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Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking Hardcover – March 7, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 163 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

“Modernist Cuisine is a landmark contribution to the craft of cooking and our understanding of its underlying principles. Its scale, detail, and eye-opening graphics are unmatched by any other book on the subject. It will be an invaluable resource for anyone with a serious interest in cooking techniques, whether the professional innovations of the last few decades or the long traditions on which they build.”
—Harold McGee

“The most astonishing cookbook of our time.”
—Katy McLaughlin, Wall Street Journal

“Big, beautiful, and worth the hype… it is the answer to everything you wanted to know about cooking, not to mention so many things you never thought about.”
—Andreas Viestad, The Washington Post

About the Author

Nathan Myhrvold, founder of The Cooking Lab, coauthor of Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking and Modernist Cuisine at Home, and author of The Photography of Modernist Cuisine, has had a passion for science, cooking, and photography since he was a boy. By the age of 13, Nathan had already cooked the family Thanksgiving feast and transformed the household bathroom into a darkroom.

Myhrvold holds a doctorate in theoretical and mathematical physics as well as a master’s degree in economics from Princeton University. He holds additional master’s degrees in geophysics and space physics and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of California, Los Angeles. At Cambridge University, Myhrvold did postdoctoral work with Stephen Hawking in cosmology, quantum field theory in curved space-time, and quantum theories of gravitation, all before starting a software company that would be acquired by Microsoft.

As his career developed, he still found time to explore the culinary world and photography. While working directly for Bill Gates as the chief technology officer at Microsoft, Nathan was part of the team that won the Memphis World Championship Barbecue contest; he worked as a stagier at Chef Thierry Rautureau’s restaurant Rover’s, in Seattle; he then took a leave of absence to earn his culinary diploma from École de Cuisine La Varenne, in France.

Nathan retired from Microsoft in 1999 to found Intellectual Ventures and pursue several lifelong interests in photography, cooking, and food science. During this time, some of his photographs were published in America 24/7 (DK Publishing, Inc., 2003) and Washington 24/7 (DK Publishing, Inc., 2004). Unable to find practical information about sous vide cooking, he decided to write the book he felt was missing—one that provided a scientific explanation of the cooking process, the history of cooking, and the techniques, equipment, and recipes involved in Modernist cooking. Inspired by this void in cooking literature, he decided to share the science of cooking and wonders of Modernist cuisine with others, hoping to pass on his own curiosity and passion for the movement.

In the process of creating his first book, Nathan founded The Cooking Lab, hired an interdisciplinary team that included scientists, research chefs, and writers, and published the much-acclaimed six-volume, 2,438-page Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, in 2011. That set was followed by Modernist Cuisine at Home, in 2012, which applies the insights of the original book in a format designed for home cooks. In 2013, he wrote The Photography of Modernist Cuisine, and The Cooking Lab partnered with Inkling to publish the Modernist Cuisine at Home app.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 2438 pages
  • Publisher: The Cooking Lab; Spi Har/Pa edition (March 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982761007
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982761007
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 14.5 x 17.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 50.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Shipping Advisory: This item must be shipped separately from other items in your order. Additional shipping charges will not apply.
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (163 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #231,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Chris Hennes on March 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the interest of full disclosure, I had access to a free electronic review copy from the publisher prior to receiving my (unfortunately NOT free) copy from Amazon.com, and I work for an organization mentioned a few times in the book (eGullet).

It's hard to review this book without it coming across as hyperbolic: after all, it's a 50-pound, 2400-page beast that will cost you an entire year's cookbook budget and must have cost unfathomable sums to produce; you're either going to love it or hate it. However, I can say with confidence that if you liked McGee's On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, you are going to love Modernist Cuisine.

While the press coverage of the book so far has focused on the more esoteric aspects of the book--centrifuges, rotovaps and chemicals, oh my!--the book actually simply treats those items on equal footing with woks, sauté pans, and water. It covers them because you can cook interesting, tasty food with them. Of course, the weird stuff gets all the attention, because, well... it's weird. But this is a book that devotes an entire chapter to *water*. And the things it teaches you *will* make you a better cook. The authors are never satisfied with "it just works, don't ask why." It seems like every paragraph, on every detail, is tightly focused on the question of not just "what happens?" or "how do you do it?" but also "WHY does it work?" and "HOW does it work?" This book is particularly excellent if you are science-minded, but it is written with such clarity that I believe anyone can learn these things from it. Who knew that blowing on a spoonful of soup to cool it was so complicated, and so interesting?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Books like Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine, Alinea, and El Bulli 2003-2004 showcase modernist cuisine (or the by many hated label 'molecular gastronomy') from the perspective of a creative chef. If you bought some of these books and found the recipes fascinating but the rest of the books a bit too much written by a PR agency, you might like the current book. Much more emphasis has been put on making the text informative. Whereas chefs tend to go for very emotional language, these authors go for a scientific language. However, you don't need to be a scientist to understand the content, but that is the heart of the book. (If you hated chemistry/physics in school, this book is not for you). So in my view, the objective is to understand cooking innovation from a traditional scientific (some would say geeky) perspective, rather than from the perspective of a creative chef. So don't expect to hear anything of how to merge locally foraged ingredients (a la Noma) or combine senses like hay smell with autumn vegetables (a la Alinea) or sheer creative genius (a la ElBulli). The focus is cooking innovation, but there is also a lot of material that is interesting even without using any new machinery in the kitchen. Whenever they talk about traditional cooking the focus is on saying something novel and useful. The authors are not just interested in repeating old knowledge.

If you liked McGee's
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
So, here you are, reading this review. That alone is enough for me to tell you that if you're intrigued and thinking maybe you want to own Modernist Cuisine, then I can answer all of your concerns and questions right now by saying YES! YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED! Just click the button and order it, and settle back and read the rest of this review while you wait for delivery :)

Does MC live up to its hype? Yes it does. Is it relatively expensive as cookbooks go? Well, on a pound-for-pound basis, no, not really. Sure, in absolute terms something like $450-$625 for a "Cookbook" will seem crazy to many, but their error will be in pigeonholing MC as "Just a Cookbook", which is like categorizing a Ferrari as "just another car".

Are the authors of MC the ultimate Gods of Cooking? Well, no, not necessarily. They have their own viewpoint which becomes pretty clear after reading through any amount of the text, but still their contribution to the science and practice of cooking is huge, and their resulting construction (this set of books) is worthy of ownership for ANYONE interested in food OR cooking.

Reading MC is like reading McGee's On Food and Cooking, but with actual practical advice, actual recipes, and incredible illustrations.

So, misconceptions: "This book is only for the Molecular Gastronomy crowd". Really not true. There's surprisingly little Xtreme Cooking in the first three volumes. This set has a HUGE amount of general information that will be relevant and interesting to any cook, and indeed any lover of food. Even if you find the plated dish recipes in volume five to be inaccessible to you, you (yes YOU) will get an amazing amount of useful and fascinating information out of the first four volumes (at least).
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