June 16, 2009 / 6:00 PM / 10 years ago

Chefs Cantu pushes boundaries with dishes, gadgets

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Chef Homaro Cantu describes the energy-saving cooking gadgets he invents with the same passion as the cutting-edge dishes he creates.

Chef Homaro Cantu is seen in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Moto Restaurant/Handout

Cantu, 33, is the executive chef at Moto, a Chicago restaurant where diners can literally eat their menus and enjoy fish cooked and served inside a special polymer box designed by Cantu.

His inventiveness goes back to his childhood when he dismantled and rebuilt his father’s lawnmower. He spoke to Reuters about his inventions and creating memorable meals.

Q: How do you describe your cuisine?

A: “Some people call it post-modern. I call it pleasurable, outside-the-box food.”

Q: What type of diners does your restaurant cater to?

A: “They are people looking to be wowed. They want to see something they’ve never seen before. My goal is that I want them to remember every course in the next 10 years.”

Q: Given your fascination with science, why did you decide to become a chef?

A: “If you choose to work in the scientific field, it’s usually a very specialized subject you are working on. You are confined to that area. In the kitchen, as long as it runs and can turn a profit, a chef has so much ability to work on so many different things from hydrotechnology to storing energy to polymer ovens for increased efficiency in cooking ... That’s a powerful thing.”

Q: Do you see yourself as more of a food scientist than a chef?

A: “Everything in the kitchen is an opportunity. I don’t know if it’s science or physics or it’s just cooking. When I turn on the faucet, I see untapped, recoupable energy that could be sent back to the grid.”

Q: You have been working with algae in your kitchen. Why?

A: “Algae grows faster than anything else. We have been experimenting with it and creating biofuel out of it. The cool thing about it is that plants can grow really quickly from algae water instead of fortified water so you can spend some of that and use it as biodiesel while you are feeding the plants.”


Crispy Sushi Hand Rolls (Makes 4 hand rolls)

Crunchy Rice:

1 cup converted rice

4 cups of canola oil for frying

4 oz of sushi grade salmon, diced into 1/8th inch cubes

Ancho Mayo:

1 egg yolk

1 cup of canola oil

2 tablespoons of sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon of ancho chili powder

10 toasted peanuts

1 tablespoon of soy sauce

juice of 1/2 lemon

sea salt for tasting

2 large sheets nori, cut half

1. Heat 4 cups of canola oil to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Add converted rice in 1/4 cup portion and allow it to puff into rice krispie-like shapes. (Converted rice works due to the fact that it has been parboiled and then dehydrated. When fried at a high temperature, the small amount of moisture left inside the grains of rice heat up and cause the grains to explode.) After the rice is puffed, allow to cool and drain on a paper towel.

2. In a blender, add the egg yolk, then slowly drizzle the canola and sesame oil until the mixture resembles mayonnaise.

3. Add the ancho powder, peanuts, soy sauce, lemon juice. Season with salt to taste.

4. Toss the salmon with the mayonnaise and allow to sit covered in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

5. When ready to serve, toss the rice with the salmon. Roll the nori into a cone shape and fill it with the crunchy rice mixture.

Reporting by Richard Leong; editing by Patricia Reaney

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