Monday, March 26, 2012

What is a Gastronaut?

Picholine olive & Marcona almond croissant, olive pit custard, almond honey with thyme blossoms, deep fried castelvetrano olives
Listening to a recent interview between Leah McGrath, dietitian for Ingles Markets, and Laura Huff, the Carolina Epicurean, talk about the culinary landscape of Asheville and Western North Carolina; the term gastronaut was mentioned.  They even envisioned a gastronaut wearing a colander over their head!  Whatever the gear, I thought it would be good to put some perspective on who is a gastronaut.

Among other definitions, its a book by Stefan Gates, its a club for 'adventurous eaters', its a business to find you that unique culinary experience and its another definition for a foodie.

Of course it is no ordinary foodie that may be called a gastronaut.  Gastronauts tend to be on the tip of the cutting edge of the culinary panorama.  An individual who will do whatever it takes to find or create unusual, exotic and even mysterious food.  At times it could bend toward unlikely alien food such as worm flavored or tea from panda poo (yuck!).

Chefs that are working out modes of molecular gastronomy are obvious gastronauts.  Molecular gastronomy is the practice of transforming ingredients physically and chemically while cooking.  The creation of food foams incorporated into a unique dish is just one of many forms that is being used.  Not every Chef is excited about this but it is a practice that is on the forefront of several cutting edge techniques.

Seared and braised quail with olive brûlée, parmesan niçoise olive crisps
I believe that a gastronaut is someone who enjoys the creative side of the kitchen.  A person who is willing to try or create innovative approaches to the world of food.  For those who like the traditional styles of cuisine along, it is not to them we speak.  Personally, I am fine with being a foodie or a gastronaut as long as I don't eat worms or drink panda poo.  So maybe I'm a safe, yet adventurous, gastronaut.

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