Is it a science show? No it’s not. It’s actually a cooking show. Starting March 30, the chefs of tomorrow, Homaro Cantu and Ben Roche, will take on a weekly challenge to make the impossible possible – healthy junk food, seafood without fish, even edible product packaging. Extreme cuisine at its finest will be showcased on their exciting TV show aptly called “Future Food.”
Both hosts already have a reputation for being on the slightly eccentric side when it comes to cooking. Some of you may recognize them from the Battle of the Beets episode of Iron Chef America, where they wowed the judges with their unusual ways of preparing their meals. One of the best moments in that show was when they were spotted toasting and posing for a picture mid-battle and it was assumed to be an early celebration. But as soon as the camera clicked, Cantu poured his cocktail into a food replicator as the stunned commentator mentioned that pouring liquid into your printer normally ruined it, but not in this case. The replicator then spewed out a cocktail-flavored picture which he later served to the judges who all too happily munched on them, declaring them tasty. And just in case you were wondering, they won that round against the resident Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto with 1 point for better taste – which means that their strange concoctions actually taste good despite undergoing such weird preparations.
But beyond that one TV appearance, Cantu and Roche work for Moto, one of the most elegant and possibly strangest restaurants in Chicago. Cantu owns the place while Roche is the pastry chef. A few dead giveaways that this place is not like your average restaurant: (1) the Class IV laser, normally used for surgery, on prominent display in the dining room as an important cooking tool, like burning a hole in a vanilla bean, whose fumes are used to enhance the flavor of a beef dish, (2) the huge tank of industrial-use liquid nitrogen in the backyard, used to freeze things that are normally hot and to mold foods into wholly unnatural shapes, and (3) aromatic utensils – forks and spoons with corkscrew handles that hold sprigs of thyme and rosemary.
The last one is only one of the many inventions of Cantu who has been described as an inventor who accidentally ended up as a chef. But who says you can’t merge both? This mad scientist-slash-chef hopes to license such patent-pending inventions as his “food replicator,” a tricked-out printer named in homage to Star Trek that creates “edible surfaces” such as paper flavored like cheesecake or a mojito; new utensils, which he hopes will change the way people eat; and his polymer cooking box, which allows food to continue cooking even after it is removed from a heat source.
In Ben’s words: “[The show] follows myself, Homaro (executive chef of Moto) and everyone else at the restaurant as we address and explore many different “food calamities” occurring now and attempt to fix them using our creative ingenuity and strong will to promote positive change. Some have described us as the “Mythbusters” of food. For example, how do you get a bunch of 7-year-olds to eat their veggies?…turn them into “deep fried deer heads” or “dirty socks with rocks”. How do you build a better, more sustainable, more substantial burger? Remove the cow from the equation and make your burgers out of what the cow would normally eat. These are just a few examples of things you will see us doing on the show. The show is sort of like the restaurant, “play with your food, but play responsibly.”
So these boys use their toys not just for mere play but to find solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental issues from a completely unexpected place -the kitchen. And before you start thinking that this is a shot at the moon, consider that Cantu has actually been in the “help save the world” mode of thinking for several years now. His “edible surfaces” may offer the best opportunity for achieving his global ambitions. He believes that they could be used to feed people on long space missions, for military MREs, or even as a way to get long-lasting food to people in refugee camps. “My goal with this is to deliver food to the masses that are starving,” he says. “We give them something that’s healthy, that has an indefinite shelf life, and that is supercheap to produce. A guy like Paul Allen could take this thing and wipe out world hunger if he wanted to.”
Molecular gastronomy may just yet be the one that could save our future. But as the show’s tagline goes, “Why wait for the future when the future is now?”
Stay tuned to that future on Planet Green.