The Fancy Technique Cat Cora Wishes Chefs Would Stop Using During Competitions

If you've ever been to a Michelin-starred restaurant or have simply fallen down a fine dining YouTube rabbit hole, you've probably seen something called spherification. The molecular-gastronomy technique was patented in the 1940s and results in burst-in-your-mouth, caviar-like pearls of nearly any kind of liquid, from passionfruit juice to vegetable purée, explains Chemical and Engineering News.

As molecular gastronomy — the term often used for experimental modernist cuisine embraced by chefs like Ferran Adrià (via Molecular Recipes) — grew in popularity in the 2000s, chefs got really excited about the ability to garnish elegant dishes with faux caviar that were gel-like on the outside and liquid in the center. Many of them are still excited. While the molecular gastronomy trend has "fallen out of favor" among some chefs, according to C&E News, others still aim to impress diners with spherified honey, olive oil, and more. Iron Chef Cat Cora, who judges her fair share of cooking competitions, told Insider that she's tired of seeing the "overused" technique.

Why some chefs still love spherification

To win over judges, many cooking-show competitors "overuse" trendy ingredients like truffles or "innovative techniques" such as spherification, according to Insider. While the 80-year-old spherification method may not seem so innovative to experienced chefs, others see it as "an interesting sensory experience" that can surprise diners with unexpected textures (via C&E News).

Spherification's widespread use among Heston Blumenthal, Wylie Dufresne, and other influential chefs means that to industry insiders like Cora, spherification's popularity is a bit played out. It also means that there are plenty of resources for amateur cooks to learn about the cooking method at home. All you'll need are the liquid you'd like to sphere, sodium alginate (a seaweed-based substance that will "gel" the liquid), and a calcium bath, where the sodium alginate mixture will immediately form a sphere when submerged (via Chef Steps). Then get to spherifying cranberry juice for a modern Cosmopolitan or tomato purée for fancy bruschetta. Maybe just don't serve it to Cat Cora.