Modernist Pizza is Underway

An interesting thing happens when you finish a book: people immediately want to know what’s next. If you step inside The Cooking Lab, it takes only one whiff to figure out what that is. It’s hard to disguise the familiar yet intoxicating aroma that radiates from the oven as tomatoes, melted cheese, and dough bake.

After taking on the world of bread, we’re thrilled to announce the topic of our next book: pizza. Modernist Pizza will explore the science, history, equipment, technology, and people that have made pizza so beloved.

Authors Nathan Myhrvold and Francisco Migoya, with the Modernist Cuisine team, are busy conducting extensive research, testing long-held pizza-making beliefs, and working to understand the differences between different styles of pizza (as well as the best ways to make each one). This quest for knowledge has already taken them to cities across the United States, Italy, and beyond. The culmination of their work will be a multivolume cookbook that includes both traditional and innovative recipes for pizzas found around the globe as well as techniques that will help you make pizza the way you like it.

Why Pizza

We’ve known for some time that we wanted to tackle the subject of pizza in more detail because it’s something we love. It’s an idea that began with the Neapolitan Pizza Dough recipes in Modernist Cuisine at Home and was cemented when we started exploring the topic of pizza for Modernist Bread. Although that book spanned over 2,600 pages, we couldn’t include all the pizza-related information and recipes we wanted to without adding at least one more volume. Chicago deep-dish pizza, for example, didn’t make the cut, but not because we aren’t fans. It became clear that we needed to dedicate an entire book to the subject.

Pizza has so many of the things that we love in a subject. Making pizza takes a tremendous amount of skill, but it’s also full of creative possibility and, quite simply, a lot of fun. The story of pizza is one of science, history, invention, and tradition plus its share of mystique. Despite its ubiquity, there’s still a tremendous amount to learn and many questions that are waiting to be answered.

Historically, what we consider to be pizza originated in Italy. Most people say that the pizza we eat today is the descendant of 18th-century Naples street food that was mostly eaten by the poor. These pizzas had simple toppings: a little oil, some herbs, salt, onions. (The additions of tomatoes and cheese are believed to date to the late 19th century.) From Naples, pizza made its way to the United States, and subtly morphed into what most of us recognize as pizza today (in general terms at least) before being exported back to Italy in its new form.

Today, of course, you can get this Americanized style of Italian pizza in just about any country you visit. Over the course of its journey, what is essentially a flatbread loaded with toppings, became one of the most popular foods on the planet as different cultures developed new takes on pizza. At the same time there has been an incredible resurgence of traditional Neapolitan pizza. After 100 years, pizza from Naples—thin with sparse toppings and a bubbly crust— is spreading around the world once again along with lots of other local styles from around Italy.

From Neapolitan to Roman, New York to Detroit, each style of pizza has its own standards. And just about everyone has an opinion about what makes a pizza good, which makes the topic even more intriguing. Pizza really has become personal. What’s your favorite topping? Favorite style? Favorite pizza parlor? Thick or thin crust? Which flour is best? What type of water? What kind of oven? Is the best pizza in Italy? New York? Or somewhere else? Few foods in this world cause more heated discussion—just ask someone for their stance on Hawaiian-style pizza. To us, these fuzzy lines are part of what makes pizza so interesting. Personal preferences aside, our approach is to try to answer these questions objectively.

A New View of Pizza

There is still a lot for us to research and a lot of decisions to make, but we will stay true to the approaches we have used for all the Modernist Cuisine books. You can expect the same level of rigor and detail in our writing, illustrations, and photography as we attempt to tell the story of pizza in a way that hasn’t been seen before. Modernist Pizza is in its early stages, and although we’ve begun to dig in, we still have a lot of work ahead of us. Although we can’t guarantee when it will arrive at your door just yet (or the size of the delivery box), we can promise that this book will deliver the complete story of pizza along with insights that will stoke your pizza obsession even more.

For now, we’re excited to reveal a few of the photographs that Nathan has taken so far. Making its debut at Modernist Cuisine Gallery, this special series of four images celebrates the fine art of pizza. Each piece of artwork captures ordinary pizza ingredients, techniques, and tools in a brand-new light.

Taken using innovative photography techniques and custom-built equipment, the images reveal a new view of pizza—and we mean that literally. In one suspenseful shot, a pizza cutter becomes a colossus bearing down on a pepperoni pie. It took 500 focus-stacked images to create this single image.

Our hope is that these images will surprise and delight everyone who loves pizza. For fans of Bread Pitt, the series also features a new portrait inspired by the work of Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo. To get the photograph, Nathan worked with coauthor Francisco Migoya to sketch and construct a Neapolitan Man sculpture. Sitting on top of a torso made from a bag of Caputo 00 flour, the detailed face comes alive through a selection of carefully arranged pizza toppings—cloves of elephant garlic, Parmigiano Reggiano, prosciutto, chorizo, pepperoncini peppers, dried Calabrian chilies, black olives, garlic, cherry tomatoes, and fior di latte mozzarella—and is finished with a plume of herbs: basil, thyme, oregano, and rosemary.

This limited-edition series is part of the newest collection of artwork at the gallery, which is available now. For information on ordering art, contact the Modernist Cuisine Gallery team, and follow the gallery’s new Instagram account to see more images from the collection.

We would love to hear from you as we continue to research pizza from around the world. Contact pizza@modernistcuisine.com to tell us about your favorite pizzerias and their pizza. Connect with us on social media to get all the latest Modernist Pizza updates.

Introducing the Modernist Cuisine Gallery

We’ve always done things a little differently at Modernist Cuisine. We self-publish so that we can make books in our own, and undeniably huge, way. It’s an experiment that has allowed readers to see food as we do—as something that is endlessly fascinating, powerful, and beautiful.

Our first book, Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science, broke many of the rules for cookbooks, including how they should be illustrated. Early on, we decided not to photograph food in traditional ways, opting instead to cut kitchen equipment in half, use high-speed video and laboratory microscopes, develop innovative digital tools, and turn ordinary ingredients like grapefruit or kernels of wheat into stunning monoliths with macro lenses. Four books later, the stunning, distinctive images we create are still an integral part of how we share our research and love of food.

The way in which critics and readers have embraced our photography is beyond what we could have imagined. We included small prints in Modernist Cuisine and Modernist Cuisine at Home, and were amazed to discover that people were framing them and asking for large custom sizes. The acclaim inspired us to embark on another big experiment—the Photography of Modernist Cuisine: The Exhibition. We dramatically scaled up the size of our images and made larger prints; some are as big as a full-sized bed. In museum after museum, visitors have asked where they can purchase prints just like the ones hanging on the wall.

Unfortunately, for some time, we haven’t been able to give the answer fans were looking for. We know there are many people who, like us, love to see and take pictures of food. For some reason, however, photos of food have never really been considered fine art photography. Photographs of nature, fashion, celebrities, babies, cars, architecture, animals, and ordinary objects like locks and keys—even subjects that make some squeamishly uncomfortable—are considered fine art. Why not food?

The Modernist Cuisine Gallery, our next experiment, will challenge this issue head on. We are standing up for food as a subject matter because we believe it can be both beautiful and intriguing, and deserves a place on walls alongside other works of art.

We could have chosen to exhibit our pictures in established art galleries, but we decided to take the same approach we have always taken—doing things in our own way. Building our own retail gallery affords us the ability to lavish care on every aspect of discovering, owning, and displaying one of our pictures. When the Modernist Cuisine Gallery opens at The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in May 2017, it will be the first gallery in the world to focus only on food photography by a single artist – a mission that is unabashedly bold.

The gallery will include limited edition prints of photos by Nathan produced using the highest quality and most durable print methods available.  The gallery’s opening collection will debut stunning new photos, plus a few iconic images that you may recognize from our books. The prints will be available in several frame, media, and size options—including large-scale options for big spaces – available for shipping worldwide.

Las Vegas has become an incredible food destination that draws people from around the globe. We look forward to sharing our photography with new audiences and giving people the opportunity to see the beauty of food on their own walls.

For now, we’re excited to reveal just a few of the images that will be available for the first time. This, however, is just the beginning. We will have more updates, information, and prints to share as the gallery prepares to open its doors.

We look forward to seeing you in Vegas!