Everyone eats. Food is culture. Food is personal. Food is participatory. Food is fun, but we bet you knew all that.
The museum's MOFAD Lab premiered not long ago with its stinky, aromatic and beguiling exhibit called "Flavor: Making It and Faking It." It's a multi-sensory exhibit that shows how the flavor industry somehow separated the natural flavor from food and came to dominate what we eat, and you've got to see (and smell and taste) it to believe it.
Dave Arnold, founder and president of MOFAD, illustrates an exhibit mixing aromas — Photo courtesy of Maria Lisella
"We envisioned a museum that would be able to show people what the links are between food and our cultural identities, the science of food, the history and economics of food," says Peter Kim, a former attorney who took on the full-time project of creating MOFAD.
MOFAD's earliest and most basic introduction to a multi-sensory experience about the flavor industry — Photo courtesy of Maria Lisella
Glide over to the Cola Smell Machine to deconstruct your next bottle of Coke, which relies on essential oils of lemon, orange, cinnamon and vanilla to add zip and tang to its proprietary formula.
Visitors go on an adventure through the physiology, science, history and culture behind flavor – tasting and sniffing every inch of the way. Modern alchemy, reverse engineering and the journey of vanilla from plant to extract are all journeys to be charted.
“MOFAD Lab uses an accessible subject – the food we eat – to delve into complex questions of culture, history, science and art, and will provide an incredible springboard for a full Museum of Food and Drink in New York," says Dave Arnold, founder and president of MOFAD.
Arnold, some may recall, is the mad culinary scientist famous for using liquid nitrogen and a centrifuge to create the futuristic cocktails at Momofuku's Booker and Dax Bar.
Buzz at MOFAD's opening, which was attended by chefs, foodies and reporters — Photo courtesy of Maria Lisella
The exhibit that has caught the most attention is the "SmellSynth" – a machine that allows visitors to press combinations of buttons to smell the compounds that make up the smell of a strawberry, both individually and as an ensemble. The ability to construct and deconstruct a strawberry aroma reveals the incredible complexities that underlie everything we smell and eat.
Visitors can try to taste test natural flavors and their artificial counterparts, finding it is a challenge to determine which ones were better, more familiar, real, fabricated or if you can even tell the difference.
MOFAD will serve as a gathering place for culinary think tanks, discussions, debates, experiments and hands-on education about food and drink in all its complexity.
Considered the first step toward the ultimate goal of creating a full-scale, permanent 30,000-square-foot Museum of Food and Drink in New York City by 2019, MOFAD is currently housed in an industrial space at 62 Bayard St., adjacent to McCarren Park on the edge of Greenpoint, Brooklyn.