Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

'Food porn' at its best: Ex-Microsoft CTO publishes groundbreaking cookbook

Ann Bednarz | March 8, 2011
The $625 'Modernist Cuisine' cookbook is laden with spectacular photography that captures cooking techniques and chemical reactions such as the Leidenfrost effect.

FRAMINGHAM, 8 MARCH 2011 - Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft's first CTO, made his mark in the tech world. Now he's cemented his place in the world of cooking and food science with the publication of a groundbreaking six-volume, 2,438-page cookbook.

The nearly 50-pound tome comes with an equally hefty price tag: $625 (Amazon made it available for pre-order for $462). Titled "Modernist Cuisine", it's laden with spectacular photography that captures not only plated dishes but also graphic stills of cooking techniques and awesome chemical reactions such as the Leidenfrost effect (which occurs when a liquid comes in contact with a mass significantly hotter than the liquid's boiling point, and the liquid produces an insulating vapor layer that keeps it from boiling rapidly). 

Some of the techniques in Myhrvold's "Modernist Cuisine" are intimidating, to put it mildly, calling for such daunting ingredients as liquid nitrogen and equipment such as centrifuges and rotor-stator homogenizers. But Myhrvold and his co-authors insist that the majority of recipes can be made in a conventional home kitchen - with a few recommended, inexpensive extras such as a digital gram scale and water bath for sous vide cooking.

Some of the recipes are familiar, too, such as those for the ultimate cheeseburger and southern barbecue. And the cookbook includes tips for not-so-well endowed cooks, such as how low-cost pots and pan can perform better than expensive ones.

But despite tackling traditional food preparation methods such as grilling, smoking and stir-frying, the mission of "Modernist Cuisine" is to explore and document modern cooking techniques. The title references revolutionary periods in the arts when artists and architects eschewed traditional methods and created their own unprecedented styles. "Modernist Cuisine" is dedicated to a similarly innovative movement in the culinary arts.

It explores techniques refined over the last few decades, such as the use of thickeners, gels, emulsions and foams, and it gives step-by-step instructions on how to execute technical processes such as reverse spherification and spray-drying. It also includes recipes adapted from some of the master chefs who pioneered modern cuisine, including Grant Achatz, Ferran Adrià, Heston Blumenthal and Wylie Dufresne.

Befitting of Myhrvold's techie background, the first ideas for Modernist Cuisine were not inked on paper, but typed in an online forum.

Geek cuisine

Myhrvold's academic tech credentials are supreme. He's earned degrees in mathematics, geophysics, and space physics from UCLA, and PhDs in mathematical economics and theoretical physics from Princeton University. In his post-doctoral work at Cambridge University, Myhrvold worked on quantum theories of gravity with cosmologist Stephen Hawking.

 

1  2  3  Next Page 

Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.