Monthly Archives: June 2012

Things to come from Toronto Food Lab

I’ve been sent travelling for our parent company, GPI,  quite frequently for the past several months. As a result, recipe developments, trials and explorations have been few and far between. I am finally back in the lab, in full force! after the 13th. There have been a lot of ideas that have been written down. So this is a short list of things to come when I get back.

1. A comparison of the dehydrating methods. Freeze drier vs. dehydrator. Which yields better results? Is one really better than the other or just simply different. Is it worth it to wait 3 days for the freeze drier to complete the process?

2. Video – A collaboration with Toronto Food Lab and Shane Harper.

3. Water in oil emulsions – traditional methods vs the SonicPrep

4. INGREDIENTS!!!! Yes, Toronto Food Lab will soon be offering the hydrocolloids produced by GPI. Proprietary blends and single ingredient gums will be available.

5. Tons upon tons of ideas for recipes/components/dishes that I am just dying work on. I think these will be what chefs would like to join in on. So please, go to the What is Toronto Food Lab page to get in touch.


Noma – the eye openner

My trip in Europe was a quick whirlwind, but it was one that ended with me taking in a very, very important philosophy of food. I was lucky enough to dine at Noma, but even more so, I spent an afternoon listening to Rene Redzepi sharing the philosophy of the restaurant and actually going to a beach where they forage for the ingredients. It was just one afternoon, yes, but it was enough to spark my curiosity. What is food? Where can it really be found? Beyond the restaurant suppliers, beyond what people already  know as ingredients. Are there more ingredients to be discovered or rediscovered? What is out there that is edible and delicious? How can these ingredients be translated into a dish? So many questions came to me. That is why I describe my experience as truly eye opening. It makes you think differently about a patch of grass, even if it is just growing next to the road.

I’ve been lucky enough to dine at some of the world’s top according to San Pelegrino – Alinea, Osteria Francescana, El Celer de can Roca, Per Se, Amber, and Noma (Yes, I love my job). I think I now have a better understanding on what it takes to be number 1 in the world. It would be quite a long post to discuss it, but in short, I think that to be number one means to be TRULY unique. Any restaurant that makes it to top 50 is sure to make outstanding food and outstanding service. That is a given. But like so, there are many restaurants that provide that. So to make it to the top 10, or top 5, you have to separate yourself by being, again, truly unique, more daring and to pursue a philosophy tenaciously. To be number 1, you must surpass the other restaurants in those aspects.  Noma has done this, brilliantly.

The dinner itself was quite fun. The snacks come in at a rapid pace, which is a breath of fresh air, and I really enjoyed. I’m always eager to eat, so to be kept waiting just makes me anxious. It felt like Noma gave us the snacks (15 snacks I believe) in approximately 30 minutes. And oh, THE ANT COURSE IS REAL! I don’t think all the tables got it. I like to think I’m special…haha.

Though, one of my personal highlights of that experience was getting to spend a bit of time with the team in Noma. All the other guests left, I stayed. And hey, I got to drink more of their house made beer. Not bad at all. The people in Noma are, without a doubt, remarkable.

I will also now think of Rene Redzepi not only as a brilliant individual, but also the chef who has a bit too much fun with a spray bottle. He aims for the ears, be careful.

I think I’ll end the post here. Of course, here are some photos.

Apologies, as I don’t have the menu on me at the moment, I cannot remember the exact names of the dish. Will add them when I get back home.

Noma, here I come

This is it! in a few days I will finally experience what it’s like to dine in a restaurant voted #1 in the world. El Bulli was quite impossible to get to. Needless to say, I am extremely excited. A few months back I dined at Alinea, which to this day is my favourite restaurant. They are quite different restaurants. It will be interesting for me to compare. Most importantly though, I will come back with many inspired ideas. 

Work will be quite hectic for the next 4 weeks. Posts may be minimal. Though…when I get back in the lab, it will be constant development of recipes and execution of ideas. Also shooting a video with Shane Harper featuring a recipe that combines his skills with Toronto Food Lab’s capabilities. It will be mind blowing. 

Always something to look forward to. 

Pudding – no egg, no starch. Using iota carrageenan

This recipe was made in preparation for a dinner I’m cooking in UK. No crazy flavour combinations again, just new ways of delivering those flavours. So, a pudding with no egg or and starch. Why? Well, I don’t really like the texture of starch, that’s one thing. For the egg, I love eggs, but funny enough, it’s considered an allergen in Canada. Personally, I don’t care about that part, but I suppose this was just a quick challenge I wanted to do. To make something familiar while removing many of its familiar components.

So the pudding is now made with only 4 ingredients – light cream (5% fat), dark chocolate (70% coco), sugar and iota carrageenan. The result? Pudding that just very very quickly melts in your mouth, with an extremely rich texture, but with lower fat content. Hey, I think I should start talking to some retirement homes.

Admittedly, the lack of starch and egg makes the pudding a bit loose. I tried it with tara gum added. It became thicker, but the texture suffered – it wasn’t as rich, and became slightly pasty.

Also in this recipe are some orange caramels, recipe from a very good friend and pastry chef Shane Harper, and some quince mostarda Shane gave me a few months back.

Though, I decided not to bring the mostarda with me to UK. I’m keeping that shit for myself.

Chocolate pudding, orange caramel, quince mostarda, freeze dried chocolate mousse.

Sonicated Coffee – video

Wanted to post a quick video on coffee through the SonicPrep. I know, I’ve posted about it before, but this way you get to see what happens. Kinda looks like Guinness right at the end. It has the finest air bubbles, gives a velvety texture to the coffee, and well, makes it look pretty cool! Pretty sure with a little Kahlua or other alcohol it could taste like a porter or stout.

Here’s what it looks like after 30 seconds or so out of the SonicPrep.




The Toronto Food Lab

This post is in reply to JCGastrophysics. He recently made a post about various food labs around the world. Well, there are food labs that are truly just labs, like the ones next door and above me. But then there are those few that are used as kitchens! Here’s 2 photos of the Toronto Food Lab. Centrifuge, Freeze drier, vacuum machine, and spray drier are damn huge. Those things are in the other room.

View from near the door. Main counter is where all the prep happens. Scale and Vitamix are probably the most used tools. No cutting, peeling, or any sort of prep work is to be done on the side where the stove is! Equipments on the stove side are as follows (from left to right): SonicPrep, Rotary evaporator, combustible gas ignition unit (aka stove, haha), oil bath, immersion circulator. Microwave and convection oven at the side. Cabinets contain all the gums, spices and other ingredients.

View  from the opposite side. Desk space, photography equipment.

iota carrageenan for coconut milk foam

So today was a good day. Lots of work on recipe development for a dinner in UK. One of the courses I wanted to do was a scallop dish. I thought of using some tried and true flavour pairings for it – saffron, coconut, squid ink, and shallots. Now, All I had to do was to find the method of delivery. The first thought worked quite well, caramelized shallot puree then mixed with squid ink. You can taste both flavours and it looks great!

The coconut milk and saffron infusion was the one where I was doing a lot more exploring. I first thought of making it a sauce, using some lambda carrageenan. Lambda has perhaps the best melt-in-your-mouth texture out of all the carrageenans. Problem is it melts too quickly. A yogurt looking coconut and saffron infusion all of a sudden turns into a big yellow puddle on a hot plate. So I thought of iota. Almost as rich in texture, but slightly higher melting point. The initial appearance didn’t blow me away. Then I thought what the heck, might as well try putting it in an isi. WOW. Did that ever turn out for the best. It produces an extremely stable foam, but when you eat it, its very quick to dissolve. This is how a foam should be. No one should feel like they are about to swallow a mouthful of air. And it should be a foam, not a pile of large bubbles.

With that said, here’s the end result. No crazy equipment used this time. Just some old techniques mixed with some modern ingredients. Plating still needs work, though, I kinda like it’s minimalist appearance.


Butter from the centrifuge at 8000rpm, again!

Sometimes I really do just take advantage of the fact that all these equipment are available to me. A few days ago I wanted to make some butter with the centrifuge. Reason being is that it tastes quite different from store bought butter. One main difference is that the milk flavour really carries through. It’s also softer. Personally I think it just has a more luxurious taste to it, being more creamy. It’s also extremely easy to make. Step 1, put cream in the centrifuge vials. Step 2, spin at 8,000 rpm for 15 minutes. Step 3, collect butter.

Another possibility is culturing the cream before spinning it. I know a few people have done something similar. What I ended up doing is folding some grated Parmeggiano Reggiano with the butter and leaving it in the fridge overnight to let the flavours meld. It tastes similar to cultured butter, but with more intense nutty and cheesy notes. Obviously this can be tweaked by varying the amount of cheese. I used 60g of parmesan in 330 grams of centrifuged butter. The reason for that amount of butter is that is how much I got from a 1 litre box of heavy cream.

Here it is in the vials after being spun. The top layer is the butter, middle is whey and water, bottom is a mixture of (I think) the solids, whey and water. Also another thing to note is what when using organic cream, there’s only 2 layers.

One thing I will mention though, is that this butter is quite perishable. I think my last batch lasted just over a week before it became too funky. This may just be due to the cream/butter temperature going up and down during the process.

Here’s the butter after it was folded with the cheese. One big ball of saturated fatty deliciousness.