It can be described as the intersection of chemistry and the appetite. Last week our local science museum created a special Science Salon to highlight cooking as alchemy. I’ll admit straight up that as a slow foodist, I was skeptical however, the journey that Josh Hebert, Chef and Owner of POSH “Improvisational Cuisine” was remarkable.
Josh, who proclaimed straight away that he’d failed chemistry, took us on a culinary tour which highlighted his own career and demonstrated for us, the application of both scientific and artistic principles in cuisine. Clearly what drew me in was his passion for a topic that I know little about and the tasting. This interesting branch of culinary art really focuses on form, presentation and taste. And, due to Josh’s experience working in Japan, he has a particular emphasis on eating seasonally.
This style of meal preparation is referred to as improvisational cuisine because when you sit down at his restaurant, you’re simply given a list of ingredients. From there, you cross off anything you’re not interested in eating, choose how many courses you want and indicate any other food dislikes or allergies, such as peanuts or goat cheese. They make sure not to serve you any of those items.
This food pioneer has a well trodden resume including executive chef at one of my local favorites Tarbells, a stint at San Francisco’s famous Zuni Café and he was also responsible for opening the Café California in Tokyo, Japan.
I can’t say that I’ll ever try to replicate this style of cooking or that I’ll be a weekly diner but the presentation was truly impressive. Josh has a fantastic demeanor and speaks from his heart. He’s comfortable demonstrating his craft with an audience and does so with finesse and humor. He also peppers the monologue with information about a few of his own favorites such as monkfish liver. Eww! Personally I enjoyed the vegan ricotta crafted from coconut.
For those experts in molecular gastronomy, the menus are often set up as personal challenges. For example, take kalamata olives, dry them, pulverize them, reconstitute them into a paste and then, create olives from the mixture. Sounds like a lot of work? Again, it is viewed as a scientific experiment bred into an art form. And clearly, these chefs are having great fun at both!
Want to try this at home?