Posts Tagged ‘book’
This morning, we (the Modernist Cuisine team) announced our next book, Modernist Cuisine at Home. You can read all about the book at the Modernist Cuisine website, but it gives me tremendous personal satisfaction to finally get to share this project with the world. Although I only joined the MC team at the beginning of the year, already well into this book’s development, I have had the privilege of helping our team finish the book, which I believe will make a serious impact on home cooking.
If you’re a regular reader of SeattleFoodGeek.com, you know that bringing Modernist cooking into home kitchens is what I live and breathe. It’s the reason there’s a centrifuge in my basement, a PID controller on my freezer, and a 25lb. steel plate on my grill. I believe that a Modernist attitude – the desire to challenge convention, the willingness to embrace new ideas, the hope to always improve – is an important part of cooking, both professionally and at home. That’s why I’m thrilled at the prospect of reaching a broader audience of home cooks with Modernist Cuisine at Home. At $140 list price (which will be closer to $100 with book pricing magic), this book is widely more accessible than the original Modernist Cuisine, but retains the same spirit of creativity, innovation and scientific wonder that got me excited about Modernist cooking in the first place.
But it’s not the price that excites me most; it’s the fact that all 406 recipes and variations are designed for the home kitchen. Why is this such a big deal? Because, although I love cooking from Modernist Cuisine, it’s a challenge. Take, for example, the pistachio gelato recipe. Since I’ve pretty much got the best job on earth, I get to eat that gelato regularly. It’s incredible. The flavor is so vibrant, and the texture of that gelato is the yardstick by which I measure all other ice creams. But when I tried to make it at home, it didn’t turn out well. I didn’t have locust bean gum, and it isn’t easy to find locally, so I substituted some other hydrocolloids. My version was terrible. It turns out that my “instinct” for hydrocolloid substitution sucks. However, the Modernist Cuisine at Home adaptation of this recipe calls for emulsifiers that I could find at any grocery store, yet it produces a gelato that is nearly indistinguishable. The chefs have done the experimentation on my behalf so I can count on the recipe being a success. As a home cook, this gives me tremendous confidence.
I’m also excited by what Modernist Cuisine at Home represents as a milestone in the Modernist cooking revolution. I don’t know if we’ll ever see a day where Whole Foods carries locust bean gum or when Cuisinart makes a centrifuge, but I do believe that the way we cook at home is changing more radically than ever before. I’m proud and honored to have been involved with the development of Modernist Cuisine at Home, and I can’t wait to see its impact.
Tuesday night was the official book launch party for Modernist Cuisine, the 2400+ page epic that can only be defined loosely by the term “cookbook”. Although it doesn’t begin shipping until March 7th (and you may have to wait longer than that), the book has already sold over 3400 copies in pre-order and has entered Amazon.com’s Top 100 for books, not just cookbooks.
The launch party, hosted at the Palace Ballroom, was a sold out but still intimate evening. Admission included a small plate of samples from the book – dehydrated pear, a cube of pastrami with a rye cracker, fried chicken, and a dehydrated corn chowder that blasts into existence only once inside your mouth.
Tom Douglas introduced Nathan Myhrvold, the book’s creator, with obvious reverence and respect. Apparently, on Monday night, and a handful of renowned chefs, including Tom, gathered at the Intellectual Ventures kitchen lab in Bellevue and were treated to a 30-something course dinner of a lifetime. One of the ironies in the way this book was made was that there is no restaurant associated with their kitchen – they have no customers, so until recently, nobody knew what the food tasted like, exactly. Luckily for a handful of world-class chefs and prominent journalists (and on a separate occasion, one extremely fortunate food blogger, me), the Modernist Cuisine team has been throwing a series of dinner events to prove just how good these dishes taste.
Nathan spoke to the crowd, armed with a PowerPoint to show off spreads from the book, and talked with his usual candor about the process of creating the book. He commented on the risk-averse nature of both the US Department of Health and the world of book publishing – the former being a politically-driven machine full of inconsistency, and the latter being a least-common-denominator-driven machine full of compromise and devoid of flexibility. He seems to have set both of those industries straight, likely to their embarrassment.
The audience oohed and aahed when Nathan showed footage captured by his super-high speed camera – a corn kernel popping, oil drips hitting a a hot coal, droplets of liquid nitrogen dancing on the surface of a counter. At one point, he showed an extremely slow motion shot of a champagne cork popping from the neck of a bottle. It was the stuff rap videos are made of, minus the spinning rims.
During the Q&A, Nathan made the themes of the book very clear: they refused to compromise on quality, nothing should be “dumbed down”, and the vast majority of the book really was accessible to anyone with some basic kitchen gear. However, it was near his closing remarks that Nathan really explained his motivation. “I wanted to write this book as a way to give back to the world of cuisine, which has given me so much.” Indeed, I hope the world of food can continue to find benefactors as generous and as genius as Dr. Myhrvold.
Modernist Cuisine [Amazon]
Right now, I’m one of the few very fortunate people in the world who have a copy of the Modernist Cuisine book. I’ve been a vocal fan(boy) of the project for nearly a year now. As my wife can attest, discussing the subject of this book has been a favorite pastime of mine… at cocktail parties, friends’ birthdays, on vacation, to tech support call operators, at drive-through windows, and to just about anyone else who will listen. About two weeks ago while I was driving to work, I got an email asking if I could swing by the Intellectual Ventures office to pick up a review copy. I nearly drove my car through the median in my eagerness.
I got the books, brought them home, and posted an “unboxing coming soon” teaser article. That was two weeks ago. Since then – not a single mention. The books that I’ve been salivating over for nearly a year finally arrive and I don’t post a word. What happened?
I had an existential crisis.
Ferran Adrià is the most influential chef, living or dead, period. He’s also likely the most controversial. At his Catalonia restaurant El Bulli, Ferran has spent the last few decades turning the culinary world on it’s head, breaking rules, toying with emotions, and inventing never-before-conceived ways of imagining food.
Unfortunately, you may know Ferran best by his most extreme techniques, which are often implemented poorly by far lesser chefs (yep, I’ve been guilty of that). His most recognizable methods include making foams and turning liquids into encapsulated spheres, both of which quickly denigrate from masterful haute techniques into party gags rather quickly. However, in the hands of (by all accounts) a master/genius/sorcerer/+5000 Mana Food Priest, these methods contribute to a transformative and even transcendent dining experience.
Through Colman Andrews’ unprecedented access to Ferran, we learn about his fascinating and serendipitous career progression from military dishwasher to short-order beach bum, eventually becoming the most renowned chef in the world. We also learn much of the history of El Bulli and how the location, landscape and struggling seasonality of the restaurant ultimately contributed to its unlikely success.
What we don’t learn, though, is much about Ferran, personally. Although he dispenses a bevy of prolific statements throughout the chapters, nearly nothing is written about his life outside the kitchen, his wife or his relationships with friends. In fact, reading about his many simultaneous projects and ventures, I began to wonder if there was any off-duty time to discuss at all!
Skeptics of “molecular gastronomy”, a term which Ferran and others abhor, may find this book less than satisfying – the brief chapter on the opposition to Ferran’s food only lightly grazes the surface of the common knee-jerk responses to modernist cooking, and regrettably does very little to dispel the pervasive untruths that are frequently held against Ferran and his disciples. However, for a geek like me wishing to emulate the patterns and unbounded thinking that made Ferran Adria such a powerful force in the modernist food movement, this book was a fantastic glimpse into the mind of a genius.
Here she is, ladies and gentlemen, in all her 46lb glory! This is the first published image of the Modernist Cuisine books, in their acrylic case. This shot doesn’t show the accompanying kitchen manual, but it is enough to make food geeks everywhere salivate. That March 14th date can’t come soon enough!