At Food Blogger Camp in Cancun, Chef Xavier Perez Stone at the Cocina de Autor, Grand Velas Resort showed us some of the techniques used in the high-tech world of molecular gastronomy. Update, June 2012: Chef Perez Stone has won Mexico’s prestigious Chef of the Year award in a blind tasting competition.
I had only heard of this type of cooking recently in Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations. These are chefs who combine chemistry and unusual cooking techniques to enhance both the flavor and experience of eating. Think of it as Cirque du Soleil on a plate. At dinner the previous night, Elise Bauer regaled us with tales of eating at Alinea Restaurant in Chicago and then seeing the kitchen afterwards, which was as clean and precise as a laboratory.

He made foie gras mousse and foie gras foam, with the idea of bringing out the full flavor and experience of the foie gras, and then served it over bruleed local fruit cooked with a butane torch. I appreciated that he talked about how important it was to use local fruit, and that if he was making this dish somewhere else he would have used local fruit there. He said the foods have an essence of their location.

It was a chance to shoot a live cooking demonstration. They must have felt like celebrities with paparazzi everywhere.

molecular gastronomy demonstration
Using the torch to caramelize the top of the fruit with the foie gras mousse.
The final result. Amazing tastes!

So, did I try the foie gras? Yes I did. Part of what made this experience special was the food… and it was gluten-free. I will never, ever have that chance to taste that preparation. The crackle of the bruleed sugar, the squish of the fruit, the meltiness of the duck liver, and the poof of the foam. It was truly one special bite.

After the demo, eight of us made dinner reservations. Six works-of-art courses later… wow. One of the most incredible dining experiences of my life.

Tips for dining with special requirements: I talked to them when I made the reservation, told them I was gluten-free and preferred to be vegan or vegetarian, and asked the chef to make me whatever he wanted. (Since this resort was all-inclusive, I didn’t have to worry about the cost.) Any time in the future that I can afford to do that, that is totally the way to go! So much easier than asking a million questions of the poor server. It was fun not knowing what was coming next, then having plates set down in front of you to enjoy the surprise.

I tried taking some photos of the plates but it’s a perfect example of why you shouldn’t shoot pix of food in a dark restaurant. The food looks terrible and simply does not do justice to this chef’s work. So, you will have to see for yourself if you visit Cancun!