First, a quick primer: Molecular gastronomy is a phrase used to describe a style of cooking that makes use of special equipment and a range of chemicals, as well as a growing body of techniques, to manipulate the texture, presentation and taste of food in unexpected ways. Ferran Adria, a major force behind the movement, set of a small uproar in the culinary community last month with his decision to close his restaurant El Bulli in Roses, Spain and turn the space into a sort of permanent training academy to create new techniques and train chefs.
Here in Pittsburgh, Kevin Sousa introduced the area to this kind of cooking with his alchemy dinners at the Bigelow Grille. Though his new (and not yet open) restaurant, Salt of the Earth, will not be focused on molecular gastronomy, we may see some of its techniques in play.
If you're intrigued and would like to see some of this food in action, you may want to tune in to Future Food, a new show on Planet Green debuting March 30 at 10 p.m. The show stars chef Homaro Canto and pastry chef Ben Roche of Moto, a restaurant where as much work goes on in the science lab next door as in the restaurant kitchen. You'll learn about equipment like the anti-griddle (it's really, really cold instead of really, really hot), ingredients such as sodium alginate and transglutaminase, and, most importantly, the creative process behind the dishes that Moto serves. Since this is Planet Green, there's an ecological bent to every show. I wish they'd explained this frame a little bit better, but by the end of the first episode, where the chefs create sustainable seafood dishes without using any seafood, the show started to make a little more sense.
Another sign that molecular gastronomy is growing beyond a fringe movement is that the Italian government has purportedly attempted to ban it. While molecular gastronomy isn't explicitly mentioned, the regulations seek to ban liquid nitrogen and chemical additives from restaurant kitchens, while continuing to allow them in industrial food preparation. You can read more about this issue on the Italian food blog Caput Mundi Cibus or on Eater.