Miracle Food: Can World Hunger Be Solved By Tricking Taste Buds?

Homaro Cantu believes the world can be changed through the science of taste.

ByJake Whitman and Ben Forer
December 22, 2011, 10:30 AM

Jan. 19, 2012 -- Homaro Cantu's world is part kitchen, part laboratory. The Chicago chef is more mad scientist than traditional culinary artist, and he's attempting to not just create delicious meals, but to challenge the very definition of food as he toys with its flavors.

"Our goal is to expand our dictionary of what food is," Cantu told ABC News.

Cantu is ringmaster at one of the Windy City's most sought after restaurants, Moto, a place where even the menu is edible. Take a bite, after you order, and the edible paper on a cracker tastes like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

"People pay a premium for Moto Restaurant because it's food that they're never going to see anywhere else," said Cantu.

Watch Homaro Cantu's TED Talk

In Cantu's kitchen nothing is at it seems. What appear to be nachos -- chips, sour cream and ground beef -- will surprise even the most discerning of foodies.

"We basically just take the chocolate and put it in a blender and it turns into ground beef," Cantu explained. "The chips are made from corn chips, the cheese is made from Mexican sweet potatoes, and the green chile salsa is actually Mexican kiwi with some strawberry and some Mexican flan."

Last March, on the TED stage, Cantu wowed the audience by literally turning lemons into lemonade with a little pill made from a wild berry grown in West Africa. It's nicknamed the miracle berry and has a mysterious protein that temporarily inhibits the taste of sour and bitter things.

After taking the pill, members of the audience were able to bite directly into a lemon and have it taste exactly like lemonade.

Click here to learn more about the collaboration between "World News With Diane Sawyer" and TED, the nonprofit devoted to "Ideas Worth Spreading." Watch other riveting TEDTalks and share your own ideas.

Cantu believes the world can be changed through the science of taste. One of his dishes uses ingredients that are readily available for free.

"We basically take some grass and fry it. And bam, you've got yourself a dish that could actually be procured from your backyard depending on where you live," he said. "Agriculture as we know it could really be changed just by tricking our tongues."

The hope is that one day the science of taste could give starving nations something good to eat or make junk food healthy.

"So it starts ... at this trendy establishment and those trends hopefully tickle down into a bigger audience," Cantu told ABC News. "We can rework it a little to make it like our junk food. ... If it looks good and makes you hungry, why not?"

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