Molecular cuisine and slow food. Does this mean anything to you? The best way to find out is to try out food prepared in this manner.
Cooking is certainly a science and this can be seen clearly through molecular cooking/gastronomy. It can be considered the study of the physical and chemical processes which take place while cooking.
While molecular cooking is being introduced by Sous Chef Lee Jamaldeen at the Mount Lavinia Hotel, the concept of slow food has been the initiative of Senior Executive Sous Chef Leonel Velazquez.
“It’s been my dream to introduce molecular cooking to Sri Lanka and I now have to maintain that standard,” says Chef Jamaldeen pointing out that famous Ferran Adrià, head chef of the El Bulli restaurant in Barcelona, Spain, keeps the restaurant open from April to October every year but converts it to a laboratory during the rest of the year to try out different food preparations.
Chef Jamaldeen has lived and worked outside Sri Lanka, being introduced to this style of cooking by Chef Gerald Chin of the Mansion at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. “For me it’s bringing the child who is within to the outside,” he says. “I like to try different things while preparing simple food. I hate setting boundaries.”
One of his dishes is candyfloss made of lobster shells! “It’s about playful cooking and it is a different way of cooking,” explains Chef Jamaldeen, adding, “We eat with our eyes and nose.”
Carrot ravioli was one of the “different” dishes we were able to sample along with prawn served with curry droplets. Another interesting dish was a pineapple foam dish that tastes just like the common pineapple, sprinkled with chillie and salt, the only difference being that you drink this! The fish cooked in Fata paper (a clear shiny roll of paper which can be heated to 440°F in water, oil, microwave or oven), was also delicious.
“I want to create different textures and different feelings in the mouth,” says Chef Jamaldeen. “This type of cuisine is becoming more and more popular around the world. You get to play with your food and make up your mind as to how you play with your food!”
Slow food basically means clean and healthy food. The ingredients used in this cuisine are produced without harming the environment. Farmers who produce such ingredients need to be given fair compensation.
“I make authentic food from around the world with local ingredients,” says Chef Velazquez who is of Cuban origin and has worked at Hershey Lodge, Pennsylvania. He makes his own sausages, bacon and cheese, which includes blue cheese, right here in Sri Lanka. “It’s all natural stuff and it is about going back to basics,” he says, explaining that the farmers from whom they buy the produce for this type of food are treated fairly.
Some of Chef Velazquez’s delicious preparations include Moorish lamb chops with sautéed spinach and eggplant puree finished with peppercorn, Beurre Beurre crusted modha served with coconut and capsicum rice and tomato salsa as well as a scrumptious Wedge salad made of iceberg lettuce, tomato and bacon with a blue cheese dressing.
The molecular and slow food menus prepared by Chef Jamaldeen playfully dubbed the “Mad Scientist” and Chef Velazquez “The Hippie” will be available at the Mount Lavinia Hotel from July 16, once a month. The theme for this month is: ‘Indian Ocean delicacies, Mediterranean style’.