Pastry chef Thomas Drahos is one of the few chefs on the Central Coast who specializes in the modern culinary art of molecular gastronomy, a unique way of creating food by combining science and engineering.
Drahos will give a presentation today on the history and future of molecular gastronomy as well as molecular demonstrations of items such as fruit spaghetti and caramel powder.
“We’re basically taking the idea of the old art form of culinary arts and turning it into something that is out of the box, new and exciting,” Drahos said. “We’re reshaping old things and making them new.”
Drahos will show how red algae and a cold temperature chemistry reaction can be manipulated to create blood orange spaghetti, a dish that looks like spaghetti but tastes like fruity blood oranges.
Students can also sample the phenomenon of caramel powder, which transforms from powder to chewy caramel in your mouth.
Drahos has been a chef for 10 years and has experimented with molecular gastronomy for three.
Although his work with the culinary art form is fairly new to Windows on the Water, the restaurant in Morro Bay where he works, Drahos said he hopes to carry on with molecular cooking and bring the originally European trend to the Central Coast.
“I’m hoping to start a full movement,” he said. “Something that is new, exciting and cutting edge.”
Some, but not all, of his molecular gastronomic creations are available on Windows on the Water’s regular menu.
Christopher Groth, a Cal Poly alumnus and server at Windows on the Water, said various reactions can be expected from guests who order the unique dishes.
“When we serve a foam or gel dessert, we usually get funny looks from the table,” Groth said. “Sometimes they don’t know how to eat it or what it is.”
Groth said the staff takes pleasure in watching guests react to the food because they often are surprised, but delightfully so.
“It’s like most modern art, everyone’s reaction is a little bit different,” Groth said. “That’s what (Drahos’) goal is — to transform food into higher forms of art.”
Drahos’ presentation will take place during food science professor Tom Neuhaus’ advanced culinary class.
Neuhaus teaches a class on molecular gastronomy, but said his take on it is more traditional and utilitarian compared to the modern and artistic version Drahos will speak about.
“My background is haute cuisine and old fashioned cooking,” Neuhaus said. “It’s things like learning how to make an emulsion work, and examining the different ways and bases you can use to make mayonnaise.”
Neuhaus said a main ingredient used in molecular gastronomy, hydrocolloids, is found in between the cellulose of plant cell walls.
“Most of it is from seaweed, and they’re using its versatility to do innovative things,” he said.
Neuhaus said the innovations and creations of molecular gastronomy taking place at Windows on the Water are features that can set restaurants apart from others.
“It’s a great way to increase your profits as a restaurant and do something no one else is doing,” Neuhaus said. “It makes the food really special.”
The presentation will take place in the Food Processing Building, room 103 today from 12 to 1:30 p.m.