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Molecular gastronomy: cuisine innovation or modern day alchemy?

John Cousins (The Food and Beverage Training Company, London, UK)
Kevin O'Gorman (Strathclyde Business School, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)
Marc Stierand (NHTV Breda University – The Academy of Hotel Management, Breda, The Netherlands)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Article publication date: 20 April 2010



This paper aims to explore the phenomenon of molecular gastronomy by conducting empirical research focusing on renowned chefs.


The approach taken is a literature review summarising past culinary innovations then the paper focuses on the origins and evolution of molecular gastronomy, followed by 18 phenomenological interviews with a snowball sample of world class chefs from across Europe.


There is far greater confusion about what molecular gastronomy might be than is implied in previous studies. The term has become wrongly used to describe a possible culinary movement mainly as a result of media influence. Leading chefs, whose new restaurant concepts have become associated with it, reject the term.

Research limitations/implications

With only 20 years of history molecular gastronomy is still a comparatively new phenomenon. This initial research presents a clear picture of its evolution so far and the increasing confusion the use of the term has created. It is still far too early to decide if these are heralding a new gastronomic movement.

Practical implications

Although molecular gastronomy itself may not provide a foundation for a genuine and lasting development of cuisine it is generating fascination with the fundamental science and techniques of cuisine and showy culinary alchemy. As with nouvelle cuisine poor quality copycat chefs could bring into disrepute the reputation and practices of those who are at the vanguard of culinary and restaurant innovation.


This paper is the first widespread primary study, across five countries, into recognised exceptional chefs' understanding of molecular gastronomy. It clarifies that molecular gastronomy was never intended to be the foundation of a culinary movement and identifies four key elements for the development of lasting cuisine movements and trends.



Cousins, J., O'Gorman, K. and Stierand, M. (2010), "Molecular gastronomy: cuisine innovation or modern day alchemy?", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 399-415.



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