This Friday, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and his crew from the Crew-2 mission are flying to the ISS for six months. On certain occasions, they will be able to taste small dishes of gastronomic quality. On the menu: lobster, beef bourguignon, cod with black rice, potato and wild mushroom pancakes, or pies with almonds and caramelized pears.
From mashed beef to elaborate recipes
Space cuisine has evolved a lot since the take-off of Yuri Gagarin, who in 1961 ate mashed beef and chocolate sauce in toothpaste-like tubes. A few months later, John Glenn, the first American sent into orbit, had contented himself with applesauce. Then, little by little, the various operating space agencies understood that the well-being of their astronauts also went through good daily meals.
On the French side, things started to change in 1993 following the return of astronaut Jean-Pierre Haigneré from the Russian space station Mir. Everything had gone very well there, he said, except the food. Richard Filippi, chef in southwestern France, who had just heard Mr. Haigneré’s complaints on the radio, then contacted the National Center for Space Studies – the French equivalent of the NASA – to offer him his help.
Mr. Filippi and his students then cooked confits of beef stew, quail, tuna and lemon and other foods that accompanied French astronauts on subsequent missions to Mir in the 1990s. When the agency Space sought to relaunch the program in 2004 for the International Space Station, Mr. Filippi had unfortunately retired. To replace him, he therefore recommended the world-renowned Chef Alain Ducasse.
Since then, the latter has collaborated with the French space agency to create dishes available to astronauts aboard the station. Mr Ducasse’s team has now developed more than forty recipes, with gluten-free and vegetarian options (clafoutis with carrots and smoked paprika, or even quinoa cooked with saffron broth and vegetables).
Small special dishes for special occasions
For this Crew-2 mission, Thomas Pesquet and his friends from the ISS will therefore be able to taste small dishes prepared by Mr Ducasse. The latter also joined forces with another Michelin-starred Chef, Thierry Marx, and Raphaël Haumont, professor of physical chemistry at the University of Paris-Saclay. The latter’s support makes it possible to transform the various recipes offered so that the dishes can be sent into space to be tasted according to very technical specifications.
Note that the French Center for Culinary Innovation at this university had already prepared meals for Thomas Pesquet’s first trip to the space station in 2016. For your information, the astronaut and Chef Marx had met by chance at a judo conference a few years earlier (they’re both black belts).
Thomas Pesquet, a former Air France pilot, also asked Servair, a catering company for several airlines, to design dishes for him. These were prepared by Chef François Adamski. Lobster, beef bourguignon, cod with black rice, potato and mushroom pancakes or even pies with caramelized almonds and pears (his favorite dessert) will be offered.
These recipes will not be enjoyed every day, but only on certain occasions, such as birthdays. There are enough shares for the whole crew to enjoy.