Surmounting the Sweet
Chicago-based chef Homaro Cantu is waging a war on obesity with molecular gastronomy and “miracle berries”. Molecular gastronomy might not sound like an appetizing phrase, but tell that to thousands of Chicagoans flocking to Moto Restaurant, an eatery twice listed on the Michelin Guide of Chicago. Chef Homaro Cantu built an establishment on the concept of molecular gastronomy, which is a style of cuisine that utilizes both ingredients from the food industry and science from the lab. Cantu’s kitchen therefore greatly resembles a laboratory, complete with smoky experiments and laser machines.
“I would describe the cuisine as shocking, yet tasty,” Cantu told Savory Cities. Many of his ideas are patent pending, but Cantu and his chefs are available during the meal to discuss the processes for all of the other dishes on site, removing the certain confusion and curiosity of Moto’s guests.
These 20-course meals at Moto will take a bite out of your paycheck, but where else can you eat your menu and have it taste like risotto? Cantu uses paper made from cornstarch or rice paper for that trick, as well as lasers and flavored dehydrated powders for a healthier version of your favorite foods. With Willy Wonka’s sweet tooth and Dr. Frankenstein’s lab skills, Cantu just wants to make the world a sweeter place–without the added health detriments of sugar.
“I don’t look at food problems as problems, I look at them as untapped resources,” Cantu told Bloomberg Businessweek. “There’s this whole other world of food that we’ve just scratched the surface of. The first time I tasted a miracle berry I went into work thinking everything we know is useless. Our mission now has to be to get rid of sugar.”
Cantu hopes that his innovations will help to combat obesity, as he removes sugars from the equation both literally and figuratively–there is no sugar in his science nor in his food. He accomplishes this with the help of the miracle berry, a substance that when consumed, it blocks the sour receptor in your taste buds making sour foods taste sweet. Thus, something so bitter such as sour cream and lemon juice will taste quite similarly to cheesecake.
Growing up in poverty, Cantu spent a few years being homeless, and found himself overly inundated with junk food. Himself, his mother and sister moved around the Pacific Northwest, which ignited a desire to combat world hunger and poverty. As he began to make a name for himself, this drive led to a less-than-orthodox experimentation in molecular gastronomy. He attended Le Cordon Bleu in Portland, Ore., then moved to Chicago to work for world-renowned Charlie Trotter.
Moto Restaurant’s doors have been open since 2004, and the 37-year-old Cantu has been featured on “Iron Chef”, USA Today, The New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek and has been rated on the Michelin Guide Chicago since 2012. More recently, Cantu began his own indoor farm to supplement the basic materials in the restaurant, which cost $12,000 to build, but saves Cantu $2,000 in a single week.
Efficient is one word to describe Cantu, innovative is another. Cantu’s goal of putting healthy, sugar-free ice cream in the hands of every American–now that, that is genius.