Okay, French astronaut food sounds awesome

Canned meals prepared by French chef Alain Ducasse’s team for the French astronaut Thomas Pesquet
Canned meals prepared by French chef Alain Ducasse’s team for the French astronaut Thomas Pesquet
Photo: SEBASTIEN SALOM-GOMIS / Contributor (Getty Images)

If you’ve been reading us for more than, oh, a day, you know how much we love astronauts here at The Takeout. There’s our obsession with someday trying astronaut food, our excitement to learn that astronauts have successfully harvested radishes in space, and our curiosity about whether or not you can brew beer up there, too. And space cookies. But most of the time it seems like astronaut food, by necessity, doesn’t sound that great. It’s got to weather some extreme environmental changes, and it has to last for a very long time, so it has to be robust, not necessarily delicious. But the New York Times reports that the France-based European Space Agency has teamed up with Michelin-starred chefs to come up with some really fancy special-occasion space food, and it sounds fantastic.

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Thomas Pesquet is the French astronaut that is part of the four-person SpaceX crew whose mission to the International Space Station launched today. The crew shares meals with each other, and even astronauts need some luxury sometimes.

The two Michelin-starred chefs that helped design the meals are Alain Ducasse and Thierry Marx. They worked with Raphaël Haumont, a physical chemistry professor at the University of Paris-Saclay. Some of the food they designed for the mission includes cod with black rice, lobster, beef bourguignon, potato cakes with wild mushrooms, and almond tarts with caramelized pears. Damn. Now, this isn’t everyday food, it’s for occasions like birthdays, with enough servings for Pesquet to share.

This kind of food is difficult to engineer, as much of it either has to be freeze dried or heated to 285 degrees Fahrenheit for a full hour for sterilization. That kills a lot of flavor. Plus, nothing can have alcohol in it, so anything with, say, wine, needs to have the alcohol removed by a spinning evaporator. But despite the challenges, the team found that it was exciting, because they got to play with ingredients and techniques that they ordinarily wouldn’t have via French food, like seaweed.

“There are small tricks like this to produce umami that will reveal certain flavors,” Dr. Haumont said.

The culinary crew learned many more lessons along the way, including that trying to sterilize a croissant in a can just doesn’t work. So I definitely recommend you add this piece to your Friday reading list, because one, it’s Friday, and two, astronauts are awesome.

Staff writer at The Takeout. Also: Saveur Humor Blog Award Winner, professional pizza maker, and insufferable troublemaker.

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The French don’t stint when it comes to army rations, either. While our guys are trying to choke down MRE chili, their Gallic counterparts are enjoying duck cassoulet and pate: