Molecular Cuisine

You have probably heard of Avant-Garde Cuisine, but what about Molecular Cuisine?  Huh?  I knew nothing about this fascinating scientific approach to cooking before I attended the Women in Food Industry Management (WFIM) networking event featuring Chef John Placko at Humber College in October.   And the attendees at the event were either huge Chef Placko/molecular cuisine fans, or had no idea what they were getting into that night.

Molecular cuisine (or gastronomy) investigates the physical and chemical transformations of ingredients that occur during cooking. It is a modern style of cooking and uses many technical & chemical innovations.  Chef Placko shared with us the three key elements to molecular cuisine: modern kitchen ingredients, unique equipment, and precise techniques.

One not so modern ingredient that was used was Sunflower Oil, which Chef Placko says is a great product to use because it doesn’t alter the taste of the main ingredients (The National Sunflower Association was a sponsor for the event – with Melon Pearls

Spherification was an interesting technique that Chef Placko used to make the Proscuitto with melon pearls that we tasted.  This process used ingredients such as Sodium Alginate and Calcium Chloride.

We also tasted Genoa salami with whipped parmesan cheese and black olive crumbs.  How do you whip parmesan cheese?  Chef Placko showed us this Aeration technique using sodium citrate and then placed into a siphon whip with 35% cream. And black olive crumbs? That’s a dehydration process.

genoa salami w whipped parmesan & black olive crumbs

Next on the menu was Sous vide turkey, cranberry foam, sous vide butternut squash, turkey snow, turkey skin crackling, stuffing micro sponge.  This was Thanksgiving dinner “deconstructed”!

turkey dinnerSous vide is basically a water bath, that uses pressure, temperature and time to cook the product. The benefit of this technique was an extremely moist, tender turkey breast! To create Turkey “snow” Chef Placko added malto-dextrin (a starch, usually from corn or tapioca, with no discernable flavor) to turkey fat to turn it into a delicate powder. Once this powder hits your tongue, it’s all gravy from there! The stuffing micro sponge was fun to watch Chef Placko create.  The stuffing was aerated, and then microwaved.  It literally looked like a sponge, and tasted like mom’s stuffing.  The cranberry foam was created using the ingredient versawhip.

carrot ice cream

Finally, dessert. Liquid nitrogen carrot ice cream, white chocolate snow, lemon fluid gel, flexible caramel, shattered raspberry and carbonated strawberry. Carrot ice cream?   It was delicious!  Chef Placko and his team made the ice cream right in front of us, using liquid nitrogen.   The carrot puree he used was from Canadian Prairie Garden (

The lemon fluid gel was made with agar and xanthan gum. And the flexible caramel was made with a blend of iota and kappa carrageenan. You see these items on ingredient lists all the time, but who knew what you could possibly do with them in your own kitchen?

Our eyes have been opened, and our taste buds mesmorized! But without investing in specialized equipment to use these techniques at home, where can we get more? Many restaurants feature menus of molecular cuisine.  Moto (Chicago), Noma (Copenhagen), The Fat Duck (UK), El Cellar de Can Roca (Spain), Alinea (Chicago), and Minibar (Washington DC).   Soon we won’t have to travel so far to find molecular cuisine:  Chef Placko is opening his own molecular gastronomy restaurant at the Pearson International Airport!

The next thing to investigate: Molecular Mixology!



Year in review

It’s that time of year…activities wind down so that one can relax and enjoy the sunshine!
It was only a few short months ago that I was standing up on a bus in front of WFIM members & guests saying my first welcome speech!   As the new chair of the board for WFIM, I’ve learned a lot in this past year about our organization, and I’ve gotten to know so many of our members.   We’ve had some changes in the board during the year, and many of us were new in our positions, so there was a rather large learning curve.   We had some issues with the website, but I’m happy to say that our marketing team, led by Michelle shebib, has the new website almost already to launch!
Our events team Bren de Leeuw, Mariana Macocei, and newcomer Brenda Seto have executed many great events this year…starting with our day trip to Niagara on the lake visiting a Chocolate F/X factory and Pilliteri Estates winery.  We had a great networking event with our own Donna Messer. Mary Jezerinac & Nadine Farran-Gatti executed our annual round table leadership academy, and plans are already well underway for the 2014 Academy.  December’s gala dinner featuring Ashley Chapman was our largest event ever- with 180 attendees.   We supported our membership with a health event in January featuring Leah Warner, developed our membership with a leadership event featuring Vanessa Judelman in March, and inspired our membership with street food and a fantastic tour of Griffith laboratories in April.    Our golf tournament at Eagles Nest, executed by Sanja Kivac, our golf chair, was a fantastic day of networking and golf.  To end our year, we had a wonderful dinner, followed by an inspiring presentation from Rose Reisman on the Art of Living Well.
I’d also like to note that our sponsors and members have supported great causes this year.   Between a turkey drive, raffles and donations, we have raised over $6000 for Second Harvest, and through sponsoring a participant in the culinary showdown, speaker  honorariums and a raffle at the June Gala, we have donated over $1000 to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.
I am very pleased with WFIM’s success this year.  I would like to thank all of the volunteers on the board – I wasn’t able to name you all in this speech, but you have been invaluable to me and our membership.   As well, big thanks to all of the volunteers at all of our events who help make them successful.  Finally, big thanks to our sponsors who support us financially to make all these good things happen.
Looking into 2014-15, we already have great events lined up:  a special Volunteer Appreciation night in September, Chef John Placko in October, Academy in November, and another Gala Dinner in December to get us going.
I’d also like to announce the newly renovated Scholarship program!  This award will honor a female graduating student from a recognized post-secondary program in the food industry.  Keep an eye on our website for application instructions.
Have a safe & wonderful summer!  See you at an event in the fall.
Nancy Klassen
WFIM Chair

2014 Nine & Dine Golf Tournament a Success!

While the weather might have been a bit cold and drizzly, over 100 golfers took to the course at Eagles Nest Golf Course in Maple, ON on Tuesday May 20th.  And the helicopter was able to take off to fly over the 18th hole & drop our lucky golf balls as we watched from the balcony of the Great Hall.   Then we enjoyed networking and a fabulous meal!

Thank you to all of the volunteers who helped in the planning & execution of the event.   Your time & energy is much appreciated by all who attended.

Thank you to everyone who donated items for the swag bag – they were chock full of exciting products! Thanks to everyone who donated prizes for the charity raffle.  And finally, thank you to all of the sponsors of the tournament.   With 20% of the sponsorship fees and 100% of the raffle ticket sales going to Second Harvest, we raised $3850, which turns into 7700 meals for Toronto’s hungry families.   What a success!


Nancy Klassen

WFIM Chair

National Sunflower Association networks with WFIM

The NSA sponsored WFIM’s October networking event at The International Center, featuring the Queen of Networking, Donna Messer. Chris & her associate were handing our sunflower seeds to all attendees, and held a draw for a lovely bouquet of sunflowers, and a watch/pen set.  Here’s what Chris had to say about their sponsorship:

“The National Sunflower Association (NSA) recently sponsored a WFIM networking event.This was an excellent opportunity for representatives of the NSA to meet WFIM members and to share information on the benefits of sunflower oil. The NSA had a table to display information and WFIM also posted a short sunflower oil powerpoint presentation on a loop, on a large screen, so all of the guests could learn more about sunflower oil.  We had a good opportunity to speak with WFIM members about what type of oil they are using and also were able to gather business cards for possible future follow-up.  WFIM volunteers were terrific to work with and I would highly recommend other companies and associations investigate opportunities to promote their brands with this organization in the future.”

Chris Gould, Senior Vice President, Harbinger

On behalf of the National Sunflower Association

A Letter from a Wonderful Sponsor!

October 1, 2013

Dear Women in Food Industry Management Board Members,

Advertising or supporting funds are difficult to obtain in these tight economic times. I made the decision many years ago that Flavorcan International Inc. would support Women in Food Industry Management.

Why? First it is a worthy endeavour as it brings together the best women at the table to encourage and mentor other women as they wander through the minefield of business and break through the glass ceiling. Flavorcan International Inc. is proud to be part of this. Second it is a unique opportunity to develop close relationships with a dynamic group of influencers and decision makers. Last but not least, investing in support for Women in Food Industry Management, which is a well-run organization, is a safe investment as the relationship only brings kudos.

The clincher for me was to attend one of their meetings. It was warm and friendly, with tremendous energy and a genuine desire to offer guidance, assistance and advise on the part of all.

I strongly encourage you to select Women in Food Industry Management as a place to advertise and an organization to support. It will make you feel good to be part of the organization.


Frank J. Ansell

Vice President