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The top trends in food are all about getting back to what’s “natural”. Whether it’s organic, free-range, or grass-fed, eating food that looks pretty much like it just came off the farm is a laudable goal, no doubt, but I think the co-stars of Discovery Network’s Planet Green channel Future Food, Homaro Cantu and Ben Roche, would argue that science and healthy food still have a beautiful future together.

The show, which premiere’s March 30th, follows these chefs as they take on huge challenges –  whether it's a seafood dinner with no seafood or making fine French cuisine made entirely from recycled French Toast – partly just for fun but also to explore what the outer edge of science and technology can do to relieve the ecological burden our taste-buds place on our world. This isn’t just a mad-scientist lab, however; these guys have a hip Chicago restaurant to run, one where discerning patrons regularly shell out $240 for their chance to sample some of the wildest food on the planet. This morning’s crazy idea is often on the evening’s menu, for better or worse.

We got a one-on-two interview with the culinary mind-benders to get the scoop on their new show. It centers around their restaurant, Moto, and the experimental concoctions that duke it out each day to find their place on the menu. The pair are said to be “molecul
ar gastronomists”; naturally, we wanted to know just what that means.

Executive Chef Homaro Cantu sets the record straight. “It’s not really ‘molecular,’ when I think of molecular I think of splitting atoms. There’s no atom splitting going on here, we’re just taking food that you’re familiar with and we’re taking it to an extreme green level… Just think about the edible menu, it’s the world’s greenest menu. Every year there are 22 tons of paper thrown away in restaurants around the world just from menus, and if you can make edible menus around the world imagine how much CO2 that would eliminate.”

Ben Roche also takes issue with that label, “You see us in the lab and we’re using these strange ingredients that you wouldn’t have at home, and that’s the kind of stuff that people would normally refer to as “molecular gastronomy”, but really if you look at it in terms of the show we use those ingredients and that process to solve food problems from a scientific viewpoint. It doesn’t make us scientists; it just means we are going to creative lengths to solve a problem."

Even before landing on the Planet Green channel, Moto was committed to being green. “It is a green restaurant and it’s extreme on that level. So we just had to convey who we really are and what we’re passionate about to the viewers at home. And Planet Green is a channel full of passionate people.”

Future Food isn’t all about saving the world; they have plenty of fun along the way, too. Ben Roche describes one of his personal favorites that never made it to the menu: “I worked for a couple weeks on a dessert that looked like—you know, that fake rubber vomit you can buy? The idea was that the server would come up with a melted liquid, kind of like a hot soup in a dish, and they would pour it on to your plate, and then within thirty seconds it would set up like rubber, and it would have chunks of stuff in it. I just thought it was so sick and twisted; it was kind of like a guilty pleasure for me to laugh at, but we ended up not really finding a good place for it on the menu.”

After a hard day cooking up edible science experiments, do the guys break out the chemistry set to feed their family? Cantu says no “My wife cooks for me, I’m off-limits in the kitchen most of the time. Like yesterday we had tacos with chicken; I have two kids, so I can’t go feeding them edible paper every time I turn around. They’ll wind up deranged.” Roche agrees, “I think both of us have really basic meals when we’re at home. We do so much weird stuff at work, we need regular people food”

Despite all the fun, they don’t want the point of the show to be lost. Homaro outlines their vision, “There’s one episode where we’re challenged with solving world hunger, and that’s the most important show for me. We see a lot of stuff in the press that’s negative, negative, negative. We’re running out of fuel, we’re running out of ideas, we’re running out of everything. We haven’t even scratched the surface. In the 60s and 70s, everyone wanted to go green, but they didn’t have the technology. Now we’ve got the technology”

Their bottom line? “Take the fish episode. This is something the big corporations could be doing right now. They don’t want to, but we’ve demonstrated it’s possible to eliminate certain kinds of fish from the food chain.” Cantu goes on “What do we want? I want to see some change. I want to see some massive change. And I want to see some cool stuff happen.”

Roche agrees, “One of my favorite episodes is the one where we make a special dinner menu for a bunch of kids. I think the message that gets across to them is kind of what I hope people can take away from the show in general. Which is instead of being intimidated by trying new things with food, or trying to make something at home versus buying a finished product at the store, get used to trying to cook for yourself. Looking at food differently and being open minded and creative with food not only gets them to eat more healthy choices but it’s also more fun.”

With a show named Future Food, we were curious what the duo thinks we’ll be eating in the future. Cantu picked it up, “We’re going to be eating food in the future that has no food-miles, that’s organic, and is as close to the real thing as possible.” Roche was more pointed, “Hopefully, we’ll be eating food that makes sense, because right now, a lot of the stuff that people are eating – not just in the US but all over the world – just doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

In the long term? End world hunger. The short term? Roche gives us a preview of the Moto menu, “My most current dessert would be – I’m going to call it a “green curry lime.” It has all the flavors of a Thai green curry, but it’s in the form of a lime wedge. The lime itself is made from lime juice and lime zest gelatin, and that’s covered with a coconut, lemon grass, and ginger puree, and the outside is coated with a basil and cilantro puree. So when you cut into it, it looks like a lime, but when you take a bite of it, it has a Jell-O consistency and it tastes like a sweet version of Thai green curry." / Issue 106 - September 2018
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