I won the golden ticket! Yes, literally I won a ticket when I ate at ING  back in October and the prize was dinner for two at Moto and the opportunity to be head chef for the day.  Ok, maybe not head chef… actually I was probably 3 levels below the intern but I did get to spent 5 hours working behind the scenes in a famous well known culinary science-esque type kitchen. I did have to sign an NDA so I can’t reveal any of the hard core secrets that I saw but I am pretty sure they shielded me from the proprietary stuff- like I didn’t get the secret recipe for Homaro’s edible paper but I did get to peel a few hundred cloves of garlic and I got to wash some beautiful micro-greens and I got to liquid-nitrogenize a sunchoke dressing.

Edible paper and a pumpkin made from pumpkin

Moto restaurant is one of the top 10 restaurants inaccurately referred to as “Molecular Gastronomy” restaurants. This restaurant, along with the no longer in existance El Bulli, WD50 (NYC) and Alinea (Chicago) are known for using industrial ingredients like xanthan gum, “kappa” carageenen and calcium chloride to make their food do things that foods don’t normally do- (which I find very ironic since we, the food scientists, use those same ingredients to make food do what it should do and stay that way for long periods of time). As a food scientist I see the humor in how they use our lab industrial ingredients but I also admire their creativity that inspires them to turn pumpkin puree into foam and then form it into the shape of a mini pumpkin. We never get to have that much fun in the R&D lab- I am usually under a tight timeline trying to figure out which starch will give my sauce the right home-made textured look to match the gold standard the restaurant chain chef wants me to recreate! Ok- maybe we DO get to have as much fun, but our work has consequences.. if we don’t get the texture right, then no business for us!

All the chefs that I worked with at @Moto were high energy and dynamic. You have to be both high energy and precise to work there- you need to be quick and accurate-all at the same time. Head chef Richie Farina and his crew were all that! Chef Richie also had great tattoos…

Richie has great ink!

Richie has great ink!

Moto had several pieces of industrial looking equipment, it had some rotary flasks and my favorite was the Brookfield in the corner. I am not quite sure what they use the Brookfield for, but I know I use it to confirm consistency in sauce viscosity. I wonder what spindle number they use?


Chef Homaro Cantu is the founder and Executive Chef at Moto.  He is a chef, but really he is an inventor. He mostly invents ideas that are edible, like edible paper. His recent obsession is with the miracle berry, otherwise known as Synsepalum dulcificum. You can eat some miracle berry and then eat a lemon- and it tastes sweet! Homaro recently finished a cookbook that has foods that are normally not sweet, that you can eat POST eating a miracle berry- and it will taste sweet. This one of a kind collection of recipes utilizes the flavor altering properties of a berry that contains zero sugar within the fruit itself. Once this berry covers your palate it tricks your taste buds into thinking healthy foods are actually desserts! You can eat ice-cream that has had all the sugar removed and it still tastes sweet. The hope is that this berry can become readily available in all households and help eliminate refined sugar from the diet.  Cantu also has a new show called Cooking Under Pressure, a web based series about what goes on behind the scenes at ING restaurant. Cantu was the keynote speaker at the 2013 RCA show this year in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was assigned to help him prepare the miracle berry tasting and I spent four hours cutting lemons, wrapping them and putting the lemons, spoons, sour cream and miracle berry into a paper bag that went onto 500 + chairs at the keynote session. I was wearing high heel boots, so the task was painful, but I was grateful that I got to spend all that time with Homaro and listen to his stories about patents and miracle berry and his other inventions.

More on the RCA next week!!!

About rachel zemser

One Response to “I was Chef for a day @Moto”

  1. Ellen Powell

    I loved the Miracle Berry experiment at the RCA. Thanks for getting it all ready for us!

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