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Nathan Myhrvold reinvents cooking in "Modernist Cuisine"

Published on: December 30, 2013

modernist_cuisineThere has been much anticipation over former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold's new six-volume cookbook, Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. And though this 2,438-page collection costs quite the pretty penny (listing price: $625, but available on Amazon for $460), this is one cookbook that will certainly go down in foodie history with the best of them.

We've been following the March release of Myhrvold's Modernist Cuisine for the past couple months and Myhrvold's background and the story behind the creation of Modernist Cuisine could not be more interesting.

As a theoretical physicist and a computer scientist with a multimillion dollar fortune, Myhrvold assembled a 46-person "kitchen dream team" and spent the last five years not only tinkering in the kitchen, but quite possibly reinventing the craft and science of cooking entirely.

But what inspired Myhrvold to take on such an ambitious foodie endeavor?

In a nutshell, he simply wanted to know the correct sous vide temperatures for cooking food in his home kitchen. After much research, he realized that this information was not readily available -- as he had assumed that it would be.

nathan_myhrvoldArmed with his scientific background and lifelong dedication and interest in home cooking, Myhrvold quickly got to work in testing the best sous vide temperatures of chicken, beef and salmon in his home kitchen. And by the time he was finished, Myhrvold had created models and charts of his experiments graphing the heat transfers through foods of different shapes and sizes, necessary timing for desired temperatures and much more.

These findings quickly became the ultimate resource on the sous vide technique and when someone finally suggested that Myhrvold write a book about it, Myhrvold says, “From there I sort of decided, hey, why not do the whole thing?”And in five years with quite possibly the most advanced amateur cooking team ever imagined, Myhrvold accomplished just that with co-authors Chris Young and Maxime Bilet in the Modernist Cuisine. (Learn more about Myhrvold and Modernist Cuisine in the excellent February Wired article.)

Weighing in at 40 pounds with its six included volumes, Modernist Cuisine is just as impressive in content and photography as it is in size. This collection dives deep into anything and everything that you could ever want to know about cooking, with volumes covering: history and fundamentals, techniques and equipment, animals and plants, ingredients and preparation, plated-dish recipes and an overall kitchen manual. And though the price tag may be just as hefty as the collection's bulk, Modernist Cuisine is truly a monumental collection that is not-to-be-missed.

And as for what Myhrvold hopes that readers will take away from this comprehensive collection, he simply states in a recent interview with Epicurious, "[An] appreciation of how cooking works."

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