Behind the photo scenes of 'Modernist Cuisine'

  • Article by: LEE SVITAK DEAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 31, 2013 - 12:55 PM

Nathan Myhrvold doesn’t do anything in moderation.

The Photography of Modernist Cuisine

Nathan Myhrvold doesn’t do anything in moderation. His first “cookbook” — a six-volume collection, “Modernist Cuisine” — runs 2,472 pages, with 1,522 recipes at the price of $625. His more modest version, “Modernist Cuisine at Home,” two volumes at only 684 pages, runs $140.

And now he offers the behind-the-scenes view of how he and his team shot the amazing photos for the earlier books in “The Photography of Modernist Cuisine” (The Cooking Lab, 300 pages, $120, though available online at half that price). Coffee table book? No, more like dinner-table book at 13⅜ by 16½ inches and almost 12 pounds.

Myhrvold, who formerly was Microsoft’s technology chief and chief strategist, now runs Intellectual Ventures, a patent licensing business, which houses a most amazing kitchen, photo studio and, apparently, machine shop.

He has combined his love of food, photography and technology in this series that pays homage to the science of modern cooking, whether it’s a microscopic view of whipped cream or the magical side views of food being grilled, blended, roasted and grown.

Cooking equipment — a Viking range, a commercial oven, a grill, blender and pressure cooker included — has been cut in half to expose the process to the camera, all possible because of the machinists on staff.

Nowhere does Myhrvold say, “Don’t try this at home.” In fact, he offers tips for shooting your own food photos at home and in restaurants, and points out the tricks of the trade (photo software, black and white backgrounds, equipment, among them).

The book offers more photos than it does explanation, which is disappointing for the reader who wants to know how the shots were made. Still, you don’t have to be a photo geek to gasp when seeing the book. It’s a stunner.

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