semester of college,and I was probably pilfering away my student loan money on eBay, as fresh-faced college students occasionally do, while the TV played in the background. I’ve never really been the type to watch MTV, so either the Travel, Discover, or Science channel was my ambience of choice. It wasn’t until something caught my eye, something bizarre, that I started to pay attention to the television instead of online auctions for The Nightmare Before Christmas garb. There was a chef on the tube making carbonated fruit, which was strange enough to pique my interest, but then something crazy happened.
This chef that, until that point, I knew nothing about, was making maki rolls out of paper… Sushi-flavored paper. He also was creating edible menus, which was certainly a novel idea. At that moment I was compelled to find out what this man was all about. I watched the rest of the show, which was beyond fascinating, and then I did some research.
That chef was Homaro Cantu, world-renowned for his excellence in molecular gastronomy. In layman’s terms, science that you can eat. The TV feature was on his eatery, Moto Restaurant, located in Chicago. He also runs another restaurant, iNG Restaurant, and coincidentally enough, here is a video featuring his new menu based on The Nightmare Before Christmas:
Totally seasonally-appropriate, and this is a great sneak-peek into what goes on in all of the stages (as well as the challenges) of planning and preparing a special, themed menu.
Since Moto Restaurant was my first Chef Cantu-related discovery, I still yearn to dine there and have the true molecular gastronomy experience someday. Even the kitchen, or “Moto Lab,” has a fascinating look to it, and the food created there is among the most intriguing (and yummy) that I have ever heard of.
The process of completing this artisan feature was thrilling. I was able to briefly speak to my favorite chef (as well as his PR assistant and photographer/videographer- all wonderful people) and I was able to get a better glimpse into the behind-the-scenes of the restaurants he runs. I am now excited to share all of this with you, my readers, and hope that you are able to learn something about this exquisite form of edible art.
The way I see it, in order to be a chef, you have to be an artist. People will be more drawn to food the better it looks. I’m not sure what it says about human nature when people naturally want to consume beautiful things, but there it is: Art. It exists everywhere, even in what we eat.
A special “thank you” goes out to Michael Silberman of Future Food Productions for providing the wonderful photo/video content used in this article, and an additional thank you to both Chef Cantu and his PR assistant, Jennifer Galdes for taking time out of their jam-packed schedule to speak with me. And, for a better look at all things Cantu, feel free to visit here for more photos, video, and information about Moto Restaurant, iNG Restaurant, and mBerry.
Chef Homaro “Omar” Cantu, with Brittany Connolly
What initially spurred your interest in molecular gastronomy, and was this the same thing that inspired you to take it on as a career?
I met Ferran Adria* at an event while working at Charlie Trotters and he made a huge impact on where I wanted to take all of my ideas and creations I had been working on over the years.
What is your favorite molecular gastronomy dish to prepare, and which is your favorite to eat?
Right now our octopus course. Just watch our show to understand it.
My mother and I have been experimenting with molecular gastronomy treats for a while, and most of our creations have been disasters. How long did it take you to excel at your art? Are you a natural, or does practice really make perfect?
HC: Still working on "excelling". It's like physics, one is never done exploring.
What can you tell me about Cantu Designs?
That we are building a research facility to be opened in 2013 to create green disruptive technologies.
A person can wear many hats. You are widely known as Chef Cantu, but when you aren't cooking, what hobbies do you enjoy?
Remote control cars, filming and editing.
I understand that you lived homeless for a period of time as a child. How does this affect your life now, and what advice would you offer to those in similar situations?
I would say anyone can succeed if they are willing to work hard every day.
In which ways would you relate working with molecular gastronomy to art?
The exploration of the unknown requires an artistic approach to imagine what is possible before it is proven through the scientific method.
Dining at Moto Restaurant has been on the top of my "bucket list" since I was 18. You are considered one of the greatest Chefs in the world, but what are some of the other things, small or large scale, that you hope to achieve in your lifetime?
Eliminating sugar from the human diet using miracle berries.
A Day in the Knife - A very up-close and personal account of Chef Cantu’s kitchen (really catchy music included).
The Spider Situation: A fun Goodfellas parody, featuring the making of the 9mm Taleggio Caponata.
Here is a glimpse at a day in the life of Moto Restaurant Chef Richard Farina.
* “Ferran Adrià i Acosta is a Spanish chef born on May 14, 1962 in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat. He was the Head Chef of the El Bulli restaurant in Roses on the Costa Brava, and is considered one of the best Chefs in the world.”