The World's First "All Synthetic" Meal Graces a Five-Star Table

By Boonsri Dickinson | April 20, 2009 6:21 pm

3288576484_d7c71ed816.jpgFrench chef Pierre Gagnaire served up the world’s first “synthetic gourmet dish” in a restaurant in Hong Kong’s Mandarin Oriental hotel today. The meal began with an apple-lemon flavored appetizer—jelly balls made of a “combination of ascorbic acid, glucose, citric acid and a few grams of 4-O-a-glucopyranosyl-D-sorbitol, a sugar substitute otherwise known as maltitol.” The main dish, lobster fricassee, surely sounds yummy—the chef even described the entrée as “smooth, crusty and frosty.” But the ingredients resemble a laundry list of chemicals you’re likely to find with a “Mr. Yuck” sticker. To top it off, the “lobster” was flavored in a special sauce made from tartaric acid, glucose, and polyphenols.

For months, Gagnaire worked with the French chemist Harvé This—the co-founder of molecular gastronomy—to concoct this allegedly tasty, unnatural meal from scratch. Chemist-turned-chef This sees the potential for this new way of creating and cooking vegetable substitutes molecule-by-molecule as a way to end world hunger. Instead of buying veggies from the grocery store, chefs could instead mix together caroteniods, pectins, fructose, and glucuronic acid to whip up a carrot (esque) dish.

The idea is solid, but what about the nutritional value of vegetables your mom probably nagged about?

Perhaps we can get all the nutrition we need from these synthetic veggies, just so long as they’re packed with essential vitamins in the same way foods like boxed cereal are. But what about other essentials, like synthetic chocolate?

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Image: flickr/Jenni232323

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Food, Nutrition, & More Food
MORE ABOUT: chemicals, cooking, food
  • red

    It sounds tasty for a five star restaurant but how can it compete with naturally grown food?

  • http://yahoo carmen

    there is no way this is good news for anybody. talk about junk food .

  • luca

    How exactly is the idea solid? There’s thousands of different compounds in every natural bite we take – to put together an equivalent would certainly cost more than aturally growing the foodstuff, especially if vegetable.

    plus, I’m damn sure that weird contraption will not taste anything like my mum’s pasta dishes 😉

  • Jumblepudding

    IT’S PEOPLE! I will eat synthetics if it means people who never had good natural food can at least try the real thing before moving on to lab-grown treats.

  • Terri

    This is one the most obsurb and stupid ideas that man could possibly come up with. Why do you think people are dying of cancers and incurable diseases? It’s the chemicals in the form of additvies and perservatives that are already being added to food that are causing death! Only God knows what it takes to live in divine health, painfree and without disease……not man!!!

  • Jay Walker

    hey, religious zealot, first, learn to spell, and second, nobody said anything about wanting to achieve ‘divine health, painfree without disease’.

  • Chris

    I second Jay’s comment. Leave the religious crap out of it. I would worry about finding out ten…fifteen…twenty years from now that this stuff causes birth defects, cancer, mutations, or more democrates. We have too many dems already and cancer just sucks.

  • Claire

    Here’s a little more religion for you: The Book of Revelation….one more sign that the End Times are surely upon us.
    They should sprinkle a little nanotechnology on top of it for seasoning – and to facilitate our descent.



  • Stacy

    First of all, I don’t know what the hell ‘Soylent Green’ is and second of all, don’t we have much more important issues to deal with in molecular biology then to make ‘fake’ food? We need to get our priorities in line. This is just a ridiculous idea. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

  • Mark

    Soylent Green wasn’t synthetic, it was people!!! We surely grow enough of those already…

  • Stacy

    I guess I’m too young to know about Soylent Green, but I will now whatch it. I thought it was just an old urban legend in my hometown…

  • geeta

    “Perhaps we can get all the nutrition we need from these synthetic veggies, just so long as they’re packed with essential vitamins…”.
    The offensive phrases in the above sentence are – “all the nutrition we need” and “essential vitamins”. It is good to remind ourselves that noone knows how many and what are the essential vitamins and what a single fruit/veg contains, before some republican tries to make a business out of synthetic food and puts them in the supermarket shelves, unlabelled/mislabelled to become a billiannaire before the fallacy is uncovered.

  • Stacy

    We can’t even get all the nutrition and vitamins we need from large agricultural crops anymore…an apple today is half as nutritious as it was 40 years ago.

  • Absnorm

    Perhaps we could feed this toxic mash just to Republicans – there is nothing lower or more obscene on the planet and this would be a good way to solve two problems. And if you really want to know anything about food go to and read!!!

  • David

    Perhaps we could feed this toxic mash just to Democrats – there is nothing lower or more obscene on the planet and this would be a good way to solve two problems.

  • Don Haywood

    This is great. If I could only eat synthetic food, I would! There are no worries about parasites, pesticides, etc. etc. Come on Star Trek food synthesizer – I am ready.


  • mmissinglink

    Are the ‘foods’ that the vast majority of people in Western civilizations consume any less unnatural or bizarre than this new food? Think about it for a moment…most foods that we purchase are processed in some unnatural way or another. Even if we eat strictly what are typically assumed to be ‘unprocessed’ foods, we are still often eating products that are either sprayed with chemicals, coated with waxes, irradiated or treated with gases that can not be tasted, and are genetic manipulations of human inginuity as just a few of the most obvious examples.

    But much more importantly, each one of us ought to seriously consider and act upon (if we have not done so yet) the most significant problem that our culture faces in terms of what we consume. It is the addiction that many of us have to animal’s vestiges and corpses which stands far above any other concern which is problematic not only for human health, but also for the planet, and of course the sentient individuals whom are unnecessarily killed for the what boils down to a culinary indulgence…a selfish satisfying of one’s tastebuds. Don’t miss this:

    Thanks for your consideration.

  • Sondra

    Talk about carbon footprint – how much energy went into creating all of these chemicals? Energy much better spent growing whole food, real vegetables with all their delicious ingredients of vitamins, minerals, tastes.

    What an incredible waste of human ingenuity.

  • Biff the impaler

    Everything is chemicals.
    Some chemicals are nicer than other chemicals, some chemicals are worse.
    Creating food using molecular biology is okay because this person is a chef.
    Most of the chemicals are already available, so the energy spent to create this dish was probably nowhere near what it would have taken to grow an organic alternative.
    No Messiahs were harmed in the production of this food.
    Synthetic food can be adjusted to contain those vitamins and nutrients that are required.
    Soylent green was processed dead people, synthetic food isn’t.
    Democrats and Republicans are equally obscene and repulsive so long as they are mindlessly partisan.
    Democrates was a Pythagorean philosopher, Democrats are an American political party.
    If everybody became a vegan, most of the world’s wild animals would die off because we would have used their pasturage for human food, since we would need so much more grown to offset the loss of meat protein.
    Claire and Terri terrify me.
    Why was there a Tree of knowledge in the garden of Eden if God didn’t want the only two human inhabitants to eat it?
    Genetic mutations are good for us, evolutionarily speaking.
    If the End of Times is imminent, have you stopped paying your bills Claire?
    People are dying of cancers and incurable diseases because they are living longer. People used to be old and die at fifty. In 1900, the life expectancy was 47 years of age. Only one person in 25 had then survived to age 60. Women lived shorter lives due to childbirth.
    As you get older your cells begin to break down and mutate, so your chances of getting cancer multiply.
    Anyway, I agree with Don Haywood, I can’t wait to get my teeth into a tasty synth-burger with all the trimmings. It sure beats a cancer laden char broiled steak!

  • Biff the impaler

    Oh, and what are religious zealots doing reading a science article? Isn’t that, like, blasphemy or something? Didn’t you guys get the memo?

  • clara

    hey there biff..the impaler….haha :]
    i think its rather more of a GOOD thing that people of faith/religion are becoming interested in science, if only to criticize it. so pleaes don’t make fun of them.
    at least they’re thinking about science.

    “Perhaps we can get all the nutrition we need from these synthetic veggies, just so long as they’re packed with essential vitamins in the same way foods like boxed cereal are.”

    and how is it possible to even conceive of a synthetic food? I mean, as others have stated above, even the smallest berry has thousands of compounds at exact proportions that only work with each other in a specific biological system….
    isn’t it true that most pill supplments and vitamins are ineffective because they need to be absorbed with other molecular components in the food in order to be effective in the body? And fortifying cereal that hs been stripped of its nurtrional qualitites in the first place is quite redundant, methinks.

  • willymack

    Good idea. As long as we continue to be too dim-witted to get our balooning population under control, a backup plan for food may just prevent mass starvation.

  • kudzu3

    LOL I see all religions are represented including the political ones. I would eat nothng but synthetic food in a chicken fried minute if it could help me control my weight without going hungry. I have been fighting the problem all my life since I was 11 or 12 and had my full height and the body of an adult. Most of the time I do ok ,but have my times when I spend all my waking hours fighting the feed me feed me feed me beast within. And I am NOT anorexic or bulimic or any of that nonsense. It took me eight years to get down to 160 pounds after having lost 160 pounds at my top mark. I am only half the person I used to be. chortle! I plan to stay that way but it truly sucks to try to tame the impulse to eat too much. I love science. I eat lots of veggies and yes I HAVE had counseling and hypnosis which have helped.

  • chris

    I support the creation of purely synthetic food.

    It is possibly a step towards taking us out of the food chain, which at some point may be necessary.

    As well as if it leads to possible solutions for world hunger or just anything useful for that matter.

  • johnn costello

    just as Terri says i’ts obsurd

  • Not a vegan but

    Biff, I agree with a lot of your points but you got one wrong:

    Biff the Impaler said “If everybody became a vegan, most of the world’s wild animals would die off because we would have used their pasturage for human food, since we would need so much more grown to offset the loss of meat protein.”

    Actually, it’s the opposite way around. Consuming meat protein is a wasteful indirect way of consuming plants. The less animals we eat, the less area we would need for growing food for those animals to eat, and they would have more pasturage. Eating plants directly is plainly more efficient.

  • kudzu3

    Hmmmmmm I think death causes death. Since I would probably be dead now if I had not had access to medications that have helped prolong my life after the stroke that got my attention before I lost all that poundage, fot my blood pressure under control and so forth I am kinda grateful for the ‘synthetic’ additives I have have consumed. I am sort of in the school of thought that if it is made from the elements on the planet it can’t be too ‘un-natural’.

    me Says, if you don’t like folks trying to be kind to the planet, let me remind you that It is not nice to fool with Mother’s Nature. LOL and good grief try to calm down a little, no one is asking that you participate in being green to the detriment of your sanity after all. Just find something else that interests you and let folks be happy trying to be good and kind and caring already. I heard your opinion stated somewhat more genteel like eons ago it seems like when someone pointed out that if the planet gets good and tired of us it will just eliminate us with very little problem. no F words at all.

    Not a vegan but says I think your make a great point.

  • Lee37

    Hey everybody, if you want to be healthy, don’t eat synthetic food. In my opinion, most disease is caused by either poor nutrition, too many toxins in the body, too much electromagnetic radiation, too much stress or any combination of all of the above.

    Poor nutrition results from consuming processed foods marketed by major companies. The foods are stripped of all nutrients to the point where they have to be “enriched” just to put back some of the vitamins and minerals lost in the processing of the foods. These “enriched” processed foods are not as healthy for you as organic whole foods. The added “natural” ingredients are not really natural at all but another way to slip chemicals into the food to make it tastier and addictive so you will buy more of it. Any publicly traded corporation’s only obligation is to make money for it’s shareholders. Follow the money trail.

    Many of these added ingredients are toxic and accumulate in the body. Take a look at trans fats and why they were used. They helped better preserve the food giving it a longer shelf life and made it tastier and addictive at a much cheaper cost to the manufacturer. But trans fats are unhealthy to consume. It’s all about the money.

    So it deeply concerns me when I hear about fully synthetic foods. Humans didn’t evolve eating synthetic foods. It can’t be good for you. It might taste good, but I’ll bet that since it isn’t whole or organic, it won’t be metabolized properly in the body and eventually they’ll find out that it causes more health problems, such as cancer. Our bodies didn’t evolve to metabolize chemicals. This can’t be a good thing for consumers. I think it’s just another way for some publicly traded corporation to make more money at any expense.

    And don’t think for one minute that you can trust the FDA. They are closely tied to the pharmaceutical companies where some of their people are FDA board members…. and some congressional members receive “contributions” to enact legislation in favor of the large publicly traded corporations. So when in doubt, just follow the money trail.

    So I won’t be eating at this restaurant.

  • joywaves

    I am fascinated with everyone’s responses and I can appreciate each person’s slant because we are all, in our own unique ways, searching for answers. We struggle with values and morals because we still are defining who we are as humans, and are not equally conscious of the same things at the same time. I believe every single thing we create in our outside reality, including synthetic food/pseudo-nourishment, is another attempt to reveal our inner nature. We are living in a duality that forces us to think we must decide if we want quality or quantity, purity or sustainability,and other couplings. When our deepest soul knows we are of One Source where the Truth is the same, where opposites meet in Love. In continuing to push the edges of human possibilities, we must be able to govern ourselves with responsibility and align with Divine Principles. Otherwise we will lose our way again and again, wreckless with power, thinking we will find the answers we seek outside ourselves.

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