D.O.M.: Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients

Alex Atala’s cookbook is out. This year, the brazilian chef was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people, spoke at events like MAD3 in a controversial performance killing a chicken on stage and now he comes showing his discoveries, creations and some of Brazil’s widely diverse food traditions.

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D.O.M.: Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients is an exclusive look at one of the world’s most exciting chefs, his unique relationship with the produce of his native Brazil and the food he creates from it.

Recently voted as number 4 in the San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurant Awards, Alex Atala’s restaurant D.O.M has built its unique style of cuisine on the discovery and exploration of Brazilian ingredients combined with a commitment to finding sustainable solutions to sourcing them to the benefit of the Amazon and its people.

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A former punk DJ who was classically trained as a chef in Europe, Atala refuses to import ingredients such as caviar, truffles and fois gras, staples in many high-end restaurant kitchens, into Brazil and instead scours the Amazon for indigenous produce to fuse with classical techniques in his cooking. He then works with the Amazon’s native communities and small-scale producers to extend the availability of these native products around Brazil.

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This commitment to not only producing delicious food, but also using his kitchen as a tool for social responsibility and conservation has led to the introduction of many new and unknown ingredients onto his menu, such as a new variety of palm heart that can be farmed and harvested sustainably; the first of its kind.

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This book will tell the individual stories of 65 of the unique ingredients that are used in the kitchens at D.O.M. and Alex’s relationship with them. Each ingredient will be accompanied by a recipe for one of the dishes that it is utilized in and a beautiful image of both the ingredient and the finished dish.

The fascinating texts, stunning photographs and inspiring recipes will combine to create a beautiful cookbook that is fully accessible to the general reader.

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About Alex Atala

A creative chef, Alex Atala is known in Brazil and throughout the world for exploring, through classical techniques, the gastronomical possibilities of Brazilian ingredients. Atala began his career when he was 19 in Belgium, at the École Hôtelière de Namur. In France he worked at Jean Pierre Bruneau’s Michelin 3-star restaurant, and staged at Hotel de la Cote D’Or with Chef Bernard Loiseau. In 1994 he returned to São Paulo, where his performance in several establishments around the city attracted the attention of journalists and gourmands. He opened D.O.M. restaurant in 1999. In 2009 Atala opened his second restaurant, Dalva e Dito, to critical acclaim.

Book photos via R2 Design

Book description via Phaidon

Beck’s Edison Bottle, World’s 1st Playable Beer Bottle

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“19th Century technology meets 21st Century music over a bottle of beer in the latest extension to the Beck’s Record Label project. This time, the art label has evolved, and been replaced by the grooves of Auckland band Ghost Wave. Their new single was inscribed into the surface of a Beck’s beer bottle which could then be played on a specially-built device based on Thomas Edison’s original phonograph.” See the Video and HEAR the bottle after the jump!

“Making the world’s first playable beer bottle was a formidable technical challenge. The clever people at Auckland firm Gyro Constructivists first had to design and build a record-cutting lathe, driven by a hard drive recording head. Then they reinvented Edison’s original cylinder player, using modern materials and electronics and built to very fine tolerances. The Edison Bottle made its public debut at SemiPermanent in Auckland in May to a standing ovation from the assembled media and design community.

Beck’s has had a long association with music and art. In fact, at about the same time Heinrich Beck was brewing his first beer in the 1870s, Tom Edison was tinkering away on designs for the first phonograph. Considering how beer has influenced recorded music since then, this physical collaboration was very appropriate and long overdue.”

Client: Beck’s New Zealand
Creative Agency: Shine Limited 
Machine & Bottle Production: Gyro
Making-of Video Production: VICE
Record Label: Arch Hill Recordings
Band: Ghost Wave
Album: Ages
Featured Single: Here She Comes

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Via The Dieline

Mark Bittman: What’s wrong with what we eat

In this fiery and funny talk, New York Times food writer Mark Bittman weighs in on what’s wrong with the way we eat now (too much meat, too few plants; too much fast food, too little home cooking), and why it’s putting the entire planet at risk.

Edible Selby Book Sneak Peak

Todd Selby have been portraying creative people and their lifestyle by some beautiful photography work on The Selby. He is careful with details focusing unusually interesting musicians, artists, designers, and actors in their places. After Todd’s first book, The Selby is In Your Place, he launches  Edible Selby.

Todd recently launched Edible Selby, in collaboration with NYTimes T Magazine in which he photographs the most creative and interesting people in food around the world.

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Photographer Todd Selby is back, this time focusing his lens on the kitchens, gardens, homes, and restaurants of more than 40 of the most creative and dynamic figures working in the culinary world today. He takes us behind the scenes with Noma chef René Redzepi in Copenhagen; to Tokyo to have a slice with pizza maker Susumu Kakinuma; and up a hilltop to dine at an inn without an innkeeper in Valdobbiadene. Each profile is accompanied by watercolor illustrations and a handwritten questionnaire, which includes a signature recipe. Reveling in the pleasures of a taco at the beach, foraging for wild herbs, and the art of the perfectly cured olive, Selby captures the food we love to eat and the people who passionately grow, cook, pour, and serve these incredible edibles every day. Plus it comes with magnets for your fridge.

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Get to see more on The Selby.

Future Food Studio & What we will eat tomorrow

Following some links from the Lab-Grown Burger post, I got to know some of Hanni Rützler‘s work on food trends. Food future, it’s worth reading.

 

 

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Future expert for: food trends, food quality, health nutrition and dining culture.
Hanni Rützler studied nutrition science in Vienna, Austria and ecology at Michigan Technology University, USA. She is founding and board member of Austrian Society of Nutrition Scientists and a member of the board of Austrian Society for Nutrition.

She has published several studies and bookson food quality, healthy nutrition, dining cultures and consumer safety. She is author of „Food Trends“ published by German „Zukunftsinstitut“.

Hanni Rützler defines her role as a translator between nutrition scientists, responsible political and economic authorities and public organizations.
Her aim is to work on new strategies for a healthier and more enjoyable future of nutrition.

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What we will eat tomorrow

Is it possible to predict what we will eat in the future? If so, what distinguishes serious scenarios from technocratic fantasies? What are the most important food trends? And what impact will they have on the restaurant industry? Trend expert Hanni Rützler takes a look into her gastronomic crystal ball for us.

If the technocratic fantasies for the future developed in the sixties had become reality, our diet today would consist primarily of pills. Eating out would, at best, be an exotic weekend pastime rather like visiting the zoo. This gourmet‘s nightmare has not come true and the restaurant sector has not degenerated into a branch of the pharmaceutical industry. On the contrary, restaurants have become an increasingly important aspect of our nutritional everyday life.

The moral of the story: it is not possible to tell the future. However, on the basis of complex analyses, it is possible to develop scenarios that make it easier to take a serious look at tomorrow‘s options. To this end, we must firstly try to understand the present more thoroughly. Not only, as in the future-oriented fantasies of the sixties, with an eye on the technically feasible but also, in particular, on the social and economic processes of change that affect our lives and which we always react to with new strategies.

Food trends are nothing more or less than strategies for coping with specific nutritional problems, problems that arise from social change and are then also reflected by certain products, in various foods and in the dishes offered in restaurants. In highly complex and differentiated societies, such as those in North America and Europe, these strategies are no less complex and differentiated. Thus, what we eat in the future will not be determined by one but by many trends, some of which will complement and reinforce each other while others will run counter to them. Some insights:

Eating and drinking hold an ambiguous position in our everyday life. They have come to be both a source of desire and sorrow. The one aspect corresponds to the on-going gourmet and pleasure boom (luxurious foodstuffs, starred restaurants, gourmet and wine magazines, etc.) while the other ties in with health and personal complaints about pandemic obesity and food scandals, etc. Aesthetic ambivalence, which is becoming clearer to us in connection with many foodstuffs, also underscores the fact that food is no longer something we take as a matter of course.

Additionally, eating and drinking no longer give structure to our everyday life. No more do we consciously stick to ’meal times‘. Our dining habits have become more spontaneous, more dependent on the situation and more individual. In everyday life, eating is frequently only of secondary importance: a snack between two appointments or during the news, a pizza during a meeting or while checking the latest e-mails. As a variety of studies show, this has relevant effects on the composition and consumption of food and, therefore, on our health. Only at weekends or in the evening, after work, do many people have the time to enjoy their meals consciously and to present it pleasingly, something that can also have compensatory aspects: in their own homes or by visiting a special restaurant.

Moreover, eating and drinking have become more public – the share of away-from-home diners in restaurants, canteens and snack bars has risen significantly – and, therefore, more communicative (socialising, distinction, lifestyle). In the minds of both producers and consumers, food is becoming more and more of a means of communication and a way of solving problems, i.e., products that, in a variety of situations, help us cope better with everyday life or give expression to our cares and joys; to improve our time and feeling management; to meet our need to be different, etc. We no longer eat primarily to still our hunger but to express, portray and delimit ourselves.

The decision what and how we eat is no longer delegated or simply accepted, as in times of material shortage or rigidly structured societies. Eating is no longer simply a matter of satisfying basic physiological needs but more of emphasising one‘s identity, creating social distinctions and obtaining aesthetic and sensuous pleasure (cf. Sensual Food). The trend to individualisation also means that people can choose who they want to dine with depending on the situation and their needs. Today, meals are increasingly taken with friends, customers, colleagues, etc., and no longer predominantly with the family. Accordingly, dinner in singles households is frequently cold. The younger and the smaller the household, the less is the inclination to cook. This holds particularly true of ’highly networked and mobile individualists‘, i.e., young singles who tend to eat more away from home or between traditional meal times (cf. Fast Good). The more irregularly or rarely people cook, the greater is the share of ready-to-eat and semi-finished products, as well as deep-frozen products, because keeping stocks of fresh produce in such households is neither economic nor practical.

Traditional home cooking that, despite different facets and recipes, emerged over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries in (Central) Europe and was the root of our notion of what constitutes a good meal, is also based on specific household and kitchen practices. And these practices are not applicable to one or two person house-holds. Thus, traditional home cuisine is declining in significance for everyday cooking. At the same time, however, this trend is giving rise to compensatory developments. (cf. Authentic Food and Pure Food, page xx).

When choosing their food and deciding on their style of eating, an increasing number of people ask whether their choices are beneficial in terms of physical and psychological well being. ’Wellness‘ is the name given to this trend, which includes far more than the maintenance of health and fitness. The latter no longer refers simply to physical performance but also to intellectual agility. This opens the door to light dishes with lots of vegetables and reinforces the trend towards low-fat preparation, (cf. Health Food and Pure Food, page xx). In the medium term, particularly in the restaurant sector, this will lead to new menu concepts, different portion sizes and to a vegetable to meat ratio based on the latest findings of nutritional physiology. The seven most important food trends:

1. Sensual Food – the new desire for taste.

A large proportion of what we eat has been processed before it reaches us, so we cannot taste it in its original form. Thus, we forget how to use our senses and have increasing difficulty in tasting or smelling differences. This loss goes hand in hand with a diminution in our capacity for enjoyment because our ability to enjoy and differentiate are not automatic – they have to be learnt, something that calls for a willingness to be taught and the time to gather the necessary experience.

Today, more and more consumers are willing to do this – a reaction to the absence of different experiences and the increasing standardisation of the taste of industrial products. New gastronomic trends à la Ferran Adriá (“My recipes make you think”) and Heston Blumenthal take account of the need for greater sensory expertise. Whereas the taste and appearance of a foodstuff used to be fairly standard, today, nothing seems to taste like it looks. Molecular cuisine experiments with the boundaries of our sensory perception and invites us to once again taste food in a more conscious way.

2. Fast Good Food – quick and healthy pleasure.

The opening of the first American fast-food restaurants in Europe 35 years ago represented the beginning of a new cultural trend. The success of these restaurants is not only due to the attraction of Big Mac, Whopper & Co. among children and young people. These products also cater for our changing way of life. In Europe, however, fast food is still regarded as being of inferior quality and unhealthy. The contradiction between the frequent need to eat quickly and the desire for healthy nutrition with complete culinary pleasure promises to trigger a new food trend: fast good food combines the functionality of US fast-food restaurants with the culinary qualities of European and Asian cuisine. As a product of globalisation, the new trend draws on numerous traditional cuisines from all over the world, which ensure fresh and healthy variety (rich in carbohydrates) even in the case of fast food – and which makes the paradox possible: healthy junk food. With bio-burgers and bio-doner-kebab, Asian streetfood and organic vegetables and sushi from bio-aqua-farming, fast good food is taking up the trend towards organic food and wellness, and making the eternal bad conscience a thing of the past.

3. Health Food – new options for health-conscious diners.

In the past, health was regarded as the victory over suffering and pain. Today, it is a synonym for the quality of life. Lifestyle is developing into ’healthstyle‘. In this connection, nutrition plays a central role. For most consumers, perception is not determined by classic, scientific arguments but by practical, everyday knowledge, such as the consumption of plant foodstuffs. Nutritional systems from the Far East appear particularly well able to reconcile the cyclical, health-motivated ’go-without‘ trends in western societies: less fat, less salt or, most recently, less carbohydrates.

Moreover, Asian cuisine, in which elements and energy flows play a significant role, harmonises perfectly with the western trend towards esotericism and is thus becoming the dominant force in the health-food segment. Particularly important, especially in the German-speaking region, is product freshness, a factor that, besides the vegetable components, has become synonymous with healthy food. The trend towards health food has also led to a revival of gourmet whole-food cuisine (in distinction to traditional grey-beige vegetarian fare). Additionally, the fruit and vegetable juice segment continues to grow rapidly.

4. Ethic Food – eating with a good conscience.

What use is it to gourmets when, although turbot, bass and sole can be obtained in places hundreds of miles away from the sea thanks to perfect cold chains, industrial fishing is endangering the survival of these species in the short to medium term? In recent years, we have been made aware of ethical quality criteria not only through the efforts of environmental organisations but also, and in particular, by the numerous food scandals, which have focused attention on the ecologically doubtful breeding and husbandry methods employed for beef, pork and poultry. This is opening up ever more opportunities for products distinguished by ethical production criteria, which can be enjoyed with a clear conscience.

The new ecological trend has cast off the tight-lipped image of the fundamentalists. And thus, via more room for manoeuvre and interaction, paved the way for a much larger group of producers and consumers. Demand has risen significantly thanks to a broader assortment and greater accessibility for ecological and fair-trade products, which are also packaged and presented in a more appealing way. The LOHAS target group (Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability), which is expanding rapidly, especially in urban areas, stands for a new type of consumer who is oriented towards health and sustainability. And not just in Europe but also in the USA, where market leader Whole Foods has been remarkably successfully by exploiting the ’moral hedonism‘ of better educated and earning consumers. Today, the US market for biodynamic food is worth US $ 25-30 billion per year. Although this represents only 6 % of the total food market, this share is growing five times faster than the rest of the sector.

5. Authentic Food – the yearning for handicrafts and originality.

Food and beverages are not only for consumption. They also tell a story. In modern everyday life, this story is not particularly exciting. What else should standardised, industrially produced meals, also known as UFOs (unidentified food objects), tell us? The situation is different when it comes to produce from regional farms that are closely bound up with the ’terroir‘ and the people that grow them. These stories satisfy our desire for intimacy, closeness and home or our yearning for new experiences when travelling. The trend towards authentic food is a reaction to globalisation and the fears it causes. Authentic food offers consumers orientation and gives them a feeling of security. Traceability (guaranteeing product origins) and authenticity (original and handicraft production) are gaining continuously in significance.

Foodstuffs with protected names, such as Parma ham, ’Diepholzer Moorschnucke‘ (lamb), ’Thüringer Leberwurst‘ (liver sausage) and ’Steirisches Kürbiskernöl‘ (pumpkin-seed oil) continue to rank among the winners on the market. Today, there are more than 600 products on the European market with protected places of origin or place names – especially from tourist regions with a special culinary image, where it has been possible to incorporate the specific features of the landscape in the product. This trend also favours the rediscovery of regional dishes and opens up new marketing opportunities for the restaurant sector. Thus, the region gains in significance compared to the nation as a whole. No longer is the focus on Italian, German, Austrian or French cooking but on, for example, Umbrian, Piedmontese, Alsatian, Styrian or Pannonian cuisine.

6. Pure Food – absolutely safe even for allergy sufferers.

The number of people suffering from food allergies is increasing markedly. In Switzerland, 2 to 4 % of the population is affected clinically. Subjectively, the number of allergy sufferers is considerably larger. Experts predict a further increase in food intolerance, especially among children and young people. In principle, any food or ingredient can cause an allergy. What makes a diagnosis so difficult is that most foods contain several proteins, any of which could be the allergen. Thus, foodstuffs that are free of (certain) allergens have bright perspectives for the future.

Additionally, the continuing debate about chronic obesity is having a positive impact on the ’no foods‘ segment (food without sugar, fat, salt, etc.). The trend to pure, basic foods – a striking countertrend to food presentations and molecular cuisine – is also influencing the restaurant sector: simple recipes and very gentle, non-adulterating cooking methods appeal even to typical slow and organic food consumers who appreciate pure food and an unequivocal product philosophy.

7. Mood Food – Eating as emotion management.

Eating is increasingly being used as a mood regulator. Scientific studies are also on the track of the connections between psychological moods and the consumption of certain foods or the influence of certain ingredients on changes in mood. Nutritional factors that seem to stabilise moods have been found, especially in the case of people who are prone to stress or depressive. The food industry has commissioned research into natural human psychoactive substances, such as serotonin, a hormone, or dopamine, a neurotransmitter, to develop foodstuffs specifically for better emotion management. The aim: to be able to supply the ever-growing target group of people who are prone to stress or depressive with therapeutically effective mood-food products. Classic mood foods, such as chocolate, will be produced and marketed for specific target groups. Depending on whether the product is aimed at men, women or children, the outer layer is made of milk or plain chocolate and the filling of cream or fruit and nuts.

Hanni Rützler has made an international name for herself as a pioneering dietician, a researcher with a multi-disciplinary approach to eating and drinking behaviour. Her expertise is in demand not only by food companies and health politicians but also by multi-national food groups and big system caterers.

 

Lab-Grown Burger

Here are two nice articles about the Lab-Grown Burger taste test that happened this week.  Some media folks even call it Frankenburger. It’s certainly one more tip about how the world’s food context is changing in the next years. For bad or for good. What’s to come regarding the food production sector, mainstream or alternative, is being developed in many different directions as a response to our contemporary changes. While our environment struggles, money talks and there are some people running for new answers. We must also remember the role consumers play in all this food future design that’s being made… No more to add, I leave you guys with the lab-grown, Frankenstein-like burger. Enjoy.

From The Guardian

Lab-grown beef hamburger

All it took was a little butter and sunflower oil and, in less than 10 minutes, the world’s most expensive burger, grown from muscle stem cells in a lab, was ready to eat.

“I was expecting the texture to be more soft,” said Hanni Rützler of the Future Food Studio, who researches food trends and was the first to get a taste of the synthetic beef hamburger at a lavish event in London on Monday that bore more resemblance to a TV set than a scientific press conference.

The lack of fat was noticeable, she added, which meant a lack of juiciness in the centre of the burger. If she had closed her eyes, however, she would have thought the cultured beef was definitely meat rather than a vegetable-based substitute.

The fibres had been grown in the lab and bound together, coloured with beetroot juice and shot through with saffron to complete the burger that, from a distance at least, looked perfectly ordinary. The chef tasked with cooking it was Richard McGeown of Couch’s Great House Restaurant in Polperro, Cornwall, who said it was slightly more pale than the beefburgers he was accustomed to but that it cooked like any other burger, was suitably aromatic and looked inviting.

American food writer and author of the book Taste of Tomorrow, Josh Schonwald, was next up to take a piece of the precious burger. He said he had never been pleased by meat substitutes but, after chewing a bit, gave it full marks for its “mouth feel”, saying it was just like meat and that the bite felt like a conventional hamburger.

But he also noted, several times, the absence of fat or seasoning. “I can’t remember the last time I ate a burger without ketchup,” he said, when trying to explain whether or not it compared well to a real hamburger. Later in the tasting he described the texture as “like an animal protein cake”.

Lab-grown beef hamburger Dr Mark Post with his lab-grown hamburger

Mark Post, the scientist behind the burger, which took three months to make, said the ambition was to improve the efficiency of the cell-growing process and also to improve flavour by adding fat cells. He wants to create thicker “cuts” of meat such as steaks, though his would require more tissue engineering expertise, namely the ability to grow channels – a bit like blood vessels – that can feed the centre of the growing steak with nutrients and water. Similar technology had already been shown to work for medical applications, said Post.

The €250,000 cost of making the burger was paid by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who said he got into the idea for animal welfare reasons. In a film to mark the taste test of the burger, he said that people had an erroneous image of modern meat production, imagining “pristine farms” with just a few animals in them. “When you see how these cows are treated, it’s certainly something I’m not comfortable with.”

Dr Post’s team at Maastricht University used the money to grow 20,000 muscle fibres from cow stem cells over the course of three months. These fibres were extracted from individual culture wells and then painstakingly pressed together to form the hamburger that was eaten on Monday. The objective is to create meat that is biologically identical to beef but grown in a lab rather than in a field as part of a cow.

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Photographs: David Parry/EPA

From Vice

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As the world’s population hurtles toward an estimated 9 billion by 2050, global food shortages are becoming a very real problem. In no sector is this more apparent than the meat industry. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that around 70 percent of all agricultural land on Earth is currently used for meat production. It also predicts the demand for meat will increase by more than two thirds in the next 40 years as the middle classes grow in newly industrialized countries in Asia and South America.

Aside from awful humanitarian and animal cruelty issues, the meat industry is thought to have a significant effect on global warming since belching, farting livestock produce huge quantities of methane—a greenhouse gas 33 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. It’s obvious that the meat industry as we know it is unsustainable, but for the vast majority of us the prospect of turning vegetarian is pretty grim. Vegetables aren’t filling, Tofurkey tastes like wet Band-Aids, and the prospect of mass-farming insects to squish into Boca burgers makes me want to sew up my mouth and anus.

Fortunately, Professor Mark Post thinks he’s come up with a way for us to save the planet and gorge until we get the meat sweats. Unfortunately, it’s not all that cost effective yet.

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By harvesting muscle tissue from a living cow, Professor Post is able to cut the tissue into individual muscle cells. Each cell can then yield up to one trillion more, which will then naturally join up to form new muscle tissue. Five years and approximately $384,000 after he started, Professor Post had created the world’s most expensive burger patty, ready for an unveiling and tasting ceremony in London. As the world’s media descended on the presentation in Hammersmith, I went along to see if “cultured beef” really was the savior the meat industry needs.

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The tasting was taking place in Riverside Studios—the former home of Brittish shows Top of the Pops and Dr. Who. When I arrived I had to line up with the rest of the media in a corridor filled with portraits of famous comedians.

The one thing I learned from this experience is that journalists love puns. I heard, “Cultured beef? Is that beef that enjoys the opera? [relentless chortling]” about ten times before we even got into the tasting room. It was enough to make the portrait of Al Murray (perhaps the least funny man to have ever been given a TV show in England) holding a giant chicken seem like the best visual gag I’d ever seen.

The event kicked off with the above informational video, which was a sort of hybrid between the science videos you watch in school and a Shark Tank pitch. Despite that, you should probably give it a watch anyway as it explains the science of cultured beef in groovy, easy to understand graphics. Also, it means I don’t have to stretch into the depths of my tenth-grade biology knowledge to try to explain how people are growing edible meat in Petri dishes nowadays.

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After the video, Professor Post took to the stage and unveiled the burger. This was it—the moment we’d all been waiting for. He pulled a burger-size Petri dish from a cooler, opened it up, and there it was: a $384,000 beef patty. I’d love to say that the true significance of this moment resonated with me, but the truth is I was sitting very far away and could barely see anything. Plus, as grand in scale as the patty’s prospects might be, connecting to lab-grown mincemeat on an emotional level is pretty tough.

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The tasting was presented by Nina Hossain from ITV London. Here she is interviewing Richard McGeown, the chef in charge of cooking the burger. You could tell he was a little nervous about ruining it. Which is understandable, considering the burger was—pound for pound—probably the most expensive piece of food ever cooked in the history of humanity. And burning a piece of meat that’s worth the kind of money that could fund the building of 50 wells in Africa isn’t going to look on your CV.

Not that Nina did much to ease his stress levels. While he was trying to concentrate on the cooking she kept bombarding him with repetitive questions that nobody really needed to know the answers to, like, “Is it cooking like a normal burger?” and, “From a chef’s point of view, is there anything different about this burger?” (In case you do need to know the answers, they were “yes” and “no.”)

It took the burger slightly longer to cook than I was expecting. Maybe Richard was cooking it on a low heat to avoid burning it as 100 people stared intently at the frying pan in front of him. Or maybe I was just really, really hungry (I was).

Anyway, as the burger was sizzling away, we were introduced to the two special guests, who—along with Professor Post—would be eating and critiquing the first-ever cultured beef burger.

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The first guest to dive in was Hanni Rutzler, a food and nutritional scientist. Hanni, while perfectly pleasant, was perhaps the worst possible candidate for this job. There were around 100 journalists hungrily waiting for quotes, and the best Hanni could come up with were, “It was hotter [temperature-wise] than I expected,” and—when asked what it actually tasted like—”It’s a bit like cake.”

By this stage, the assorted media weren’t just hungry for words, but for a bite of the burger they were all there to write about. A writer from the Huffington Post asked if just one of the assembled journalists could try it and give their feedback, but unfortunately that notion was shot down as “unfair” to everyone else. A writer from the Times yelled, “I really don’t mind!” But it was no use; the dream was over.

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It all rested on the second taster, Josh Schonwald. Josh is an author, so surely he could muster at least the beginnings of the description that the entire world’s press was gagging for. “I’d put it somewhere between Bunga Burger and McDonald’s,” he said, forgetting that he was in London and nobody had a clue what Bunga Burger was. “But it’s hard because I don’t know how many burgers I’ve eaten in my life without ketchup.”

Tasting over, it was time for the Q&A. Again, many of the questions related to a more accurate description of the taste, but all we got was, “It could use salt and pepper,” from Hanni. Meanwhile, Josh—in between shamelessly plugging his book, The Taste of Tomorrow—offered up, “I feel like the fat is missing. There’s a leanness to it, but the bite is like a conventional burger.”

Which, again, didn’t really satisfy anyone in the audience.

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After resigning ourselves to the fact that we were neither going to taste the burger nor get any real quotes on what it tasted like, the press instead started asking about the future of the science behind the patty.

Professor Post said he could envision mass production of cultured beef within 20 years and that it should, in theory, be the same price or cheaper than regular beef. He also alleviated concerns over how safe the meat is to eat, stating that it’s genetically identical to beef found in a cow and that, yes, he would let his children eat it.

Probably the most astonishing fact of the day came when he was asked if he’d given any thought to a catchier name than “cultured beef.” He said they’d had a naming competition at Maastricht University, where the research was carried out, to see if anyone could come up with something better. Seven thousand people entered, but apparently not a single one of them was “satisfying.”

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After the Q&A session I, along with a few others, rushed toward the stage to get an up-close look at the remainder of the burger, but by the time we got there it had already been whisked away by security goons, like Nicki Minaj being led away from a mob of paparazzi.

I may have witnessed a historical moment, but as I left the tasting room I couldn’t help but feel a little let down. The whole event was to find out if the taste of beef could be replicated in the lab, and thanks to the incompetence of the tasters that’s still something we don’t really know the answer to. If I’m honest, I was also disappointed that I hadn’t been able to nab a bite of it myself. But it looks like I’ll just have to wait 20 years like everybody else.

Follow Matthew on Twitter: @matthewfrancey

All photos courtesy of Maastricht University.

Traffic light’ food labelling system finally rolls out

A consistent ‘traffic light’ system for providing nutritional food labelling is finally rolling out, following several years of development.

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The system will combine red, amber and green colour-coding and nutritional information to show how much fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar and calories are in foods.

The system is based on ‘traffic light’ designs that were created by Bell Integrated Communciations in 2005, before being updated by the consultancy in 2009.

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After Bell’s original designs were delivered to the Food Standards Agency, they were implemented by retailers in different ways, meaning that several varients of the traffic light system were developed.

The new guidelines aim to stamp out these inconsistencies and provide a unified front-of-pack design across all food products. It will replace individual systems such as the Sainbsbury’s ‘traffic light wheel’.

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The voluntary system is being implemented by the Department for Health, with food brands including Mars and Nestle signed up, as well as all major UK retailers – including Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda and Waitrose.

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The Department of Health says businesses signed up account for more than 60 per cent of food sold in the UK.

However, some brands, including Coca-Cola, Mondelez and Dairy Crest, have shunned the new system, citing concerns that they could cause confusion among customers.

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Health Minister Anna Soubry says, ‘The UK already has the largest number of products using a front-of-pack label in Europe but we know that people get confused by the variety of labels that are used.’

Via Design Week