Modernist Cuisine: The Future of Food?
Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young and Maxime Bilet.
The future of food is here, and it weighs 22 kilograms.
When Chef Ferran Adria says “this book will change the way we understand the kitchen” about your cookbook, you know you have made it.
Modernist Cuisine comprises the work of Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet into book that Chef David Chang calls “the cook book to end all cook books.” These chefs (slash-scientists) employ a scientific and technical approach to both their cooking and the way they’ve put the book together. The book consists of six volumes and some 2,400 pages and costs around $600.
Many food critics have praised Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking by Nathan Myhrvold, with its scientific principles and space-age gastronomic tools, as the most important culinary publication in history. But others wondered whether it needlessly complicates the fairly basic concept of cooking and eating….
WHY IS IT DIFFERENT?
Whatever the critic opinions, most agree that the book will help young chefs and aspiring home cooks understand the fundamentals and principles of cooking.
The six volumes cover topics from traditional methods such as the discovery of fire and grilling, to the fascination with modern devices such as sous-vide equipment and cream siphons. The authors share their infatuation, letting no machine stand unused in their quest for novelty and perfection.
It covers just about anything and everything to do with cooking: history and fundamentals, techniques and equipment, animals and plants, ingredients and preparations, plated-dish recipes and a kitchen manual (which is printed on washable paper).
THE AUTHOR, NATHAN MYHRVOLD
Myhrvold was the first chief technology officer at Microsoft. Since leaving the company in 1999 – a wealthy man – he has spent a lot of time pursuing his passion for food. Myhrvold is an avid amateur cook with professional credentials (among them several World Championship of Barbecue first prizes and culinary training at the famous La Varenne cooking school), and for this work he has partnered with Chris Young and Maxime Bilet, who have both worked at the Fat Duck, the experimental restaurant outside London headed by Heston Blumenthal. Among them they have degrees in physics, mathematics, biochemistry and creative writing, and with a team of 20 cooks and researchers they have analysed the known, investigated the new and invented what they found lacking in the modern cuisine.
At the centre of “Modernist Cuisine” is the revolution in cooking that has taken place in the past decade. Fine-dining restaurants, once the stage for predictable plays of comfort and confirmation, have become the place to go to experience the unexpected. Chefs use new techniques to discover new flavours and textures. They use the knowledge brought to the table by science – to make food the world has never seen before: an olive that has been deconstructed and reassembled into a floating sphere that looks and tastes like an olive but feels like something you have never experienced (at El Bulli in Spain); a meringue “cooked” on a griddle that is not hot but super cold (at Alinea in Chicago); egg and bacon ice cream (at the Fat Duck). Cooking has moved from the age of fire, to the space age.
Modern cooking has broken the rule of the meal as sustenance – as food, even. “I do not intend to feed people,” Ferran Adria has said. “They can do that the 364 other days of the year.”
Judging by the sheer number of websites and blogs, books and TV shows, restaurants and chefs dedicated to “molecular” or “modernist” cuisine, science has made itself at home in the kitchen. Is it all a fad? Will it take the place of a well-cooked, medium rare steak?
We believe that science is here to stay, and if Myhrvold has any say in that matter, that even home cooks will adopt modernist techniques, equipment and ingredients to turn food into surreal entertainment. Feed your imagination!
Photos are all creations from Modernist Cuisine: The Art & Science of Cooking