Nathan Myhrvold, founder of Modernist Cuisine and lead author of Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, Modernist Cuisine at Home, The Photography of Modernist Cuisine, and Modernist Bread, has had a passion for science, cooking, and photography since he was a boy. At the age of nine, Myhrvold cooked Thanksgiving dinner for his family, working out of cookbooks from the local library. A plastic camera was also his constant companion at that time. By 11, he had purchased his first real camera—a Zeiss Contax II, which he found at a thrift store.
Unlike many childhood hobbies, his fascination for food and photography did not fade—it intensified. He consumed cooking books and invested in new cameras and lenses even while doing postdoctoral cosmology work with Stephen Hawking. While working as the chief technology officer of Microsoft, he took a leave of absence to earn his culinary diploma from École de Cuisine La Varenne in France.
Nathan retired from Microsoft in 1999 to found Intellectual Ventures and pursue several interests, including his lifelong interest in photography, cooking, and food science. During this time, some of his photographs were published in America 24/7 (DK Publishing, Inc., 2003) and Washington 24/7 (DK Publishing, Inc., 2004). Inspired by the void in cooking literature about culinary science, history, and the cutting-edge techniques used in the world’s best restaurants, Myhrvold decided to share the science of cooking and wonders of Modernist cuisine with others through Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, hoping to pass on his own curiosity and passion for the movement.
Myhrvold decided that photography should be an important part of the book, hoping that captivating images would draw readers in and make the content come to life. Myhrvold and his team developed innovative photography techniques and custom-built equipment to capture food in new, unexpected ways, such as cutaway views of cooking equipment and stacked-focus supermacro close-ups.
Following the publication of Modernist Cuisine in 2011, the book won top honors for visual design from the International Association of Culinary Professionals, and the photography of the book has been exhibited worldwide including at the Smithsonian Institution, Museum of Science in Boston, and the Museum of Natural History in Le Havre, France. Encouraged by the ongoing positive feedback on the photography, Myhrvold wrote and published The Photography of Modernist Cuisine in 2013. It received the Gourmand Award for best cookbook photography in the United States, a bronze PubWest Book Design Award for best photography book, and the gold IndieFab Award for photography. The team’s new book, Modernist Bread was released in 2017.
In 2014 the Photography of Modernist Cuisine: The Exhibition was created. The traveling exhibit illuminates the fascinating, accessible science at work every day in kitchens with over 75 photos taken over the last seven years, kitchen equipment cut in half, and high-speed video of food in motion. The exhibit has traveled to the country’s leading science and culinary museums in Seattle, Boston, Silicon Valley, and New Orleans. His photographs have also appeared in the following publications: Popular Photography, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, WIRED, and The New Yorker.
Continued requests to buy the art paved the way for Myhrvold’s next venture: Modernist Cuisine Gallery. With locations in Las Vegas, New Orleans, Seattle, and La Jolla, the retail gallery features Myhrvold’s artwork and is the first gallery in the world to focus solely on food photography by a single artist.