What is foodpairing? An interview with Mario Pretzer.

He’s only just given us his top tips for a perfect Christmas dinner and now Mario’s back again to talk to us about foodpairing! We chatted to the Product Developer about the theme of our latest Specials menu.

Hello Mario! Thanks for chatting to us today. We’ve noticed that there’s a lot of foodpairing happening at Vapiano at the moment. But what does the term “foodpairing” actually mean?

The science of foodpairing has been around for years now. However, the term “aroma pairing” is probably more accurate. Our tongue is only able to detect five flavours, namely sweet, salt, bitter, sour and umami. But our sense of smell allows us to identify up to 10,000 different aromas. The science behind foodpairing is to combine these aromas effectively with one another.

Where did the idea come from to make aroma pairing the focus of the new Specials menu?

We were inspired by beer and wine tastings where a choice of dishes is often offered with the drinks. Discovering whether food and drink tastes good together is the same principle as aroma pairing. So we thought – we can go one better! Instead of drinks, we went back to basics and began combining different aromas in food. That’s why we use the term foodpairing for the new Specials.

Sounds exciting. Where did the trend originate?

Foodpairing was born in 1992 when chef Heston Blumenthal opened his famous “The Fat Duck” restaurant in London. Blumenthal was always an experimental cook so he began collaborating with the world’s largest flavour house to find out which aromas work best together. It started with a range of comprehensive tastings, but soon the question of whether aromas can be measured was raised. And yes – they can! Aromas can be subcategorised into key odorants. One of the first combinations Blumenthal discovered in the nineties was caviar with white chocolate. Sounds crazy, but it tastes amazing.

The latest Specials include a dish that combines a coffee-orange sauce with Roquefort. Is there any kind of system behind the pairings?

Key odorants are now scientifically tested and grouped into aroma trees. At the centre of each tree is a specific aroma, let’s use tomato as an example. Each tree has lots of smaller branches that show which aromas complement tomato. It’s easy to see good matches so that’s what I concentrated on. Only aromas that work well together feature on the menu. You need to imagine the new Specials like a loving couple. They’re like two individuals that complement and complete one another.

Are there any aromas that don’t go well together?

Any aromas not in the same tree are unlikely to work well together. But there’s no accounting for taste as the old saying goes!


Do diners need to experiment more when it comes to foodpairing?

I think so. It’s good to keep an open mind and try new things. I always say “the world of aromas belongs to the brave”.

Which of the new Specials would you recommend for those of us not as brave?

Pizza Felicita is a classic choice. It’s topped with chorizo, beans, marjoram and potatoes. One look at the aroma tree and we can see that these flavours have already been combined in a range of well-known recipes. Chorizo is often used in bean-based dishes. Both Insalata Piacere and Pasta Amore also contain more mainstream aroma pairings.

And which of the new Specials is your own personal favourite?

There are two I really like – and they’re both at the more radical end of the scale. One is Risotto Passione with prawns and a sauce made of white wine, passion fruit, white chocolate, star anise and mozzarella. The other is Pasta Curiosita which is served in a coffee-orange sauce with Roquefort and figs. If you’re brave enough to try this level of foodpairing, the rewards are immense. And surprisingly these two recipes scored highest in our internal taste tests.

Is it possible to try foodpairing at home? What are the rules?

Of course! There are even some traditional recipes that can be classed as foodpairing, like raw herring with onions and apples. You can find countless aroma trees online that show which ingredients are well matched. If you have two aromas in mind that you want to try together, my advice is just go for it!  Who knows, they could be a dream team. Foodpairing is all about being creative and adventurous.

Thanks for talking to us today Mario. We’re off to try Risotto Passione and Pasta Curiosita!