Never among the world's food enthusiasts has there been such an emotional outpouring over a cookbook like the case of Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. Already deemed, by the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in March as «a masterpiece...the most important cookbook of the first ten years of the 21st century» it's now sold out and in its second re-printing.
Those common mortals among us who have yet to see a real copy and are saving up to buy one (it costs around 500 dollars) have two options: to read, in the meantime, the incomparable How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read by Pierre Bayard, or else to study as many articles and reviews as they can in order to learn more about this editorial phenomenon.
Modernist Cuisine is not a simple cookbook, but rather a kind of encyclopedia composed of six volumes, totalling 2,438 pages. It's possible now to reserve a second reprint of the manuscript, and culinary experts who have already seen it, like Ferran Adria, call Modernist Cuisine a work «that will change the way the world thinks about cooking». Adria wrote one of the two introductions in the book, along with
Tim Zagat claims that it’s the «the most important book about culinary arts», while chefs and food icons from all over the world call it the definitive cookbook. But one must forget the traditional notion of what a cookbook is: the idea for Modernist Cuisine came from the American scientist and millionaire, Doctor Nathan Myhrvold, who once worked for Microsoft and is now a teacher at Cambridge as well as the co-founder of the patent investment company, Intellectual Ventures.
His genius, along with that of two renowned chefs, Chris Young and Maxime Bilet (who both have worked at The Fact Duck), has produced this tome that has gotten the gastronomic world so excited.
Chris Young, who works with Blumenthal, has a degree in mathematics and bio-chemistry from the University of Washington, while Maxime Bilet has a degree in creative writing, literature and visual arts from Skidmore College, and then earned a degree cum laude from the Institute of Culinary Education of New York.
The comprehensive volume, however, required the collaboration of two dozen people – including cooks, photographers, graphic designers and editors who all worked together for three years. No publisher was willing to undertake the financial costs of publishing the book, so Myhrvold printed the whole six volumes as his own expense.
Each volume is chock-full of amazing images, dozens of photographs that will astound any reader and that expresses the close tie between science, technology and cooking in a clear, involving way.
The authors' aim was to illustrate what really happens inside the individual ingredients, inside a refrigerator or inside a pan when exposed to heat – what is scientifically happening to food when it undergoes the cooking process.
Initially, they tried to render this idea with illustrations, but it didn’t seem realistic enough, and so pots where cut in half and with a series of technological techniques, they were photographed in their sectional parts.
The photographer Ryan Matthew Smith used a fibre optics strobe light for many of the book’s pictures. While it might seem like reading suitable only for starred-chefs, Modernist Cuisine cookbook explains and illustrates techniques and recipes that any well-appointed domestic chef could enjoy and create. At least, that’s what the three authors are hoping.