Ahem, just to clarify, I didn't say that guys were the only ones interested in food science, I said that male chefs were more into the molecular gastronomy thing, meaning that men seem more inclined to twist food around and turn it inside out. You don't find many female chefs creating "eggs" out of carrots and cardamom (Wylie) or out of mozzarella cheese and yellow tomatoes (Michel Richard). Women as a general rule, myself included, will harvest the food science information for techniques that will improve the texture and flavor of food without necessarily trying to change the actual characteristics of what we are cooking. One of the things that I love about the shrimp spaetzle is that they retain the snap, crunch and flavor of fresh shrimp, probably because they are 98% shrimp.
One of the biggest points of Herve's lecture was the nature of sharing food. He believes that food should always be prepared with love, in fact he said that when you share food with someone else you automatically become friends. He went to great lengths to separate the concepts of science (actual information), technology (applying the information to create new techniques and inventions to enhance the cooking process) and craft (actual cooking and creation of dishes for the table) . His theory was that chefs should not fear the scientist because they are just gathering information, they should fear the technologist because they are the ones utilizing the information to create new techniques. He has a new book coming out with Pierre Gagnaire and one of the reasons why he enjoys Pierre's food is because, in his opinion, it is an expression of love. He encourages the idea of people sharing plates at a table because this encourages comradeship which is what dining is all about. In fact he spent so much time on these theories that he did not have enough time to go over all of the cooking techniques he had planned on discussing during his lecture.
I found this interesting because this feeling of community is the backbone of the restaurant industry. We come into to service industry because we have a desire to take care of others and nurture them in some way. Restaurants that succeed and build a solid following do so because people feel cared for when they dine there. Every neighborhood has a place where everybody goes, the food may be good or not so good, the room may be fancy or plain, but the rooms always has a positive vibe and a feeling of warmth when you walk through it's doors. People come there for the experience and the sense of belonging as much as for anything else. Diners chat with the tables next to them, preferences are remembered and people feel at home. In the truly great places, even first timers can experience that kind of welcome and that's what brings people back time and again.
Back to Herve, he had very concrete answers about cooking an egg. He had documented and photographed how an egg reacts after being cooked to every degree from 60-75C. When asked about collagen (a hot topic these days) he stressed the fact that it is a very complicated subject. The reason being that temperature at which it denatures is slightly different for every different protein you may wish to cook. When Alex expressed frustration with the fact that there are no concrete answers, I poked at him. After all, there are no concrete rules for most techniques in cooking. If you ask how to roast a chicken or braise a short rib, every chef I know will give me a slightly different answer as to the best technique. Techniques aside, the only way to find the best method for cooking anything is to discover what works best for you, whether you are steaming a flounder or cooking a scallop sous vide. The only way to truly find your way is to begin cooking yourself.
As for boys with toys, there were actually a fair number of women in the audience. There was a smaller percentage of women buying his books. The line to get them autographed was all male.