After struggling to find the parking structure (The Monster only does after parking farther away but for less money) and stomping around UCLA completely lost (The Monster apparently doesn’t feel like looking at the map) he finally locates the correct location for UCLA’s Science and Food, The Exploration of Deliciousness lecture featuring the world’s greatest chef, Rene Redzepi of noma and Lars Williams of Nordic Food Lab.
The crowd is UCLA students, food enthusiasts and media. A buzz in the air as we await the maestros.
On the video monitor interesting and puzzling factoids pop up (How does bacteria make food taste better? Lightly roasted coffee beans have more caffeine than those roasted longer.) Along with the cover of Time when Redzepi was honored as locavore champion of the world and a photo of Lars Williams hard at work (damn, they’re both handsome and talented).
Is that Roy Choi? Is he really a vegetarian now? And there is Jonathan Gold sneaking in late.
At 7:08 we begin. The chair of the department from UCLA opens up the symposium with a speech on why we’re here and what they hope to accomplish. The marriage of science and food and it’s importance is the interplay at work.
The lecture begins with a humorous intro to the arcane requests from Lars for an old electric blanket with no safety valve and sand crabs. Between conversations with Jonathan Gold, a UCLA professor and a specialist in San Francisco it is determined that should they be able to locate sand crabs they may in fact be toxic. Ultimately it is determined crickets will work just as well.
And then the two renowned men are introduced to rousing applause. Redzepi begins by apologizing on being sick for the previously scheduled lecture due to “explosive diarrhea” which draws much laughter from the crowd. noma has 75 employees from 22 countries with English being the mother tongue he explains. He tells an amazing story of noma’s more humble origins and how the Nordic Food Lab came to be.
The Nordic Food Lab’s purpose is to investigate deliciousness. They don’t work on courses of food, rather pillars of cuisine to share with the world.
And then Rene introduces Lars who begins to describe the process of how they work. What better way than to try it?
The first sample is seaweed ice cream. It is delicious and earthy and soft and luscious on the tongue. The Monster would gladly order this at Ben and Jerry’s.
Next up is barley mold. Not so much a fan. The texture, smell and flavor are a little too earthy and real here. Still, the process of how they develop this proves fascinating.
In the dropper is a kambucha drink that has fermented for six days. Hints of carrot dominate and it’s refreshing and delicious.
How about cucumber powder? Using a vegetable to procure spices. They used winter cucumbers, crushed them and whisked it into a paste then dried it into a powder.
The last pipette is cricket puree or garum with fermented barley. They tell us this after we sample it. They then show us how it is made, pouring live crickets into a food processor along with the fermented barley inoculated with a mold. Watching them make this is both incredibly funny and disgusting but also illuminating to beg the question of why the Western population does not consume insects? It is a responsible way to feed a population as well as an incredibly healthy one.
Billions of people eat insects and yet we do not. To be fair, The Monster has had crickets and ants and grasshoppers. He doesn’t want to have them again however.
At this point the floor is opened to questions. The Monster has one. How does he score a reservation at noma!