There’s more to combining ingredients than a chef’s intuition. The Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal was the first one to challenge the conventional perception of ‘combinations’. When he was looking for a way to accentuate the salty flavour of his chocolate dessert, he started experimenting with cured duck ham (which worked quite well), with various types of shellfish (which were not as successful) and eventually with caviar (which worked very well). By serving chocolate with caviar, he discovered that flavours form pleasing combinations because they share the same chemical compounds that are responsible for flavour.
As a food scientist and aficionado, I wanted to shed some light on why this marriage was so succesful, even more when chef Sang Hoon Degeimbre (L’air du Temps, Belgium) turned to me with his surprising ‘Kiwhuïtre’, a combination of oyster and kiwi. After analyzing both ingredients, we concluded that kiwi and oyster are both rich in ‘green’ and ‘sea-like’ aromas, and therefore form a good pair.
After a series of tests with chefs and barmen from all over the world, our hypothesis was confirmed: ingredients combine well when they have similar key aromas in common.