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Art and tech intersect at 'photography of modernist cuisine: the exhibition'

Images from Nathan Myhrvold's book, "The Photography of Modernist Cuisine"
Images from Nathan Myhrvold's book, "The Photography of Modernist Cuisine"
Ryan Matthew Smith/ Modernist Cuisine, LLC

Did you know…?
…that chocolate starts as bitter, white cacao beans?
…that the secret to cooking crispy fish is in the slime on fish skin?
…that the first ketchup was mushroom flavored?

These are some of the facts about food that The Tech Museum’s “Photography of Modernist Cuisine: The Exhibition” examines. The exhibition, which is based on Nathan Myhrvold’s book, makes food come alive through vivid and extremely detailed photos. Foodies and science geeks will appreciate “Modernist Cuisine” because it highlights the creative and biological processes that are the core of creating delicious, technically exquisite food.

The “Photography of Modernist Cuisine” is more than a captivating exhibition however; It is an expression of the culture of Silicon Valley as a place where art, science, technology, and creative minds intersect.

The exhibit was a veritable feast of food porn. Huge, colorful photos of food in various stages of preparation filled the halls. Attendees enjoyed an interactive booth where they created edible, gelatinous fruit spheres. There was a modernist cocktail mixing presentation by the San Francisco eatery Alta CA, and s’more making and tasting of local, boutique wines on the Tech’s rooftop terrace. The catering for the event was provided by La Victoria’s Taqueria, which happens to be the favorite local restaurant of Nathan Myhrvold, the culinary wiz behind the book.

The highlight of the night was an hour long presentation by Modernist Cuisine Expert Scott Heimendinger, who gave the audience a “behind the scenes” look at the exhibition, including the scientific and photographic lengths which the producers of the book went to in creating its stunning photos and recipes. One of the recipes, in fact, is for a burger which requires 30 hours of preparation time, liquid nitrogen, and a process called cryo-frying. Even the presenter seemed impressed when an audience member said she'd completed the recipe more than once.

The event was a harbinger of more like-minded gatherings to come. Tim Ritchie, president of the Tech Museum, spoke about its new Meet-up, “Creative Collisions” which celebrates the innovator in all of us.

“You would think at the Tech Museum we would celebrate technology, and we do to a certain extent. But really what we celebrate is the human capacity to use technology, and it’s really about humans using technology to solve complex problems. So the reason I’m mentioning Creative Collisions is not to celebrate technology but it’s to put people together to find new ways to solve complex problems because that’s what innovation really is about. It’s really about the practical expression in people’s imagination, and the technology really is just a means to that end,” Ritchie said.

The Silicon Valley is not just a place where technology lives or dies. Rather it is a place where creative minds from different backgrounds come together to dream of new ways of doing things, using tech as a vehicle for that dream.

The Photography of Modernist Cuisine runs through September 1st at the Tech Museum. For more information on the theory and practice behind Modernist Cuisine, go here.

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