The Biggest, Greatest, Most Revolutionary Cookbook Ever. No kidding.

image via Modernist Cuisine.

We love the antics of the rich and eccentric.

They build castles and amusement parks, buy exotic islands and sports teams, run for public office, and book travel on spaceships. Now we have billionaire Nathan Myhrvold, developer of Windows software, former Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft, and author of a self-published, six-volume, 2,400-page, 48-pound, $625 cookbook.

As you would expect from the man who Stephen Hawking turns to for help with quantum theories of gravity, this is no ordinary cookbook. In the words of the book’s website, Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking “is des­tined to rein­vent cook­ing.” Heady stuff, indeed.

The early reviews are equally extravagant. On Food and Cooking author Harold McGee, no stranger to classic culinary tomes, calls Modernist Cuisine “a land­mark con­tri­bu­tion to the craft of cook­ing…” Über-inventive chef Ferran Adrià claims “his book will change the way we under­stand the kitchen.” Publisher Tim Zagat says it is no less than “The most impor­tant book in the culi­nary arts since Escoffier.” Noted chef David Chang dubbed it “The cook­book to end all cook­books.”

You might want to write this off as the hyperbolic back-slapping of culinary cohorts, but you shouldn’t. Nathan Myhrvold has the technical aptitude, the intellectual bandwidth, and the financial means to accomplish just about anything. His other current projects include partnering with Bill Gates to cure malaria, stratospheric experimentation to counteract global warming, and unlocking the secrets of the dinosaurs. Anything seems possible when he steps into the kitchen.

And what a kitchen.
In 2007, Myhrvold created the Cooking Lab within Intellectual Ventures, the Bellevue, Washington-based think tank/laboratory/venture capital group where he is employed as CEO. He built the most sophisticated kitchen on the planet, filled it with cutting-edge equipment and gadgets, and deployed dozens of cooks, scientists, designers, writers, editors, and photographers with the singular goal of producing, standardizing, and documenting modernist cuisine.

Amid homogenizers, cryo-guns, centrifuges, autoclaves, and evaporators, Myhrvold and his team have spent the last few years taking food science to an extreme. But while the ingredients and techniques were more Periodic Table than Joy of Cooking, they were seeking answers to familiar questions: How do you roast a whole chicken without drying out the breast meat? Can cheese be melted without separating? What makes the crispest potato chips?

The book was expected to arrive in time to be the ultimate holiday gift for the foodie set, but the publication date was recently pushed back to March 2011. One reason given, beyond the exhaustive task of proofing 2,400 pages, was the book’s failure to pass a rigorous series of drop tests conducted by Amazon, the party responsible for shipping it in all its multi-volumed, slip-cased, shock-absorbing-box-within-a-box glory. The good news is that Amazon is accepting pre-orders, and is knocking $150 off the cover price.


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One Response to The Biggest, Greatest, Most Revolutionary Cookbook Ever. No kidding.

  1. Pingback: Modernist Thanksgiving | Gigabiting

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