Modernist Cuisine: Top Shelf Cooking

by Alyssa Oursler | June 25, 2013 11:31 am

Top Shelf showcases luxury vacations, goods, restaurants and more that you can indulge in after your investing pays off.

TopShelf (3)[1]I’ll be honest: When I dream of living large in retirement, most of my fantasy meals are made in a chef’s kitchen.

But then again, that’s likely because my personal cooking skills are limited to cereal, salads and few variations of chicken.

For those of you with a bit more finesse and patience in the kitchen, your investing indulgences might look a little bit different. Like say, a fancy cookbook.

I know what you’re thinking (or what I was originally thinking, anyway): “A cookbook? Please, I’ve seen plenty of those. And I’ve been on Pinterest.”

But Modernist Cuisine[2] isn’t just any cookbook. It’s a “six-volume, 2,400-page cookbook set that reveals science-inspired techniques for preparing food that ranges from the otherworldly to the sublime.”

A few other summaries of the foodie sensation: “this decade’s most influential work about food,” “the cookbook to end all cookbooks,” “a visual roller coaster through the world of food and cooking tools.” and “an encyclopedia to contemporary cooking.”

Modernist Cuisine is by Nathan Myhrvold — former chief technology officer at Microsoft (MSFT[3]) — along with Chris Young and Maxime Bilet, who led teams of dozens of chefs and assistants. Bottom line: It ain’t some Martha Stewart or Guy Fieri nonsense.

Myhrvold, since helping Bill Gates popularize Microsoft’s software years ago, has “reinvented himself as a food scientist,” as Forbes recently put it[4]. In Modernist Cuisine, he breaks down the process of cooking — including details on molecular gastronomic techniques — and accompanies the info and recipes with eye-catching photographs, displayed on the thickest, glossiest waterproof paper he could find.

Of course, it will cost you more than $500 if you snatch it up from Amazon (AMZN[5]), and over $600 if you decide to pick it up at Urban Outfitters‘ (URBN[6]) Anthropologie. But Myhrvold admitted he randomly selected a price … “just because.”

The result: the most profitable cookbook. Ever.

That’s gotta be a lot of green in Myrhrvold’s pockets, considering he has sold some $30 million worth of the books — including the cheaper at-home follow-up[7] — since its release in 2011.

And that’s just the beginning. The Photography of Modernist Cuisine[8] — a coffee-table book featuring more than 200 extra photos and in-depth descriptions, along with a price tag of $108 — will go on sale this October.

The one catch: This is an indulgence that requires the funds to back it up. In fact, the main criticism of the six-book set is that it’s tough to use if you don’t have a fancy kitchen and the right pile of tools.

As New York Times critic Michael Ruhlman[9] put it:

“For nearly two weeks I lived with this extensively hyped work — immersion circulators humming on my counters, a pressure cooker hissing, food sealer and grinder hot from use beside them — and I remain frustrated that I lack so many tools and ingredients required to actually use this behemoth.”

Of course, when you have the cash after years of saving and investing, why not spend it on a immersion circulator and half-a-thousand-dollar cookbook?

If you ask me, that’s when you know you’re doin’ all right.

As of this writing, Alyssa Oursler did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. Follow her on Twitter: @alyssaoursler[10].

  1. [Image]:
  2. Modernist Cuisine:
  3. MSFT:
  4. as Forbes recently put it:
  5. AMZN:
  6. URBN:
  7. cheaper at-home follow-up:
  8. The Photography of Modernist Cuisine:
  9. New York Times critic Michael Ruhlman:
  10. @alyssaoursler:

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