A Little Willpowder Goes a Long Way

by Tejal Rao
January 2007

What can bring together two seemingly irreconcilable ingredients to form one perfectly emulsified body? What turns a cup of ordinary tea into sweet clouds of perfume? What does it take to suspend dense elements in a liquid? Fingers point toward the usual gang of hydrocolloids responsible for these tricks, products that once sounded so foreign to chefs but have become part of the culinary vernacular in the past couple of years. While chefs like Wylie Dufresne of wd-50 suggest contacting the manufacturers directly (not a bad idea) to source them out, what could be more supportive than ordering from a fellow chef?

If you’ve worked for the sort of chef who didn’t like sharing his recipes, or kept his techniques and secret ingredients to himself for fear of losing his signature style to a young whippersnapper, Will Goldfarb’s approach to food will be very refreshing. He’s not into creating an image of metaphysical Jedi-esque powers and makes no secret of the sometimes wacky techniques he employs when creating his desserts. Instead he’s launched Willpowder: the line of products that Goldfarb manipulates in his dessert bar, Room 4 Dessert, to form interesting textures and mouth-feels, stable emulsions, as well as some flavorings like mild curry powder, tandoori powder that simulates the flavor of the tandoor, and smoked salt.

For cooks (professional and home alike) interested in the toys that take the shape of pale powders and allow for the culinary play-world of warm gels, foams, and emulsions, Goldfarb offers up his favorites with clear explanations, recipes and a phone number to call with questions. Prices range from $4 to $14 for a 2 to 4 ounce-packet—just the right quantity for a cook who’s not sure his flirtation with spherification will turn into a long-term relationship and hesitates committing to 5 pound-bags of calcium chloride and sodium alginate. For chefs who are serious about stocking up, the products are also available wholesale. Check out Goldfarb’s site for details.