French cuisine scales new heights

Acclaimed chef Thierry Marx, in association with chemist Raphaël Haumont has created four meals for French astronaut Thomas Pesquet for his six-month mission to the International Space Station.

Many of the world’s acclaimed chefs have had the honour of serving meals to important people on important occasions. For Michelin-starred chef Thierry Marx though, it’s not a head of state at some important global summit that he’s preparing French cuisine for. In association with chemist Raphaël Haumont, the chef has created four French meals for astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

Space meal
One of the meals that French astronaut Thomas Pesquet will carry to the International Space Station.
Photo courtesy Mathilde de l’Ecotais

Pesquet is scheduled to launch for a six-month mission on April 23 along with Akihiko Hoshide from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur from the US. The astronauts are to launch in a SpaceX Dragon Capsule which will carry them into orbit and to the International Space Station.

The food has been prepared as a collaborative effort between the French National Center for Space Studies, the European Space Agency, Ducasse Conseil and Henaff.

Both Marx and Haumont have worked with Pesquet before, on his previous mission to space in 2016. The meals they have created include a truffled pie of potatoes and onions from Roscoff, slowcooked beef with mushroom sauce, almond tart with caramelised pears and a freeze-dried cherry tomato preparation.

There is anticipation of a great culinary exchange on board, with astronauts of different nationalities carrying foods from their home countries. However, preparing food suitable for a space mission is rather complicated and several factors need to be considered. Nutrition needs to be balanced between fats, fibres and carbohydrates, with very little sugar present; it has to be ensured that there’s no harmful bacteria in the food; the food can’t have too much liquid which can disperse neither can it be too dry as that would create crumbs which could clog up equipment or cause harm when inhaled. The other critical factor is the taste. In zero-gravity, astronauts often lose their sense of taste, so it has to be ensured that the flavours are strong enough to register.

And of course, all of this has to fit in a box, in perfect hygiene conditions, preserving the taste and the presentation as well.

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