Nathan Myhrvold's modernist cooking tome wins top Beard award

"Modernist Cuisine," the six-volume, 2,438 page, 46 pound whopper of a culinary tome by former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, snapped up top honors yesterday at the annual James Beard Foundation cookbook awards. The book is fantastic. $625 list price, but only $455 on Amazon today. Hey, that isn't so bad when you compare it to the cost of dinner for two at, say, El Bulli (RIP).


  1. Everybody: please go to Amazon and click on the “I’d like to read this book on Kindle” link. Because 46 lb. and no search function doesn’t work in the 21st century….

    1. These books are much more like coffee table books than something you want to carry about reading. The photos are one of the most impressive aspects of the book. 

      I’m all for ebooks and I own a Kobo, but until epaper screens can reproduce millions of colours in stunning detail, coffee table books don’t belong on kindles. Perhaps backlit tablet versions, but even then I’d much rather paper and ink. 

        1. Apple’s advertising department still can’t change reality. The iPad can’t display the color range of printed material. It’s not even close. Compare it to another video screen and it might look impressive but put it against a quality printed book and the iPad looks like a fraud.

  2. I believe you mean “Patent Troll” Nathan Myhrvold.  

    When you’re suing small developers, you sure can afford nice things.

  3. I have 3 issues with this book series… 
    A: It’s as if the book was created just to garner awards. 
    B: I am uninspired by incredibly wealthy people that engage in culinary aspirations, how many profiles of restaurant owners have i seen where they are heralded for being brave enough to leave a 100K+ job to go into the culinary field. Id rather hear about people that come from humble origins and overcome the disadvantage of having nothing but a strong work ethic.
    C: “Modernist” is just a way to avoid using the term “Molecular Gastronomy”. It’s a fad that I hope ebbs away… plastic fantastic! Who wants to eat “foam” and “pearls”?

    1. I really don’t think this is about molecular gastronomy.  It’s called “modernist cuisine” because it takes advantage of how we now understand science and applies it to food.  It seems to simply explain why food turns out the way it does when we use methods we’ve been using for generations.  But it does it in elaborate detail, breaking it down into all the fundamental elements.

      Which, to me, is incredibly interesting, and something I would read about (and often do) just for fun, similar to watching Alton Brown’s Good Eats.

      And it’s not supposed to be an inspirational story, either.  This is more of a science book.

      1. I hate to see the word “science” linked to cooking. Yes, I know molecular changes are going on at many levels when flesh, fat, vegetation, fire, oil, etc. converge. But “science book” makes me think of the cookbooks of the 1930’s through the ’50’s (think Betty Crocker). The photos depict what look like nurses preparing the recipes, women dressed in long sleeved sanitary white outfits. I think M.F.K. Fisher wrote something about “modern America’s” sterile approach to food and cooking in one of her essays.

        1. “I hate to see the word “science” linked to cooking.”

          I never understand why people are so smugly proud of luddism.

          1.  No way am I a Luddite. Please re-read my post and consider it. The “scientific” approach of mid 20th century home economics was a not too subtle way of trying to steer Americans away from their various ethnic culinary traditions, smelly ingredients, and otherwise foreign concepts about how to eat (not to mention really enjoy eating). Thank God most families kept their recipes  (at least for holidays)and Americans started traveling and saw how the rest of the world celebrated food and where it comes from. Sorry, just saying science has a way of negating soul.

        2. It’s pretty helpful to read the ‘about’ section of Joy of Cooking and learn why foods caramelize or how temperature and altitude affect cooking processes.

      2.  Ok, but after you’re done reading explanations about why food turns out the way it does, tell us how the recipes satisfied your hunger and turned your taste buds on to flavors never experienced before and how you’d want to share them with your family and friends.

  4. On the other hand, you can buy “The Family Meal” at Amazon by Ferran Adria of elBulli fame for a mere $19 (and change). I highly recommend this book. It’s full of the menus he and his staff prepared for their communal sit down before they started serving in the resto. Simple, fast recipes loaded with eye opening flavors. Each recipe is presented in step by step photos which must really help beginning cooks. Can’t say enough good things about it. Also, for elBulli fans, check out the film. The title escapes me but it shows an unvarnished look at a day at elBulli.

    1. The film is, el Bulli: Cooking in Progress.  It’s on Netflix instant. I’ve never been and will probably never be able to afford going to a place like that, but it is amazing to watch the attention to detail that went into every aspect of the experience at that place.

  5. If you happen to be in New Orleans, and stop by The Company Burger on Freret Street, the chef keeps a set of these volumes on the counter and you’re welcome to peruse them (with clean hands and on a clean table, per his request.) I have not yet done so because I keep forgetting to stop by during a quiet part of the day. 

  6. Wow, only something something dollars?!? AND 
    Food Network personality Ted Allen took home two Beard awards, one in the studio television show category for his show “Chopped,” the other for top food media personality. 

    I’m ordering christmas presents early this year.

  7. I’ve only a had a very quick flick through a couple of these books, but they sure are impressive. The photography alone is mighty impressive especially the ovens, pots, pans, etc with meals still inside cut right through the middle.

  8. Doubt there will be a paperback or Kindle version any time soon. They spent lots of effort on the photography in this book and have used high end inks, paper, and process to make sure they come out the best they can. Cheaper materials would lead to an inferior product. While I would be happy with the lesser quality in exchange for being able to actually afford this monster, the author doesn’t appear to be motived by sales but rather by the act of creation.  As far as a Kindle or tablet version goes, color reproduction on video screens are not even close to the range available with ink. Regardless of what Apple may claim, physical books when printed with quality color in mind absolutely blow away video.

    Wouldn’t be surprised though if someone scanned it in and put out a torrent of it.

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