The Photography of Modernist Cuisine with Nathan Myhrvold


It’s not a surprise that techies and geeks love our food, and the science behind food, the how and why and what if of cooking.

It is a bit of a surprise to find someone who has a gift for cooking and photography with a master’s degree in economics, as well as master’s degrees in geophysics and space physics and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from UCLA. Oh, and not only did he do post-doctoral work with Stephen Hawking at Cambridge University researching cosmology, quantum field theory in curved space-time, and quantum theories of gravitation, he served as the chief technology officer for Bill Gates at Microsoft. (This guy’s the geek of geeks).

Meet Nathan Myhrvold

Nathan retired from Microsoft in 1999 to found Intellectual Ventures and pursue several lifelong interests in photography, cooking, and food science. Later he founded The Cooking Lab and published a mammoth 5 volume 2,438 page set of photos and recipes and thoughts on the science of cooking called “Modernist Cuisine” that will knock your socks off. In it you’ll find stunning photography and scientific explanations of the cooking process, techniques and methods to achieve Modernist Cuisine.

But that’s not exactly what this post is about. This is about the show up right now at The Tech Museum of Innovation called The Photography of Modernist Cuisine. This morning I was lucky enough to join Tim Ritchie, president of The Tech Museum of Innovation and Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen (an avid foodie herself) and Nathan Myhrvold who spoke about his work and that passion for understanding food in ways we don’t normally see it.

The exhibit is over 75 large scale images that show us microscopic views of crystals of citric acid and what he calls “exploded parts diagrams” of a mushroom and swiss hamburger that took over 30 hours to prepare and takes after a drawing style popular in technical manuals and also favored by Leonardo Da Vinci.

As you go through the exhibit take time to read the descriptions which share the science but also the methods he use to achieve the shots. What appears to be a simple image on a steak is actually a composed panorama of 1,000 images stitched together to make every single millimeter sharp and clear. Another dish which seems to leap off the wall is uses a technique called “Focus stacking” where software is used to create highly dimensional photos with virtually no depth of field so every element is sharply defined and crisp.

All of the photos in this exhibit give you a new way to look at food. Whether familiar objects like a planted garden or cutaways of common household appliances, constructed images or micro views you’d never see on your own. It’s food porn at it’s finest.

This exhibit is open at The Tech from June 25 to Sept 1 and there are two special “After Hours” events planned. After Hours is the monthly evening event where adults 21 and older enjoy science, technology, entertainment, and cocktails together with their friends, and this summer there will be some special menus and themes designed to coincide with the new exhibit.

Get your tickets here:
July After Hours – Independence Day – Spirit of America
Thursday, July 3, 2014
7 p.m. – midnight

$10 / $5 for members
Buy tickets
August After Hours – Hawaiian Night Luau
Thursday, August 7, 2014
7 p.m. – midnight

$10 / $5 for members
Buy tickets

By the way, look for Modernist Cuisine recipes and videos on the website, you can get an interactive eBook in the Modernist Cuisine at Home App from the iTunes store for free in the Lite Version or buy the full version and learn about the techniques and methods of Modernist Cuisine demonstrated. Learn how to cook salmon sous vide in your kitchen sink!

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