bring into disrepute the reputation and practices of those who are at the vanguard culinary and restaurant innovation. Originality/value - First widespread primary study, across five countries, into recognised exceptional chefs' understanding of molecular gastronomy. It clarifies that molecular gastronomy was never intended to be the foundation of a culinary movement and identifies four key elements for the development of lasting cuisine movements and trends.