"Future Food" review

Just watched the first two episodes of Planet Green’s “Future Food” and wanted to offer some thoughts and updates from my earlier post…

First,  just wow.  Everything I hoped for and more.  The first episode finds Chef Cantu and Chef Roche challenging themselves and their sous chefs to create eye- and mouth-fooling ‘fish’ dishes using non-fish ingredients; in the second, an abundance of french toast at a staff breakfast leads to the creation of a crepe-flavored batter, and several delightfully demented riffs on traditional French dishes ensue.

The good news: the show is not, as I feared, ‘Myth Busters’ with immersion blenders and liquid nitrogen–it’s very restaurant- and diner-focused, which grounds the wild experimentation in credibility. At the end of the day the chefs know they have to present great flavors, not gimmicks.

Chef Cantu’s personality really shines through–for all his experimentation, he’s actually a very down to earth guy who came from humble beginnings–you get the sense he grew up eating mac and cheese and happy meals like the rest of us.  There is nothing pretentious or arch about his manner, or the vibe of moto (squinting to block out memories of Carnevino, with its oppressively fussy, ridiculous table-side carts and knife-twirling–done at the expense of any real service whatsoever).  This is crucial to putting diners at ease, so they may approach his creations with a sense of play and discovery.

The show has a solid format, which involves ‘road testing’ new dishes on regular folks (in markets and on the street) to ensure that the chefs keep it real.  You can’t eat a concept, so if  a dish fails at this ‘pepsi challenge’ stage, its back to the food lab.  So far the episodes end with the finished product being tested in the actual dining room of moto.

Some questions: I found it odd that Planet Green, of all networks, is producing this show.  I’m thrilled that they are, as it represents the first time molecular gastronomy has been featured on a series (food network, where have you been?).   The first two episodes were ostensibly about sustainability and recycling, but there is no inherent link between molecular gastronomy and ‘green’ living.  Indeed, doesn’t torching a room of sausage with a flame-thrower (seen in a preview–can’t WAIT for that episode) uncomfortably add a few shoe sizes to one’s carbon footprint?  Or using gallons of liquid nitrogen and many chemical derivatives?   I suspect if Al Gore showed up at moto the whole ‘green’ political house of cards might topple in on itself.

But this is nitpicking–if chefs Cantu and Roche can continue to entertain and inspire on this level, while selling a somewhat shaky green message, more power to them.  I will gladly burn many kilo-watts of energy to fire up my set to watch, Al Gore and Man-Bear-Pig be damned.

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