Sep. 1st
2010
written by scott

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On Thursday, I had the extremely rare privilege of getting an inside look at the kitchen laboratory at Intellectual Ventures.  If you aren’t aware, Nathan Myhrvold (Intellectual Ventures CEO) along with chefs Chris Young and Maxime Bilet, has spent the last four years working on the book Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking.  This will be no ordinary cookbook – at 2400 pages and 5 volumes, it is unarguably the most in-depth, detailed compendium on the scientific process of cooking that has ever been written.  I’ll have many more interesting facts on the book in upcoming posts, but if you want the big picture, check out my interview with Nathan Myhrvold back in May.

The pictures and videos below are from a reception that the Modernist Cuisine team hosted as part of the International Food Blogger’s Conference.   Needless to say, this is the most sophisticated kitchen on earth, and as a food geek, I was in heaven.  Click through for more photos and video.

Lab panorama
[Click the picture to view full-size] This panorama gives you a sense of the kitchen’s layout.  All of the stations are on wheels and the whole kitchen can be rearranged as the team focuses on different projects. 

 


In this video clip, CEO and King of the Food Geeks Dr. Nathan Myhrvold discusses the decision to not dumb down the book to cover only the equipment you’re likely to have in your home kitchen.

Spice Cabinet
[Click the picture for the full-size image (so you can read the labels)]  This is the Modernist Cuisine kitchen’s idea of a spice cabinet.  Many of the products are available through the website www.chefrubber.com

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A centrifuge is used here to separate solids from liquids and clarify sauces and stocks.  The green bottle is finely-blended raw peas that have separated into solids and pea water.


In this video, Chef Chris Young talks about the benefits of having a kitchen without customers.  The unique design of the Modernist Cuisine kitchen allows the staff (up to 36 people at certain points in the book’s development) to focus on research and testing of new recipes and techniques. 

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You’re looking at the world’s only deep-fried watermelon chips.  I have no idea how they managed to deep fry watermelon, but I promise that it’s a dangerous proposition if attempted incorrectly.  The chips were light and delicious, with a recognizable hint of caramelized watermelon flavor.

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Those look like beautiful cherries, don’t they? They’re actually made of foie gras.  And yes, they were delicious.

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Chefs plate a small bite of horse mackerel sashimi with ginger and plum, proving that not all of the recipes require a particle accelerator.

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My favorite dish of the night’: "tongue and cheek pastrami and rye”.  A thin slice of sous vide smoked Wagyu beef cheek is served with thinly-shaved tongue and delicate rye chips.  But, what makes this dish spectacular is the beef marrow mousseline (shown being shot out of a CO2 charger).  The mousseline is like the richest, fattiest mayonnaise you could imagine, except it’s made from sous vide egg yolks and bone marrow, and it is served warm. 

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The frozen pistachio “cream” (ie. pistachio ice cream) alone is worth the price of the book.  As you can see from its beautiful glossy sheen, the ice cream was creamy and incredibly smooth.  What makes this dish really incredible is that the ice cream is made only from pistachios, emulsifiers and sugar.  No milk. No Cream. No eggs.  That’s right, it’s vegan!

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And, for a little whimsy, they made olive oil and vanilla bean gummy worms.

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And finally, I was thrilled to get a picture with Nathan.  See that grin on my face?  I kept it for days.

For more information on the book, check back here and also be sure to visit the official site for the project, www.ModernistCuisine.com

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Update: The book finally has a shipping date – March 14th, 2011!  Pre-order your copy today!

11 Comments

  1. Thanks for posting this. I was unaware of the “optional” sessions because Foodista did not advertise them until it was too late but I would have really loved to go to this. Nice to experience it vicariously through you!

  2. Gael
    02/09/2010

    I looked at the panorama. It really is a science lab! Who gets cooking ingredients from Sigma-Aldrich? The rack drying all the glassware is basically only something I’ve seen in chemistry labs.

  3. 03/09/2010

    Such an awesome post, Scott! I wish I could have gone to that event, but if ever I was glad to have a reporter-on-the-ground, I’m glad it was you. No wonder you were so giddy all IFBC weekend!

  4. What a great opportunity to visit their lab. I am very envious. I would’ve jumped at the opportunity in a heartbeat, but the announcement came after booking travel arrangements already. Nice overview!

  5. Hey :) I linked to your post on my Modernist Cuisine post… just thought I’d share mine with you as well in case you wanted to link back.

    http://www.wasabimon.com/archive/modernist-cuisine/

  6. 02/11/2010

    Wow, this is a whole different world of food most people dont know about, thanks for sharing!

  7. 07/12/2010

    We also posted a story about Modernist Cuisine and would like to hear from those who purchase the book. From what we can tell, it will be a provocative and beautifully photographed cookbook. Please take a look at our story and keep it bookmarked – should you buy it. We would like to hear from you!
    http://thought2form.blogspot.com/2010/12/modernist-cuisine-art-and-science-of.html

  8. 17/02/2011

    And to think we have lots of centrifuges in my lab! I could be trying a few tricks, although our centrifuge bottles look pretty beaten by comparison to theirs :-)

    Great article, it’s quite exciting what can be done with ingredients these days.

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