March 7 marks a long awaited publishing event for me. On that day Amazon begins shipping the cookbook, Modernist Cuisine, which is a six volume tour-de-force of extraordinary photography and engaging writing that explains the science behind that most multi-sensory of all art forms, cooking.
I bring this to your attention as a proud Papa, because my son, Chris Young, is a co-author of the book. Chris is a biochemist and mathematician turned chef, who previously worked at the most famous 3 Michelin star restaurant in England, the Fat Duck. The head creative director behind the book, Nathan Myhrvold, is also a scientist-turned-chef, who is better known as the prime mover behind Microsoft Office, when he was Chief Technology Officer of that company. The other co-author of the book, the chef Max Bilet, is the grandson of the late Bill Bernbach, of advertising fame.
The monumental book they have created is an attempt to drive creativity in the kitchen to new heights by explaining to work-a-day chefs why the things they do by rote in the kitchen work according to the physical laws of heat, water, and chemistry, and by showing them how to systematically achieve new or improved culinary effects by grounding their creative techniques in the principles of the science.
To illustrate, here’s one of the many cooking tips sprinkled throughout the book. Q: How do you bake a perfect baded potato, so that it’s done on the inside without burning the skin on the outside? A: Stick a nail through the center of the potato, so that the heat conducting metal will cook the potato faster on the inside.
It strikes me that this book provides the advertising business with an apt metaphor for how ad agencies can move forward in our fast changing world—by promoting a better collaboration between art and science. One of the wonderful things about the advertising business is that you get paid to indulge your love of art, design, photography, movies, music and good writing. But in the modern advertising kitchen there is also an emerging role for scientist-chefs who are grounded in computer science, neuroscience, psychology, sociology and even mathematics. With these ingredients, you can be sure that the successful ad agencies of tomorrow will be cooking up something quite different from the dishes we are served today.