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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Grant Achatz on Texture and Flavor

I watched a couple of the food science lectures on the Harvard youtube channel. For me the video that was most interesting and inspirational was Grant Achatz's video by far. The main things Chef Achatz went over on flavor was that smell is the main influence of flavor. Your tongue can detect 5 basic flavors while your nose can detect between 800-900 different flavors. To me that was mind blowing. Achatz is one of only few chefs who incorporates aroma into his dishes. Also, if a dish brings you back to a good memory it will taste much better. For instance, Chef Achatz lived in Michigan and one of his fond memories was the burning of leaves. Since this emotion has greatly impacted Chef Acfatz he serves smoldering leaves as a service wear with squab, shallot, and apple cider. By the way that dish is tempura fried! Chef Achatz also stresses that color influences the perception of a dish. For example when you see yellow you think lemon. Another point expressed is that textures should surprise you. One dish at Alinea is pineapple "glass" wrapped around bacon fat that is dried with tapioca maltodextrin. The crisp pineapple and creamy bacon surprise the palate. Probably, Achatz's most renowned dish is his black truffle explosion. This dish is a simple pasta dough wrapped around a black truffle stock. The stock is gelled and then put inside an agnolotti. When heated the gel turns into liquid and explodes in your mouth. That is what I call a surprise. Chef Achatz recommends having contrasting temperatures in a dish. In his hot potato, cold potato dish he serves a cold black truffle and potato soup with hot, fried potato balls, truffle, butter, Parmesan, and chive. The two different temperatures in the mouth produce an experience that Chef Achatz considers sublime.

I highly recommend watching the video. It was so inspirational and I learned a lot from it. I need to go to Chicago and eat and maybe stage at Alinea. Chef Achatz and his team are geniuses.


  1. When G.A. was going through the intensive treatment for his tongue cancer he totally lost his ability to taste anything.

    That's when he began to focus on aroma and it has served him well, even as he began to regain his sense of taste.

  2. I completely agree. Also, he started to get his taste back one taste at a time so he really was able to understand every sensation of taste.