It’s been a busy week for Alton Brown. The award-winning TV personality and foremost Welch’s Grape Juice expert made food industry headlines on Tuesday with some serious fightin’ words against the practice of molecular gastronomy.
“Is it really cool to be able to make corn flakes out of peanut butter?” Alton Brown asked rhetorically during a speech at the American Culinary Federation national convention. “Sure, it's a great trick. But it's a novelty, by and large.”
“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 continued. “It’s an interesting skill set, it’s an interesting bunch of tools – you can’t live on it. It’s not food.”
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Is he wrong? Not really – everyone’s been sick of foams since Marcel drowned us all in them five years ago on Top Chef Season 2. But lately the same could be said of back-to-basics “Farm to Table” talk as well, and it’s hard to deny that (when done right and within reason) molecular gastronomy adds some fascinating new interest to the changing culinary landscape, and his words certainly rubbed some people the wrong way. (It also felt at first glance like a somewhat surprising stance for Alton Brown to hold, given how scientifically-charged (if basic) every episode of Good Eats tends to be.)
Momofuku chef David Chang sounded off over Twitter that Alton Brown “sounds like Boehner on budget deficit or crazy fundamentalist. He is partially correct, mostly wrong.”
Today, Alton Brown set the record straight (also on Twitter, as Alton Brown is wont to do) and clarified his speech, saying: “Just to set record straight: molecular gastronomy is not bad...but without sound, basic culinary technique, it is useless.” That much, Mr. Brown, is – much like art students who much study figures for years before attempting abstract – a simple truth that no one can argue with.