The Volcano, first patented in 1996 by German Markus Storz as a “Hot Air Extraction Inhaler”, is now becoming well known as a kitchen appliance by “Hypermodern” chefs. Known as the premier device that uses hot air to extract aroma from herbs, plants and spices, the Volcano vaporizer is being used to add “flavor” to the dining experience via the sense of smell.
Honestly, I’m not sure how “Hypermodern” this is. Potato chip manufacturers and fast food restaurants have also used the same idea of “pumping out” scents. Ever heard of Glade? But, ok I get it. It’s like getting aromatherapy from my food.
So How Does It Work?
If you’re not familiar with the Volcano vaporizer, it is a brushed-aluminum cone shaped air-heating device that is used to generate hot air to extract and contain moisture from plants, herbs, flowers or spices. This moisture is known as vapor. The vapor is contained in a thin, light plastic bag called a “pillow”. This pillow has a pressure-sensitive valve that allows the aroma to be released from the pillow. The vapor is then used to add aroma to culinary creations. Considered as somewhat scientific to traditional chefs, this process of adding aroma to food is more technically known as Molecular Gastronomy.
The Hypermodern Chef
Using what is called an “Easy Valve Mixology Attachment” (basically a tube that can be attached to a large filling chamber), chefs like Francisco Migoya, of the Apple Pie Bakery Café, at the Culinary Institute of America, use it to add Cinnamon aroma to the packaging that contain his Bacon Maple Candy Bar creations. Once the package is opened, the aroma of fresh Cinnamon is released into the air. The candy bar itself contains no Cinnamon, but the sensation from the scent of the spice adds to the chocolate indulger’s experience. Apparently, the tongue can distinguish only seven different tastes, while the nose can recognize over 700.
Other Hypermodern chefs like Grant Achatz of Alinea restaurant are using it to make “aroma pillows. These pillows are being used to dispense aromas during the dining experience. Achatz had developed a method of emitting maize aroma into the air by poking small holes in pillows underneath the plates his braised duck.
According to the chef, the taste of maize is considered bitter and unpleasant, but the aroma is inviting and pleasant. This aroma in the form of vapor gives the diner the experience of the spice without the taste.
The trend of “Hypermodern” cuisine and the trend of “Experience Design” are becoming prominent in dining culture. The Volcano vaporizer has set the standard for “hot-air balloon” vaporizers, and is now setting the standard as a necessary culinary tool for creative forward-thinking cooks. The fine artists of food are pushing the boundaries of sensory perception and human experience in fine dining establishments.
Will I be using the Volcano as a way to add scent-sations to my fantastic grill cheese sandwiches? Probably not! But for those folks who use the Volcano for Cannabis consumption, you can get your chef on as well. There are recipes online on how to use your herbal “leftovers” to create butter, for example. With vaporizing, a substantial amount of moisture is extracted from the herb, but a good amount still remains once vapor can no longer be extracted. Like to recycle? Me too. It’s what makes my grill cheese sandwiches so fantastic. Butter baby.