Chef Alain Devahive Tolosa from the legendary El Bulli was in town to demonstrate the scientific magic of “spherification.”
Contributed By Bernie Guan
A series of culinary techniques unique to the world of molecular gastronomy was recently showcased at At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy to an eager audience of culinary experts and students. Whether it was spherification, inverse spherification, emulsification or gelification, Spanish chef Alain Devahive Tolosa a member of the research team at the world-famous El Bulli restaurant, which recently closed its doors, demonstrated the techniques with ease and impeccable precision.
The demonstration introduced the wonders of Texturas, a new line of emulsifiers, gelifiers and products for spherification created by brothers Albert and Ferran Adrià (the latter was head chef at El Bulli through its many years of Michelin-starred operation) that are now available through retail.
During the three-hour demonstration workshop, close to 150 people in the audience stood at the “gateway to a world of magical sensations.” They were treated to a rare look inside the research kitchen of the Adrià brothers that gave birth to one of El Bulli’s most groundbreaking techniques—spherification. Spherical forms of varying textures and consistencies have been prepared as part of El Bulli’s offerings since its discovery in 2003, for example, cheese balloons 10 inches tall.
After several rounds of refinement, the mixture of alginate and a base solution of water and calcium brought forth little marvels of spherical ravioli, caviar, pellets, balloons and noodles, eliciting “oohs” and “ahhs” of amazement from the audience.
By 2005, the scientific department at El Bulli had refined the spherification process by concocting another product mixture of alginate, water and calcium gluconolacteta, giving rise to another jellification technique known as inverse spherification. Proponents of this method succeeded in spherical preparations of dairy food, olives and other foodstuff. The results were inspiring and the ingenious presentations from this Texturas line of products have left tremendous impact on chefs across the globe.
Other products include Algin, Gluco, Xantana, Agar, Lecite and Calcic, which perform similarly magical functions in molecular cooking. Here comes the science part: using Algin in a bath of Calcic coupled with a submerged liquid, for instance, will produce the effects of spherification. Consisting of natural extracts of “brown algae (Lamainaria, Fucus, and Macrocystis genera) of marine origins” and food-grade calcium salts, the products yield spheres of greater transparency and elasticity.
While these concepts may sound foreign to most amateurs and non-professionals, Tolosa remarked, “Understanding the basics before going into spherification is like building blocks; you build your skills little by little.” With genuine passion, an open mind and a dose of creativity, anyone can surprise and entice the palette.
On July 31, 2011, El Bulli shut its doors; it will re-emerge as a creativity center in 2014. Till then, the legacy of the three Michelin star restaurant first founded in Cala Montjoi, Spain some 45 years ago will hopefully continue to live on in the hearts of those who eat not just to fill the tummy, but to enjoy, educate and experience.
For more information on El Bulli products, log on to www.albertyferranadria.com.