Have you ever wondered what kind of kitchen a chef, a scientist/inventor, and a chemist would have? You probably imagine top notch cooking equipment, maybe some crazy beakers and glass tubing, a lot of scales, a centrifuge, and a sous vide water bath. You’d be pretty darn close to correct. The Intellectual Ventures labs in Bellevue, just east of Seattle, looks like a chemist-chef’s dream. You may or may not have heard of IV before. It’s run by Nathan Myhrvold, former CTO of Microsoft, renowned mathematician and scientist in his own right, and professionally trained at the French Ecole De La Varenne Cooking School. He partnered with ChefsMaxime Bilet and Chris Young, who both come from Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck experimental kitchen. Each of these chefs have pedigrees of their own.
Food & Wine Magazine did an interesting write-up on them this summer, because this summer, IV published it’s flagship cookbook set Modernist Cuisine. It is a six-book set that includes an exhaustive explanation about the science behind food and food cookery. The purpose of the book is to record some of the modern cooking methods that top restaurants around the world have been using lately. The book also shows techniques and equipment needed in order to achieve successful meals. Some of the recipes are complicated, but some of them are home-cook friendly. Food & Wine adapted a few of the MC recipes, and they do look very do-able.
Here’s the one I want to try:
Caramelized Carrot Soup
I even put “pressure cooker” on my wish list for Christmas this year, just because I want to try it! My friend, Chef Eric Rivera at Alinea Restaurant, said that I should actually get a pressure canner, because then I can can proteins. He also suggested a brand. Um, Eric? I’m just getting started… first things first.
The other element of the MC book set that really distinguishes it from scientific cooking books is the quality of the photos. Nathan Myhrvold is also an accomplished photographer, and he hired a team of talented photographers to capture food while its cooking in a way that really hadn’t been done before. I’ve skimmed over the photos, but I found that I really have to carefully examine each photo, because the styles are so incredible. Here’s the Food & Wine link to the photos.
Nathan Myhrvold gave a TEDTalk about his book, and you can watch his video on Huffington Post’s website. It’s a pretty succinct explanation of the book, its purpose, and its vision. I really like how Myhrvold describes how they cut the equipment in half and some of the (potentially dangerous) things that occured when they photographed a halved cooking wok.
The reason I’m blathering a bit on about a particular book and cuisine style is that I have actually taken a full-time temporary position as a culinary research assistant at the IV lab. I am taking a break from school (I have just two quarters and a summer session remaining) in order to work at the lab. Now you might think, Kimberly, you should finish school! You’re right, and I agree.
But, when Chef Maxime Bilet tells me that I have a good resume, and when the sous chef tells me that he liked how I worked, and when their administrative assistant says “Congratulations, we think you’re the best fit for our team,” it seems like…well, as Chef KG said, “a no-brainer.”
I talked to my chefs – literally all of them – about taking the position and taking time off from class. Of course, I’m not so conceited to think that I’m negatively impacting the cohort with whom I was progressing through the quarters, but I was concerned that the chefs understood why I was taking time away. I am committed to completing the program, because I believe SCA is a strong program producing talented people. At the same time, this opportunity is pretty exciting.
I start Monday. I have no idea what to expect, but it should be very educational. I picked up Blumenthal’s books to brush up on science, and our nutrition instructor at SCA (and former colleague of mine) has leant me a food science text book. I intend to read those through so I don’t seem totally clueless about modernist cuisine. Then I’ll try get my hands on the book set 🙂