Frozen Snacking Pops Onto Scene | Restaurants
By Alyssa Laiacona, Liberty High School
Upon entering, it’s clear to see that Popped is not your average popcorn shop. The journey begins with a selection from over 15 unique flavors that range from salty, savory and sweet.
The three managing partners, Jean-Francois Chavanel, Zelma Iwatsubo and Olivier Morowati, came together through their jobs at the Eifel Tower Restaurant and used their culinary experience to develop flavors that one wouldn’t normally find in their average popcorn tin.
Although the flavors contain one-of-a-kind combinations (such as “Chicago”, combining caramel, white cheddar and nacho cheese), the best part hasn’t even begun; for each cup bought, there is the option to freeze the popcorn in liquid nitrogen at a temperature of -300° F. This liquid nitrogen instantly chills the popcorn on contact and creates a smoky effect, leaving your cup and mouth with a steamy or foggy appearance.
“It’s a very cool product. Famous chefs around the world are using it in their kitchens, but only for very, very fine dining restaurants, so it’s expensive if you want to experience that,” Chavanel said.
The concept of mixing science and cooking, also known as molecular gastronomy, is not a new technique. Chefs all around the world have been experimenting with it over time, but until recently, the option to experience the procedure has been limited to fine dining restaurants.
“We thought it would be a good idea to bring that product, that liquid nitrogen, to everyone, but as a much more affordable thing,” Chavanel added. “We needed another product to associate them together, and that’s where popcorn came in place.”
The problem circling these superior restaurants, aside from cost, is their distinctive style and expectation of their standards. With a store such as Popped, the atmosphere is more relaxed, therefore they are more capable and likely to develop creativity in their products.
“It’s a little bit of both [art and science]. The fun thing about having a store like this is the chance to be creative and do your own thing,” Iwatsubo said. “If we want to put Nerds and Pop Rocks in our popcorn, then we can,”
Popped offers a flavor with just that combination, as “Pink-a-Delic” features the combination of popcorn and the afore-mentioned candies with a pink drizzle of chocolate.
“A lot of people get into cooking and they want to be creative, but once you get into a restaurant, you have so many guidelines that you have to follow in order to stay true to the form of that particular restaurant,” Iwatsubo added. “You don’t get that crazy or creative for the most part, where as [at Popped], we can do whatever we want.”
The partners at Popped help mainstream the art of science with their inexpensive popcorn. By balancing the projected pricey liquid nitrogen with a cheap popcorn product, anyone is capable of enjoying the sensation of frozen popcorn.
“I thought the nitrogen popcorn was really cool,” customer Rachel Evans (12) said. “I like the idea and experience.”
While some might question the safety of working with liquid nitrogen, it should be noted that it’s not deemed a hazardous chemical.
If one were to come in contact with liquid nitrogen on their skin for a brief second, the cold from the nitrogen and the warmth of one’s skin would have a balancing effect, allowing for the nitrogen to “bounce” off the skin, leaving one unharmed. This is why consuming the popcorn, or any product affected by liquid nitrogen, is not harmful to the customer.
“The one thing about liquid nitrogen is unless you soak your hand in it, it’s not really that dangerous. If you were to submerge your hand in it, then it would definitely cause problems because it’s -300° so it drops the temperature faster,” Iwatsubo said. “It would be really bad if it splattered in your eye or got on your face.”
While the concept of frozen popcorn does sound appealing to most, popcorn was not the trio’s first plan. Having to first start at zero, they had trials with foods and beverages of all kinds—fruit, gummy bears, even alcohol.
Popcorn came out on top due to its texture, creative flexibility and ease when working with the liquid nitrogen.
“Originally we were going to freeze our chocolate products, but because it’s so cold, and your mouth is so warm, your tongue will literally stick to the chocolate,” Iwatsubo said. “That’s why popcorn is so unique because it’s porous and it doesn’t have any wet edges, so it doesn’t create that effect in your mouth.”
With the business still getting on their feet, their focus is getting the word out about the product and their technique.
As the holidays approach, they look forward to channeling the seasons to inspire new flavors, hinting at a possible pumpkin spice or spiced caramel apple flavor coming soon. In the future, they hope to have weekly flavors.
“My favorite flavor would have to be Marylin Monroe,” Evans said. “It’s a combination of white chocolate and coconut with glitter, which is adorable and tastes great,” Evans said.
Since the trifecta has already modernized their cookings skills, they are constantly looking for outsider opinions to increase the uniqueness of their flavor combinations.
They are also very active with social media, and can be contacted via www.facebook.com/Popped. Here, upcoming flavors and suggestions can be followed.