I’m a Foodie — and I Love McDonald’s

Industrial food science is the new molecular gastronomy

Thomas Smith


Image courtesy the author.

I consider myself a foodie.

I’ve eaten at some of the world’s best restaurants--from the three-Michelin-started pastoral splendor of Meadowood, to the cozy rooms of Alice Waters' iconic Chez Panisse, to restaurants owned by Iron Chefs and cultural legends like Ayesha Curry.

I’m an avid follower of Thomas Keller, and have visited every branch of his fantastic Bouchon bistro, from Napa to Vegas to New York. I spend an ungodly portion of my income at Whole Foods. I’m fully willing to drop $75 on a really good duck breast.

But (and this really shouldn’t have to be a “but"), I also love, love, love McDonald’s.

Supersize Me left me unfazed — the burgers frankly looked a lot better to me than the vegan fare at the end. When I read Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser’s scathing expose about the fast food industry, it made me hungry.

Why do I love McDonald’s? Here’s a few reasons--and some reasons foodies shouldn’t turn up their noses at the iconic Golden Arches.

Food Science at its Finest

There’s a big trend right now towards a cooking movement called Molecular Gastronomy. The movement seeks to break down foods and flavor into their constituent molecular parts, and reassemble/explore them in new and innovative ways.

The kitchen of a Molecular Gastronomy restaurant looks more like a lab than a space for making food. Out are cutting boards and mixers. In are centrifuges, liquid-nitrogen-powered flash freezers, and rotor-stator homogenizers.

The movement is epitomized by Nathan Myhrvold’s masterwork Modernist Cuisine, a tome that clocks in at 2,438 pages, cost untold millions, and took a staff of 36 to produce.

But its tenets have trickled down to restaurants everywhere. You can now get a sous vide egg bite at Starbucks, and scientific ingredients like xanthan gum are making their way into the toolkits of many high-end chefs, and even enlightened home cooks.

When it comes to science, though, Molecular Gastronomy has nothing on McDonald’s.