The Alinea Challenge: Help Us (Really) Flatten FoodS

Help! We want to flatten food. I mean, really flatten it. Maybe even fuse foods together in the process. And to do it, we'll need your ideas.

Many culinary innovations come out of the Alinea kitchen after asking basic questions: How can we create a temperature contrast in the diner's mouth? How can we transform maple syrup texturally? How can we remind a patron of their childhood? What does "winter" mean to you?

One of the ideas that Chef Achatz had was to significantly flatten or fuse foodstuffs using a very high-pressure press. The goal would be much like that of tenderizing meat by pounding it, but in a far more controlled yet extreme manner. For example, what would happen to asparagus if you could smoothly press it between two sheets of steel, flattening it into a thin pasta-like noodle? Could sufficient pressure fuse meats together?

The answer, of course, might be that we just create a mess. But really there are only a few ways you can manipulate food—you can heat it or cool it, or cut it or beat it in some manner, or perform basic chemistry by combining ingredients that act upon each other. Chef Achatz posits that by applying significant pressure to foods, he can create unexpected textures and combinations.

But we don't know for sure, because we haven't built the rig yet. We would like Gizmodo's readers to help us out on this one. In return, we are prepared to serve the maker of a successful entry the feast of a lifetime, on us, at Alinea.

Here is what we need:

1) A table-top method to press foods with greater force than a typical manual vise or wine press (note: we have already tried both of those)

2) It needs to be safe, measurable, controllable and relatively fast, as we need to serve 85 to 90 portions of its results each night

3) It needs to press the food withing a contained six-sided box so that the food doesn't go all over the place—ideally, the box itself could be adjustable

Build it, test it and take some pictures and send it to tips@gizmodo.com with "Alinea Challenge" in the subject line. Don't worry about tasty yet... our chefs can handle that.

Nick Kokonas co-founded Alinea with Grant Achatz in 2005, and works with the chef on Alinea-related projects, recruiting innovators to challenge and improve every aspect of the cooking and eating experience. A finance guy and web-oriented angel investor by trade, Kokonas got his start back in his teen years writing business software on an Apple II. You can grab the gorgeous Alinea cookbook here, or just visit Alinea's home page.

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