By KIMBERLY ASH
For The Associated Press
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — When Ferran Adria asks for help in the kitchen, he doesn't mean busboys.
The father of so-called molecular gastronomy — the science (or art?) of manipulating food via gelatins, liquid capsules and his now-ubiquitous foams — recently asked Harvard scientists to help him push the boundaries of food even further.
Lately, the sort of kitchen science he practices has been reduced to showmanship and spectacle by other chefs, Adria told a packed physics lecture this month. He called for a new dialogue between cooking and science.
"It cannot be what many high-end cooks have sought: spectacle. It has to be research, seriousness," said Adria, whose restaurant elBulli north of Barcelona, Spain, is considered one of, if not the, world's best.
Adria has made his name by deconstructing food and reassembling it. During his remarks, attendees gushed over slide images of food designed to resemble fire, bonsai trees, icebergs, even a footprint in the dirt.
One video presentation showed the recreation of a strawberry: The fruit's juices were mixed with gelatin-like agar, then molded and stuffed with strawberry sorbet frozen with liquid nitrogen, a method Adria pioneered.
The end product looked like a strawberry and Adria said diners who ate with their eyes closed could not tell it from a natural strawberry. It's this new frontier of food and science that Adria asked the audience to ponder.
"What is natural?" he asked.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.