UAE chiefs warn of dangers of using liquid nitrogen after Dubai incident

Since the term “molecular gastronomy” was coined by French chemist Herve This and Hungarian physicist Nicholas Kurti in 1988, food science, which focuses on the chemical processes of cooking as opposed to traditional means, has grown in popularity.

The style of cooking became mainstream in the 1990s and early 2000s, popularized by famous names such as celebrity British chef Heston Blumenthal, known for his experimental take on food.

A popular tool used in molecular gastronomy is liquid nitrogen, which, due to its extremely low temperature, makes it ideal for quick freezing and adding texture to foods. It is also used to give dishes a smoky visual effect and has become popular among restaurants with menus that include theatrical presentations.

However, liquid nitrogen can also cause severe cold burns if not handled carefully. Cryogenic fluid should also be stored in a thermally insulated container, as it immediately freezes any living tissue.

A high-end restaurant in Dubai apologized this week after a waiter accidentally spilled liquid nitrogen on a restaurant. The guest suffered minor burns when liquid nitrogen hit his back while waiters were serving at a nearby table and required emergency hospital treatment.

UAE chefs and restaurateurs say great care should be taken if liquid nitrogen is used for cooking or serving.

“Contact with liquid nitrogen vapor can quickly freeze skin tissue and eye fluids, leading to cold burns, frostbite and permanent damage from even brief exposure,” says Sanjay Vazirani, General Manager of Foodlink. Global Restaurants & Catering Services.

“In addition, drinking the liquid without full vaporization can also cause serious damage to the tissues of the mouth, esophagus and stomach. Thus, everyone should ensure that if used, chefs and the servers are absolutely trained and aware of the dangers, as it can be extremely dangerous or fatal if not handled correctly.”

Kevin Joshi, director of marketing and public relations at Atelier House Hospitality, says restaurants should avoid it altogether “unless it adds strong value to the concept of the dish”.

“It’s a trend that peaked a few years ago and is no longer a novelty,” he says. The National.


Joshi’s company operates a number of restaurants in the UAE, including the Michelin-starred 11 Woodfire, Indian restaurant Mohalla and Marea Dubai, which serves Italian dishes.

Although none of these sites use liquid nitrogen, it has worked with restaurants that have.

“It is imperative that the process of handling and serving a dish with liquid nitrogen is designed with the risk of contact with guests, servers and chefs in mind,” he adds. .

Chef Claudio Cardoso, Culinary Director of SLS Dubai Hotel & Residences, says liquid nitrogen is a great cooking tool and shouldn’t be used more than that.

“Liquid nitrogen is an incredible component for crafting amazing recipes. I see it as a newer, underappreciated but also misused cooking technique in most cases,” he says.

“Not everyone has had safety training or even an understanding of this component and how dangerous it can be to safety in the work environment or [for] guests in general. It’s important that anyone considering using it does research and training, so there are no unfortunate incidents.”

Chef Claudio Cardoso says liquid nitrogen is a great cooking tool and shouldn't be used more than that.  Photo: SLS Dubai Hotel

According to Chef Praveen Singh, Chief Executive of Goldmead Hospitality Group, Dubai Municipality has compiled a list of do’s and don’ts for the F&B industry when it comes to using liquid nitrogen.

But, he says, professionals must be individually responsible.

“Just being extremely careful and following certain practices will ensure that we don’t end up in an unfortunate turn with our employees or our customers, thereby jeopardizing our brand reputation,” he says.

Chef Vanessa Bayma says she prefers using dry ice, which is much safer than liquid nitrogen.  Photo: CBC Council and Events

Chef Vanessa Bayma, who runs CBC Consultancy and Events, says she and her team do not use liquid nitrogen for food presentations due to safety risks.

“My team and I prefer to work with dry ice, which is now our signature cloud presentation. Since it’s not liquid nitrogen, it’s much safer for customers and we can focus on food,” she said.

Bayma says if the need to use liquid nitrogen arises, it’s always done from a safe distance.

“At the request of a client, we only use liquid nitrogen for dramatic effect poured directly into the water at the periphery of the event space,” she says. “We ensure that our team takes precautions when working with liquid nitrogen, such as wearing appropriate cryogenic gloves and other protective gear.”

Updated: January 26, 2023, 1:04 p.m.