Occasionally, the inspiration for our favorite restaurants is steeped in mystery. No one is quite sure, for example, if The Olive Garden's Culinary Institute of Tuscany is a sham or a paradise of soup, salad, and breadsticks. Today, Gizmodo's Matt Buchanan offers us a rare glimpse into the super-secret "culinary lab" behind Momofuku restaurants. Buchanan describes how owner David Chang and his fellow chefs blend food and science, push culinary boundaries (asking, for example, why nobody ever cooks with the tops of strawberries), and experiment with, yes, microbes:

As Chang talks, a small barrel filled with shoyu sits in a dark corner of the lab, secreting flavor crystals through the cracks, looking like the world's tastiest barrel of toxic waste. "Microbes, I feel is without a doubt-food on a microbial level-is going to play a massive role in the near future, or now. I mean, even now people are saying let's make pickles, let's do it all in house, let's cure our own meats, let's do all this stuff. That's all happening because of fucking bacteria and fungus."

Here's a video interview with Chang: