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Photonics Spectra
Mar 2005
The science of food preparation takes on a whole new meaning in the hands of chef Homaro Cantu of the Chicago-based restaurant Moto. His cooking utensils include a Canon i560 ink-jet printer, clear polymer boxes and cylinders of liquid nitrogen, helium and carbon dioxide. Although another chef might dream of the perfect copper kettle or a state-of-the-art stove, he fantasizes about adding a three-dimensional printer and a Class 4 laser to his batterie de cuisine.

Cantu is determined to push the food frontier to where no chef has gone before. He uses the printer with starch-based papers and organic, food-based inks to print edible menus and images of food. He paints the backs with dehydrated food essence and spices so that the images actually taste like what they depict. One might get a foretaste of what dinner will taste like by nibbling the menu. Or, for an introductory course, one might be served little wafers of nigiri-flavored paper, followed by a “déjà vu” course of the nigiri itself. The polymer boxes -- which Cantu created and patented -- hold heat for so long that he can fill them and let them cook at the table, allowing diners to watch the fish entrée bake while eating their first courses.

He serves syringes of food concentrates in lieu of sauces, carbonates solid food, such as oysters, to make them fizz, and is experimenting with ways to float complementary aromas above a plate or to make the food itself levitate. He’d like to experiment with a laser to cook food from the inside out -- for example, a loaf of bread with a soft exterior and the crust inside.

Although it sounds pretty edgy, Cantu’s concoctions receive rave reviews for culinary excellence, as well as for R&D ingenuity.

Now, what we can’t help wondering is: If one takes a picture of paper-on-paper nosh with a camera phone (see "Fat Cells?"), will the computerized food diary be able to gauge the nutritional value accurately?

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