Would you eat soup made from crickets? A participant tries an hors d'oeuvres made with insects at a seminar at Le Cordon Bleu's cooking school in Bangkok, Thailand. At left is a bowl of a cockchafers and large beetles (AP photos)
Would you eat soup made from crickets?
Lexile

Bugs in a gourmet kitchen are usually something to be squashed or swatted. But at Le Cordon Bleu, the esteemed French cooking school, chefs and food scientists spent a week simmering, sauteing and grilling insects. The chefs wanted to extract innovative flavors they say could open a new frontier for eating.

As a finale to their research, the school's Bangkok branch held a seminar. It was called "Edible Insects in a Gastronomic Context," and it booked up weeks in advance. The event in Thailand included lectures and a tasting menu for 60 open-minded participants. They were a mix of student chefs, scientists, professors and insect farmers.

First came a vial of ant-infused gin, followed by a shot glass of warm cricket consomme. Next came an hors d'oeuvre of cockchafer butter and herb crisp. A cockchafer could be mistaken for a water bug but is in fact a giant beetle.

The insects were not visible in the final products but artfully hidden. The bugs were pureed into batters, their juices extracted for essence.

"We didn't want to just put a bug on a salad and say, 'Voila!' We wanted to know, can we extract interesting flavors, new textures, aromas and turn it into something delicious?" said Christophe Mercier. He helped organize the event in the Thai capital.

Before anyone else could crack a joke about bugs in fine French food, the chefs made their own.

"This is the first time that insects have been granted access to the Cordon Bleu," Mercier said with a smile. He added that the 120-year-old Paris-based school had never to his knowledge held a workshop quite like this.

At the school's entrance, a welcome table was decorated with tropical flowers and bowls of bugs. There were crickets, silk worms, bamboo worms and live water bugs as big as a toddler's hand.

The idea for the event was inspired by local eating habits in Southeast Asia. In Thailand and neighboring countries, many people eat fried insects as snacks, leading Mercier and colleagues to wonder if they could learn from the locals. He ran the idea past his Paris headquarters and "they were excited by the idea," he said.

It was the gin that helped win over the chefs.

"Some things were very impressive, and some things were very bizarre," said Fabrice Danniel, master chef at Bangkok's Cordon Bleu. "The taste of the alcohol was amazing. It's more than alcohol. The taste was unique."

"I was very surprised with the consomme, too," he said about the broth served in a shot glass. Participants described it as meaty, nutty, flavorful, subtle and not-at-all grainy. "It was light, yet full with aroma and flavors flavors of the insect," Danniel said.

A Cordon Bleu chef, Christian May, admitted privately that he was initially repulsed by the intense aroma of the grilled crickets for the broth. He encouraged his colleagues not to demonstrate for the seminar how the consomme was made but just serve it elegantly on trays, which they did.

"It tasted good. You just have to remove the image of the insect from your mind," he said, noting that this will be the biggest challenge if and when insects go mainstream in Western cuisine.

Before that happens, more research is needed. It's not clear if serving insects is legal in all Western countries. Proper hygiene needs to be ensured at insect farms. There are also safety concerns.

Chefs should tap the knowledge of cooks in countries where insects are commonly eaten, he said. According to the U.N., insects have long been part of human diets in nearly 100 countries, particularly in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

In Thailand alone, there are 200 species of insects eaten as food, said Patrick Durst, a senior official with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization who has co-authored a study on Thailand's edible insect industry. To people who frown on eating bugs, he says this: "Take a look at shrimp. What an ugly creature. Is it any more attractive than a grasshopper?"

And what about snails, said French chef Willy Daurade, who made the evening's dessert a "bamboo worm bite."

"We eat escargots," said Daurade. "They're ugly. But in fact it's delicious."

After the seminar, the chefs repaired to a back room for a glass of champagne and congratulated themselves on a good start.

"This is not the end of the story," said Danniel, the master chef. "We want to develop more recipes, hold another workshop and maybe even write a cookbook."

Critical thinking challenge: Why did Christian May discourage colleagues from demonstrating how the bug-based consomme was made?

Assigned 7 times


COMMENTS (3)
  • morgann-war
    2/27/2015 - 01:56 p.m.

    I think its cool that they are making a popular food and putting a twist on it. I wonder really how it taste, because everyone has different taste buds. I wonder how they got it to be perfectly cooked. I would try it. I don't know if I would like it.

  • Steve0620-yyca
    10/13/2015 - 09:22 p.m.

    I think that it is good that many people are trying different kinds of foods. It is good to try new things than rather to just giving up while not trying at all. I think that the chefs must have been proud of themselves for having a good start. They have celebrated themselves and I hope that they will do good.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    6/21/2016 - 02:32 p.m.

    The chefs would like to make food from bugs that they had been collecting instead of just killing them off with sprays and swatting them, they would just collect them and make them into food that they can think of. The food that had been made from bugs had been collected and sampled which people would be able to eat bugs instead of just eating them right away. The way that people would like to eat the bugs is to cook them up so that people wouldn't be disgusted by the bugs. The bugs that had been used to make the food is that people would be using the bugs as food instead of just a disgusting bug all around.
    Critical Thinking Question: Why did Christian May discourage colleagues from demonstrating how the bug-based consomme was made?
    Answer: I know why Christian May discourage colleagues from demonstrating how the bug-based consomme was made because he doesn't want the colleagues to become addicted with the bug-based consomme that they had made by themselves.

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