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Molecular Gastronomy Boiled Down At Food Science Demo

Foodies curious about the science behind their sous-vide pork tenderloin or pineapple mint foam can get a first hand demonstration tonight at the second annual Chemistry Kitchen event at the AT&T Conference Center.

Executive chef Josh Watkins and UT chemistry prof David Laude demonstrate cooking science through demonstration and, of course, eating.

We talked to Josh Watkins about the event.

KUT News: What are you doing tonight?

Josh Watkins: We are going to be hosting 170 of our closest friends and doing a chemistry kitchen in conjunction with Dr. Laude. We did one last year and we had about 30-40 guests. It was very well received.

What we're going to be doing is a lot of demonstrations on how food relates to chemistry, how some techniques that are chemistry-based actually apply to some of the dishes we do on a daily basis here in the Carillon Restaurant.

It's kind of an interplay between myself and Dr. Laude, while he'll have hydrogen balloons around the room and exploding those, while simultaneously I'll be preparing a rosemary hibiscus cocktail with dry ice.

KUT News: Where did you get the idea to start doing this?

Watkins: The idea definitely came from molecular gastronomy, and I've always been interested in it as a tool and not a direction.  But from the demo, we based it in how an audience sees that and it can be very entertaining. Last  year, I got with Dr. Laude and we did the first Chemistry Kitchen Week as we dubbed it, and it was a blast, a lot of fun.

KUT News: What kind of person would go to this?

Watkins: You know, anyone who is interested in food, and in seeing a good show really. Because at the end of the day that's what we do, is entertain.

KUT News: And do they eat after?

Watkins:  Yes, we're doing four courses including the cocktail. One of the things we're doing is a pork-steamed bun with pickled pear, cucumber and a pineapple mint foam. So the molecular component to that would be the pineapple mint foam. Then for the entrée, we're going to be doing a beef tenderloin, with a sous-vide cooking process. Finally for dessert, we're doing cool citrus, which is a frozen tangerine in liquid nitrogen served with a couple of other components, like blood orange pulp among other things.

KUT News: Why are you so passionate about this particular type of cooking?

Watkins:  Because it's entertaining. It's one of those things that when I look at molecular gastronomy, it's definitely just one tool in the toolbox as a chef. We don't serve airs here as a course. We don’t serve pieces of paper that taste like pizza as a course. 

We may use sous-vide cookery but we're still going to be serving an entire, wholesome plate of food. We may serve a pineapple foam, but we're putting that on a plate of food that is actually going to fill you up. But at the end of the day the tools go in the toolbox. It's fun to do, and it's entertaining, which is why we turned it into a chemistry circus.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.