1. What is Modernist cuisine, the movement?
Modernist cuisine is a philosophy of cooking. Each chef who identifies with this philosophy will articulate it differently, but at its core, Modernist cuisine is an approach to food that values pure flavors, precise execution, and the use of scientific understanding to advance the art of cooking.
2. What is the difference between Modernist cuisine and molecular gastronomy?
Molecular and molecular gastronomy are controversial terms among high-end chefs. Dr. Hervé This, who is often named as the father of what he calls molecular gastronomy, feels strongly that the name should be applied only to food science; he thinks it should not be used to describe cooking. Even if you set that aside, most of his research does focus on applying science to understanding traditional cooking.
Nearly all the chefs we have talked to in the field hate the name molecular gastronomy. And from a scientific standpoint, the term is meaningless: all food is made of molecules.
We think that Modernist cuisine is a much better term because it describes the avant-garde approach of rebelling against culinary rules of the past. It is also broad enough to encompass a wide variety of styles.
3. What is Modernist Cuisine (the book?)
Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking is a six-volume 2,400-page set created by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet, who are scientists, inventors, and accomplished cooks in their own right. It aims to reveal the science-inspired techniques for preparing food that ranges from the other-worldly to the sublime. The authorsand their 20-person team at The Cooking Labhave achieved astounding new flavors and textures by using tools such as water baths, homogenizers, centrifuges, and ingredients such as hydrocolloids, emulsifiers, and enzymes. It is a work destined to reinvent cooking.
Prior to the publishing of Modernist Cuisine, many chefs around the world were coming up with new and innovative dishes using Modernist ingredients, new technology, and a plethora of science-based techniques. The only way to learn all of these techniques, however, was to work at each chefs restaurant, or, in some cases, to buy their cookbooks. Modernist Cuisine is the first place that all of these new, state-of-the-art applications can be found in one (admittedly rather large) cookbook.
4. What is Modernist Cuisine at Home?
Modernist Cuisine at Home is the new, lavishly illustrated cookbook for home cooks created by Nathan Myhrvold and Maxime Bilet. The authors have collected in this 456-page volume all the essential information that any cook needs to stock a modern kitchen, to master Modernist techniques, and to make hundreds of stunning recipes. The book includes a 230-page, waterproof Kitchen Manual that reproduces every recipe in a separate, portable companion. Drawing on the same commitment to perfection that produced Modernist Cuisine, Modernist Cuisine at Home applies innovations pioneered by The Cooking Lab to refine classic home dishes, from hamburgers and wings to macaroni and cheese. More than 400 new recipes are included, most with step-by-step photos that make it easy to bring dining of the highest quality to your own dinner table.
5. Is the Modernist Cuisine at Home content just taken from Modernist Cuisine? What about the recipes?
No. You will, however, find a few Modernist Cuisine dishes that have been adapted for home cooks, such as the iconic Striped Omelet, Caramelized Carrot Soup, Roast Chicken, and Modernist Hamburger Patty. The vast majority of Modernist Cuisine at Home is all new content and original recipes, designed specifically to empower the home cook.
6. How is MCAH different from as MC? How is it the same?
The recipes and techniques presented in Modernist Cuisine at Home are all within reach of home cooks. Some recipes do call for specialized equipment, but none require anything that you cant find at a cooking store. The book also provides suggestions for ways to improvise the cooking equipment that you dont already have for example, we offer several variations on ways to rig your own sous vide temperature-controlled water bath if you dont have one handy. Although we look forward to the day when centrifuges and rotor-stator homogenizers are common household items, youll be able to cook most of the recipes in Modernist Cuisine at Home with the kitchen gear you already own.
Even though the dishes in Modernist Cuisine at Home will be familiar to any home cook, our culinary team developed the recipes with the same scientific rigor and Modernist philosophy that has made Modernist Cuisine so respected among the worlds top chefs. We believe that home cooks and professional chefs alike are curious about the fundamental changes that take place inside foods when they are cooked. In length it is 456 pages, which is about the size of volume 2 of Modernist Cuisine.
7. Modernist Cuisine at Home seems to dumb down the principles in Modernist Cuisine. Wont this offend your target audience?
The principles behind Modernist Cuisine at Home are fundamentally aligned with Modernist Cuisine using a scientific understanding of cooking processes to achieve the ultimate version of a recipe, so we dont think of the recipes in Modernist Cuisine at Home as being dumbed down. For instance, we could have dumbed down our Macaroni and Cheese recipe by calling for store-bought Velveeta. Instead, we teach you how to transform really great-tasting cheese so that it takes on the same melting properties of Velveeta. We think thats actually pretty smart.
We specifically dont call for the use of some hard-to-find hydrocolloids that we use in Modernist Cuisine, and none of our Modernist Cuisine at Home recipes require a centrifuge or a rotary evaporator, but thats because we chose techniques that would not exclude home cooks based on the amount of money they can spend on exotic equipment, home kitchen space, or access to certain ingredients.
8. Since you left out some things like equipment, certain ingredients, and some techniques to make it easier for home cooks, does this mean that you admit that Modernist Cuisine is only for professional chefs, not home cooks?
We still strongly believe that home chefs can make most of the recipes found in Modernist Cuisine. What we wanted to do with Modernist Cuisine at Home, however, was to appeal to a wider audience who might be leery of using something like liquid nitrogen at home (though we think its perfectly safe when handled properly!). We also wanted to demonstrate that you can apply Modernist techniques and principles to common American home-cooked food like chicken wings and cream pie.
9. Are you making a cheaper book because Modernist Cuisine isnt selling?
Modernist Cuisine sales remain strong, and we expect to continue selling thousands of copies per year for a very long time. Fundamentally, though, Modernist Cuisine is intended for a much smaller audience than Modernist Cuisine at Home. Our first book has made a big impact in the world of professional cooking, and we hope this book will have a similar impact in the world of home cooking.
10. Why are you announcing Modernist Cuisine at Home now if it isnt available until October 2012?
The demand for Modernist Cuisine greatly exceeded all of our expectations, and as a result, we struggled to print books fast enough. By accepting pre-orders for Modernist Cuisine at Home now, we can better estimate the number of
books to print.
11. Who worked on Modernist Cuisine at Home? How many people? When did you start it? How long did it take? Who took the photos? Who made the recipes?
Work on Modernist Cuisine at Home began shortly after the release of Modernist Cuisine. Our team of 34 people includes chefs, photographers, editors, writers, researchers, fact-checkers, designers, recipe testers, and the type of people who wear the many hats required to make a project like this successful.
Most of the Modernist Cuisine at Home team also worked on Modernist Cuisine. A few notable exceptions are MC co-author Chris Young, photographer Ryan Matthew Smith, and research chef Grant Crilly, who have moved on to other projects.
From start to finish, Modernist Cuisine at Home took about one and a half years to complete. All of the recipes in the book were created by Nathan, Maxime and our research chefs at The Cooking Lab, though a few were inspired by our recipes in Modernist Cuisine as well as other chefs from around the globe.
12. How much does Modernist Cuisine at Home cost?
Modernist Cuisine at Home has a suggested retail price of $140 USD.
13. How much did it cost to make?
Less than Modernist Cuisine, but more than most home cookbooks.
14. Did Nathan pay for this book from his own pocket or with profits from Modernist Cuisine sales?
Modernist Cuisine sales have been great, but its still quite expensive to operate one of the most advanced research kitchens in the world. Nathan continues to fund The Cooking Lab from his own pocket.
15. Where can I buy it?
Modernist Cuisine at Home is available for preorder from online retailers and most US and Canadian bookstores. Were still negotiating distribution arrangements outside North America and exploring our publishing options in many languages.
16. Will there be an e-book version? What about of MC?
Eventually, there may be, but we have no current plans to offer an electronic version of Modernist Cuisine at Home or of Modernist Cuisine.
We began working on Modernist Cuisine before the market of e-books developed at the time we started designing it, the Kindle had not even shipped yet. Kindle is a wonderful e-book platform (we love ours!), but it is not the best medium for a book such as MC or MCAH, which offer so many large color pictures. Our use of dramatic photography is a large part of how the books make the art and science of cooking accessible. Although the Apple iPad has a color display, its screen size is still very limited at this time. We decided that once more a large-format, high-quality printed book is still the best platform today for delivering this kind of contentparticularly our photographs and illustrated step-by-step proceduresto the majority of the people who will want to use it. Eventually we would like to spend the time and resources to make an e-book edition that offers new and interactive features, but that is a lot of work and is probably a couple years away.
17. Who is the publisher for Modernist Cuisine at Home?
We published Modernist Cuisine at Home through The Cooking Lab, the publishing company we originally created to publish Modernist Cuisine. This affords us the freedom to make the book we want to make, and to keep control over all aspects of the publishing process, from page count to paper thickness.
18. Will you package Modernist Cuisine at Home with Modernist Cuisine?
We currently don’t have plans to package or bundle together Modernist Cuisine and Modernist Cuisine at Home. We dont think anyone could lift the box!
19. Will you do international versions of MCAH like you did with MC? When?
We hope to release Modernist Cuisine at Home internationally in the near future. We consciously chose dishes that are familiar to North Americans in order to demonstrate that many Modernist techniques and scientific understand can be applied just as well at home as at any three-star restaurant. There’s an interesting question as to whether the recipes weve included will be perceived as too American in other parts of the world. Certainly, if we were writing an at Home cookbook for the UK, we would have to include recipes like bangers and mash. Were entertaining the notion of adding locale-specific content to our international versions of the book, but that would take a lot of additional time and work, so we dont have any firm plans yet.
20. Why are you doing another book so soon?
After we released Modernist Cuisine, we discovered that there was a big community of home cooks who are passionate about Modernist cooking and will go to great lengths to achieve the techniques in MC using improvised equipment, and modifying the recipes to substituting some of the really hard-to-find ingredients. We thought these folks were onto something, so we wrote a book largely in that spirit.
21. What about the pastry book you promised?
Indeed, we are still considering producing a book on pastry and dessert. One of the benefits of writing Modernist Cuisine at Home was we could delve more deeply into desserts, which we had mostly left out of Modernist Cuisine. So a dessert book is still on our radar. Nathan has multitude of interests though, so we have even considered books on a range of subjects from barbecue to cooking equipment, photography to archaeology, and more.
But as of right now, we are focusing on promoting both Modernist Cuisine and Modernist Cuisine at Home, expanding our website and reader experience, and translations of Modernist Cuisine. What’s on the next horizon, however, we just dont know.
22. Nathan spends a lot of time on writing cookbooks. Does he still work at Intellectual Ventures?
Yes, Nathan is the Founder and CEO of Intellectual Ventures and is very active in the companys core businesses.
23. Whats the next book? Will we see a book every other year? Is this the start of a series?
It’s too soon to tell exactly what our next project will be, but the art and science of cooking is a frontier that is far from conquered.
24. Are you going to do a TV show?
Its something were considering, but we dont have any plans for now.
25. Are you going to open a restaurant?
We’re one of the only cooking labs that isn’t affiliated with a restaurant, and that affords us a lot of freedom to focus on pure research. Running a restaurant is tricky business. For now, we’re going to focus on what we do well.