scott and nathanToday is my last day at Modernist Cuisine. After three and a half years serving as the Director of Applied Research, it’s time for me to turn my attention to Sansaire full-time.

To call this decision “bittersweet” is a gross understatement. This has been my Dream Job, and every moment of my time at MC lived up to the fantasy I conjured when I first heard about the place. I’ve had the most incredible opportunities and the most unimaginable experiences here. I’ve worked alongside ridiculously talented people and learned from the best culinary minds in the world. And, for my part, I’ve made a contribution to books that will forever mark the period in history when the science of cooking became accessible to the world.

My first visit to the Modernist Cuisine lab was five years ago. I visited as part of an open house thrown in honor of the International Food Blogger’s Conference, and although I had spoken with Nathan on the phone once previously, it was our first time meeting in person. He was as effusive and smart as I expected, and way less stuffy. I soaked in every detail of the lab tour (with my jaw dragging on the ground), and I wore a stupid grin for a week after that.

It was crystal clear that this is where I was meant to work. Although he never said it in exactly these words, I think Nathan recognized that I was the right kind of crazy to be at Modernist Cuisine. (Note: Nathan has, on many other documented occasions, pointed out that I am plenty of other kinds of crazy.) When he created an opportunity for me to graduate from “unofficial fan club president” to full-time employee, Nathan was taking a risk that some guy from the Excel team at Microsoft with no culinary training and (I mean this pejoratively) a blog would be a good addition to his team.

Less than two months into my job, I was on a plane to Los Angeles with a steamed omelet laser-etched with Jimmy Kimmel’s face packed in my suitcase. A few weeks later, I was sitting for lunch with the Top Chef judges, designing our new website, and reviewing chapters for the upcoming Modernist Cuisine at Home release. When I opened my eyes next, I was writing code for a motorized microscope mount to shoot focus-stacked photography, designing a museum exhibit, mastering CNC-milled slip-cast ceramics, introducing Ferran Adria at Seattle Town Hall, 3D printing a mold for bean-to-bar chocolate, making liquid nitrogen ice cream on Irish TV, building a robot, laser-cutting a gingerbread house, and convincing Andrew Zimmern to drink dinosaur broth.

Through all of those experiences – and too many others to list – I had the time of my life. The Modernist Cuisine team has grown and matured, and their capabilities, creativity, and energy now are the best I’ve ever witnessed. My team specifically – Melissa, Caren and Gabbie – are individually the kind of people I may spend the rest of my career trying to find and hire; as a team, they’re an unmatched force in the industry. The editorial team is turning the largest bread book project in history into a printed reality, and with Head Chef Francisco Migoya at the helm, the culinary team is cranking out delicious, beautiful, and uniquely Modernist bread that [I believe] will hugely disrupt the world of baking. I’m very thankful to all of these people for allowing me to play alongside you.

Most of all, I want to thank Nathan. Nathan, you have given me my Dream Job, and extended to me the trust, encouragement, and resources to make this the most incredible period of my life. The lessons that I’ve learned from you – some of which I know, some of which I don’t yet realize – will resonate with me for the rest of my career. I am indebted for the opportunity to apply my brand of crazy to your vision for Modernist Cuisine, and I will remember these years (and all that sous vide pastrami) with great fondness.

All the while, during my fantastic voyage at Modernist cuisine, a team of incredible folks have been hard at work bringing Sansaire to life, growing the business, and creating new opportunities to change the way the world cooks. My nights and weekends at Sansaire won’t cut it anymore – we have big plans and hard work ahead, and it’s time for me to be with my Sansaire family full time.

So here we go…

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I had the honor of speaking at this year’s Chicago Ideas Week, as part of a session on the creative process. The entire conference was breathtaking in the scope and depth of ideas presented. I met some incredible folks, and spent the three days prior to my talk holed up in my hotel room obsessing over my slides and trying to determine how to relay my story. I don’t generally get nervous before giving a presentation or going on stage, but when that same stage was graced by George Lucas, Sean Combs and Penn and Teller the day before, it tends to raise the stakes. Anyhow, here’s my talk, and I highly encourage you to spend time watching the other talks from this year’s Chicago Ideas Week.

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A few weeks ago, I had the honor of telling my story at the Business Innovation Factory, a TED-inspired conference in which innovators from a variety of fields share the personal experiences that transformed their businesses and their lives.  The conference was overwhelmingly powerful – I was in awe of so many of the storytellers who, in very real and tangible ways, are changing the world.

The story I told was my own.  It describes the sequence of events between posting my first crappy recipe online to landing my dream job at Modernist Cuisine, to launching a very successful Kickstarter for Sansaire.  Anybody who proclaims, “follow these steps and you can do it, too!” is lying. The truth is, I got really lucky several times over. But, in retrospect, there are a number of things that I just happened to do right, and they allowed me to capture the opportunities that came my way.  Being boldly passionate was at the top of that list.

Ironically, this was the most difficult presentation I’ve ever had to give. Not because of stage fright, or because I needed to do a bunch of research, or because it was difficult to condense into the time I had a available (I went over my time. Oops.).  It was difficult because I was telling my own story, but I had rarely stopped to put it in perspective.  In fact, it was my wife, Rachel, who ultimately crafted the narrative I presented at BIF.  After floundering my way through a fuzzy set of bullet points for the fourth time, she finally said, “Why don’t you let me tell you your story?  I know it better than anyone.”  She was right.  I took out my notepad, and Rachel proceeded to connect the dots with far more insight than I ever had.

It’s highly worth your time to check out the other storytellers in the Business Innovation Factory series. They’re pretty badass.

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