The rise of molecular gastronomy and the discovery of some new ingredients such as “miracle fruit” have introduced a strange, fun new world into the restaurant industry, and to the palates of restaurant patrons. Of course, it takes a great deal of training and expertise to make use of some of the more expensive equipment that gets used to make exciting, stimulating food science experiments, but a good restaurant supply company carries many more things than you would think to incorporate some edible science into your menu, and endear your business to the hearts of your clients. There are a few different things to look into, if the idea interests you, and we will discuss a few of them here.
One of the biggest trends in desserts in the past several years has been nitrogen-chilled ice cream; where traditional ice cream takes a considerable amount of time, and requires a specialized ice cream maker to churn and slowly freeze a cream-and-flavor base, nitrogen ice cream uses the gas--which boils at a temperature of -320 degrees Fahrenheit--to rapidly freeze similar cream bases, making it possible to make small batches of highly individualized ice cream in a matter of minutes. Not only is it efficient--the nitrogen gas (very safe) billowing out over the bowl creates a mysterious, exciting effect. While restaurant supply stores may not carry all of the components you need to make nitrogen ice cream, you can certainly find many things that will come in handy such as thermal gloves, safety equipment, and tools to manipulate and mix the ice cream you make.
Another area in which molecular gastronomy has taken off is the creation of inventively-shaped foods, from appetizers and amuse-bouches to desserts. The product of choice for making both brilliant, jewel-toned fruit caviar as well as something as intriguing and novel as arugula spaghetti is agar-agar, a vegetable product from seaweed that functions very similarly to gelatin. With this ingredient, a few restaurant supplies, and an imagination it’s possible to create dishes that will stick in patrons’ heads long after they’ve left your restaurant, from turning purees of fruits and vegetables into delicious caviar that pops on the tongue to decorative shapes that can also be eaten. Agar-agar is vegetarian--being derived from a plant instead of animal bones and cartilage the way that gelatin is--and has a melting temperature of 185 degrees Fahrenheit after it sets, meaning that it can be served warm.
One of the more playful tricks that science-based cooking has come up with in recent years is the development of transparent noodles and dumplings, along with other food items--courtesy of soy lecithin and a few other clear, starch-based products. Ferran Adria of famed restaurant el Bulli brought the trend out into the world, pioneering menu items such as transparent ravioli. The wonderful thing about products like soy lecithin is that they are generally flavorless--meaning that whatever you show inside of a lecithin wrapper will be all that is tasted. It is also used as a thickening and emulsifying agent for many sauces--so it is not expensive to buy, though it can be tricky to work with.
The rise of molecular gastronomy and science-based cooking has shown that there are lots of ways to get creative in the kitchen, and to create foods that people have never seen before. While it can seem intimidating to incorporate some of the mainstays of this innovative, high-end cooking technique, there are many ways to look at the principles and the basic components of this subgenre of cuisine, and incorporate them safely into the kitchen to produce dishes that are completely unique. Of course, even though some of the products and equipment that you will need will have to be purchased from specialty providers, there is still a lot that you can get from a good restaurant supply store that can help you to make these dishes and many more for a solid value on the tools of the trade. Multiple scientists who have an interest in food, along with mixologists and other hobbyists, have put a wealth of material online for novices to look at and learn from--consider incorporating a flashy new technique into your kitchen today.