Hervé This, International Centre for Molecular Gastronomy AgroParisTech-INRA

Hervé This, International Centre for Molecular Gastronomy AgroParisTech-INRA

Thursday, 23 November 2017 at 15:00 in the Large Operon, EMBL Heidelberg

Hervé This, International Centre for Molecular Gastronomy AgroParisTech-INRA

Molecular gastronomy: questions of scientific strategy and applications


Molecular gastronomy is the scientific discipline that looks for the mechanisms of phenomena occurring during food preparation. It was created (formally in 1988) because it was realised that a wealth of original phenomena were neglected by physical chemistry, so that possibilities of discoveries were many. It develops in many countries of the world (and should not be confused with cooking, and in particular with "molecular cooking" or "molecular cuisine", which are applications).
How to make discoveries? This question is of course not restricted to molecular gastronomy, but some examples of results can show various ways of getting scientific results, the most important being probably the set up of new observation tools, or the idea that "Any result should be considered as a "projection" of general cases that we have to invent".
Concerning applications, the latest is called "note by note cooking", and it is the exact equivalent of synthetic music, a reason why it could also be called synthetic cooking. The definition is simply: make food from pure compounds, instead of tradition food ingredients (vegetables, meats, fruits, fishs, eggs...). This culinary trend is spreading today.

Key references


Molecular Gastronomy, Columbia university press, NYC.

Cooking, a quintessential art, The university press of California

Note by note cooking, Columbia university press, NYC.


Hervé This, Statgels and dynagels, 2016 Notes Académiques de l'Académie d'agriculture de France, / Academic Notes from the French Academy of Agriculture, 12, 1-12.

This H. 2016. What can “Artificial Meat” be? Note by note cooking offers a variety of answers. Notes Académiques de l'Académie d'agriculture de France / Academic Notes from the French Academy of Agriculture, 6, 1-10.

Hervé This, Solutions are solutions, and gels are almost solutions, Pure Appl. Chem., 2012, pp. 1-20. http://dx.doi.org/10.1351/PAC-CON-12-01-01,

Hervé This, 2016. “Maillard products” and “Maillard reactions” are much discussed in food science and technology, but do such products and reactions deserve their name? Notes Académiques de l'Académie d'agriculture de France / Academic Notes from the French Academy of Agriculture , 3, 1-10.

Elsa Bauchard, Hervé This, Investigating the performance of in situ quantitative nuclear magnetic resonance analysis and applying the method to determine the distribution of saccharides in various parts of carrot roots (Daucus carota L.), Talanta, 2015 pp. 335-341, DOI: 10.1016/j.talanta.2014.07.097.

Romain Bouteille, Jeanne Perez, Farid Khifer, Delphine Jouan-Rimbaud-Bouveresse, Bruno Lecanu, and Hervé This , Influence of the Colloidal Structure of Dairy Gels on Milk Fat Fusion Behavior: Quantification of the Liquid Fat Content by In Situ Quantitative Proton Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (isq 1H NMR) , Journal of Food Science, 2013, 78, 4, E535-E541 ; doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.12072.

Audrey Tardieu, Walter de Man, Hervé This, Using one dimensional (1D) and two dimensional (2D) quantitative proton (1H) nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (q NMR) for the identification and quantification of taste compounds in raw onions (Allium cepa L.) bulbs and in aqueous solutions where onion tissues are soaked, Analytical & Bioanalytical Chemistry, Volume 398, Issue 7 (2010), Page 3139-3153, DOI: 10.1007/s00216-010-4255-x, 23 October 2010.

Hervé This. Molecular Gastronomy, a chemical look to cooking. Accounts of Chemical Research, May 2009, vol 42, N°5, pp. 575-583, Published on the Web 05/19/2009 www.pubs.acs.org/acr, doi10.1021/ar8002078.

Juan Valverde, Hervé This. 1H NMR quantitative determination of photosynthetic pigments from green beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.). Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2008, 56 (2), 314-320. doi. 10.1021/jf070277j.


Hervé This, physical chemist at Inra and Professor at AgroParisTech, is also the Director of the AgroParisTech-Inra International Centre for Molecular Gastronomy, head of the Inra Group of Molecular Gastronomy in the Laboratory of Analytical Chemistry of AgroParisTech (UMR 1145), Scientific Director of the Fondation Science & Culture alimentaire, of the French Academy of Sciences, head of the Food Section of the French Academy of Agriculture, President of the Educational Committee of the Institut des Hautes Études du Goût (Université de Reims Champagne Ardennes), Scientific Advisor of the Journal Pour la Science...

Born the 5th of June 1955, he studied first at the Lycée Janson de Sailly, in Paris. After studying physicis and chemistry at the École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie de Paris (ESPCI ParisTech, 95e promotion) and modern litterature at the Université Paris IV, he worked for 20 years at Belin Publishing Company and at the scientific journal Pour la Science (the French Edition of Scientific American), where he was respectively editor and editor in chief, whereas he developped molecular gastronomy in his personal laboratory first, then at the Collège de France, where he had been given a laboratory but Jean-Marie Lehn (Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1987). At the same time, we was doing a regular radio programme (Panorama, France Culture), and he was the scientific director of the science programme Archimède (Arte) and Pi=3.14 (France 5). He created and animated weekly TV programmes on France 5, and daily radio programme for France Culture and France Inter.

After 1980, he promoted a new way of cooking which was called « Molecular Cooking » (or Molecular Cuisine for the style) in 1999.

In 1988, he created the scientific discipline first called “Molecular and Physical Gastronomy », with Nicholas Kurti (FRS, 1908-1998, director of the Clarendon Laboratory, professor of physics in Oxford).

After his PhD in physical chemistry, La gastronomie moléculaire et physique (jury including two Nobel prize winners Pierre Gilles de Gennes and Jean-Marie Lehn, but also the famous chemist Pierre Potier), he was invited to defend his habilitation to direct researches by the President of the French Academy of sciences, with a jury including Guy Ourisson (then Presiident of the Académie des sciences), Xavier Chapuisat (then president of Université Paris Sud), Étienne Guyon (then director of the Ecole normale supérieure), Alain Fuchs (today's president of CNRS) and the 3 star chef Pierre Gagnaire.

In 1994, he introduced a new culinary trend called Note by Note Cooking.

In 2000, he left the companies Belin and Pour la Science, and was hired by INRA, with full time laboratory research in his laboratory of tthe Collège de France (director J-M. Lehn).

In 2000 also, after the publication of his book La casserole des enfants, the French Minister of Public Education (Jack Lang) asked his to create and develop in all primary schools of France some specific programmes called Ateliers expérimentaux du goût. These educational programmes were tested in the academies of Paris and la Réunion. They were officially launched in 2001. The same year, his book Traité élémentaire de cuisine was the basis for the new programmes for public culinary schools. In 2004, these programmes, and some others (Dictons et plats patrimoniaux, etc.) were followed by the Ateliers Science & Cuisine, today for high schools.

In 2004 also, the French Minister of economy asked him to create the 'Institut des Hautes Études du Goût, de la Gastronomie et des Arts de la Table, with the Université de Reims Champagne Ardennes. He was appointed president of the educational programme.

In April 2006, whereas he was moving his laboratory to AgroParisTech, the Académie des sciences invited him to create the Fondation Science & Culture Alimentaire, of which he was appointed the scientific director.

Then, in 2010, he was asked to head the Food Section of the French Academy of Agriculture.

And in June 2014, we was asked to creat the AgroParisTech-INRA International Centre for Molecular Gastronomy, of which he was appointed as a director.

In 2016, he created the new scientific (open, free, double bling) scientific journal of the Académie d'agriculture de France : the Notes Académiques de l'Académie d'agriculture de France (N3AF), of which he was nominated the Editor in Chief.

H. This is also the director of the International Workshops on Molecular Gastronomy N. Kurti (since 1992), director of the Journées françaises de gastronomie moléculaire ; he is running a monthly seminar on molecular gastronomy since 2000) and giving the yearly Cours AgroParisTech of molecular gastronomy (public and free courses explaing a new work each year). In 2008, he was the organizer and president of EuroFoodChem XIV, and he created the Groupe français de chimie des aliments et du goût of the Société française de chimie. He is the French representant of the Société française de chimie at the Food Chemistry Division of EuCheMS.

H. This is lecturing extensively in all countries, and he is contributing to create molecular gastronomy laboratories in universities of the world. He is running many columns in journals, and published about 20 books : Les secrets de la casserole, Révélations gastronomiques, La casserole des enfants, Science et gastronomie, Casseroles et éprouvettes, Traité élémentaire de cuisine, Six lettres gourmandes, Maths'6, Petits propos culinaires et savants, La cuisine, c’est de l’amour, de l’art, de la technique, Construisons un repas, De la Science aux fourneaux, La Sagesse du chimiste, Science, technologie, technique (culinaires) : quelles relations ?, Les Précisions Culinaires, La Cuisine Note à Note, Mon histoire de cuisine.

Honorary member of many academies, member of the Académie d’Agriculture de France, of the Académie de Stanislas, of the Académie royale des sciences, des arts et des lettres de Belgique, of the European Academy of Science, Arts and Letters, he got many awards and prizes, such as the Franqui Professorship and the Grand Prix des Sciences de l’Aliment by the International Association of Gastronomy... Recently he was nominated Doctor Honoris Causa by the Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine Cluj-Napoca (USAMVCN).

Hervé This is officer of the French Ordre des Arts et Lettres, officer of the Ordre du Mérite Agricole, officer in the Ordre des Palmes Académiques, and knight in the Ordre de la Légion d’Honneur.