Insects? Why Not?

Dear Epicureans and culinary friends

About a year ago, I decided to investigate and study entomophagy.

I am rich of 33 years working in some of the best restaurants and hotels around the world. But I must admit, this is one part of our industry, I didn’t know much about.

It all starts with our own culinary culture.

As a French chef I know what it is to inspiring colleagues and guests with exclusive fine dinning or traditional food. I also know the surprise that it can create.

We, French, do eat strange things isn’t it? : Snails, frog legs, raw oysters, veal heads, etc. All which are normal to most French people.

Some very peculiar regional products cannot be found in supermarket but are still being eaten by many.

This one comes to my mind: Artisous cheese (with a crust made by/with mites) You can try it in the Auvergne region in Puy-en-Velay, right in the heart of France.

The casgiu merzu (cheese filled with live worms) can be found in the island of Corsica, south east of France main land and also in Italy on the island of Sardinia. Other delicacies appear on the best tables and restaurants such as veal testiculs, brains and many more.

So why not insects?

When I started my international career I discovered many ways of cooking, many new products and above all many cultures.

I discovered the true meaning of food culture, normal or even exclusive for certain and unthinkable for others.

Time also is a major importance when it comes to taste buds.

In the end of the 18th century people were starving. Auguste Parmentier tried for many years to convince them that potatoes were good but no one would eat them as they were suppose to be unholy. Ingeniously he created a garden exclusively for the King. It was guarded during the day and left unattended at night. People came and started stealing the tuber. Now in we all eat potatoes at least once a week.

Tomatoes were used as decoration as they were supposed to be poisonous. We know now only the leaves are poisonous.

In the US on the 50th there was not enough meat for everyone. They therefore through education and necessity started encouraging Americans to eat liver, tripes etc.

In France you would have not given a sushi to my Grandmother or people of her generation, same for Burgers. When McDonald came in the 80s they were teaching people how to eat without a fork and a knife.

I am sure many countries underwent such revolution in their daily food

So why not insects?

Let me give you some figures

Ratio of food needed to produce 10 Kg of meat

200 Kg Cereals

10 Kg Beef

63 Kg Cereals

10 Kg Pork

40 Kg Cereals

10 Kg Chicken

10 Kg rotten vegetables

10 Kg Insect

· For 1 Kg of beef we need 500 l of water none for insects

· Insect reject 95% less of greenhouse gases than beef

· Insects have 37% more proteins than beef. I am not a nutritionist so I cannot advice people on diet but since insects also provide vitamin B12, which is one of the key vitamins lacking in a vegan diet it could eventually completely replace meat products.

· 75 % of all insect are eatable when only 21% of all fishes are

So why not insects?

The Human and insect DNAs are very different which explains why illnesses cannot be passed on to us like we have seen with beef and poultries

So why not insects?

Cricket Pasta served with basil and sarriette pesto drizzled with capsicum compote

Ok all this being said, I have to try it. It is something to intellectualise the merit of entomology and something else to actually take a bug and shove it to your mouth.

This is my assignment: Try bugs and make something great for European eyes and taste buds.

I went to Paris to buy them. My choice as a beginner went for crickets and grasshoppers. No reason to be greedy at the first shot, I’ll wait for next week and try mealworms.

Scorpions, spiders, water cockroach and all will wait for phase XII when I’m ready.

We should actually be scared about eating Pringles not crickets. They are the one dangerous for our health. Damn I loved pringles…

Coming home my kids were all exited. We decided to start with the crickets. They are half the size of the grasshopper and sounded like the better choice for the first bite ever

The first apprehension was to grab them (I forgot to mention they are alive) and put they in a bowl. I mixed them with curry leaves, onion and garlic. Then hop hop, to the burning hot oil, Guerande salt “et voila” In just a few second they are ready.

Now I had to jump. Even though I spoke to my kids about this project I was amazed by their open mind. After lots of laughter, my son went in. He loved it. They are crispy and full of textures. We went on to my sister’s house to get some more first reactions. Same verdict: passed the surprise and the initial disgust, it’s good.

This is what Chefs and food lovers do: discover new products, new tastes, new flavours and new textures to play with. I feel the same energy, excitement and curiosity than when I discovered different food from around the world.

From different expert opinions, the grasshoppers taste better. I decided to stick to the same mix. In the hot oil they turn reddish like shrimps or prawns would do. Crickets were good. Grasshoppers are amazing. They have this delicate flavours going from prawns to hazelnuts. What do they taste like? Grasshopper!!

Many ideas are flowing to my mind right now. I start writing down recipes that I can’t wait to put to the test.

I went to some friends, all great chefs. So I layed out the products I have bought and few things I’ve made. All the people I asked to try went through the same process. Laughter, disgust, touch of fear and finally courage. It’s like back to kids hood. It was a delight for me to watch their reactions. Past the initial excitement, it’s time to re-become rational and analytical. IT’S GOOD!! everyone goes ahead and starts playing with things. Before we know it we have a insect base protein and energy bar 100% BIO, rich in vitamin B12, magnesium, zing, amino acid, omega 3 and 6 etc. Perfect for sportive and active people.

Since then I have not stop to experiment and came up with many things

So why not insects?

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