Dr. Nathan Myhrvold and Chris Young bring real meaning to terms like mad kitchen science and whiz-chef. They both have backgrounds in science, mathematics, economics, physics—their credentials alone will make your head spin. But it’s their enthusiasm for innovation in culinary arts and food technology that sets them apart from your average scientists.
Young, who has degrees in mathematics and biochemistry from the University of Washington, was hired by Heston Blumenthal in 2003 to build and lead the research team at The Fat Duck. Over nearly five years, Young expanded the experimental kitchen to eight chefs and scientists, who together developed dozens of innovative techniques and recipes that helped The Fat Duck rise to become a top-rated restaurant in the world.
In late 2007, Young returned to Seattle to work with Dr. Nathan Myhrvold, a scientist and entrepreneur with degrees in mathematics, geophysics, and space science from UCLA and in mathematical economics and theoretical physics from Princeton. Dr. Myhrvold founded Microsoft Research in 1991 and served as the company’s first chief technology officer until 1999. He then co-founded Intellectual Ventures (I.V.), a firm dedicated to creating and investing in inventions. Currently CEO of I.V., as well as one of its many inventors, Myhrvold has more than 100 patents to his credit, including several related to food technology.
An avid practitioner of modernist cuisine, Myhrvold worked for two years as a stagier at Rover’s in Seattle and trained at the Ecole de la Varenne in Burgundy. His original research on sous vide cooking has been published in numerous reports to eGullet and covered by the New York Times Magazine, Wired, and the Wall Street Journal.
Myhrvold and Young are currently writing a comprehensive book covering the techniques of traditional and modern cuisine and the science behind it.
What is American cuisine: We don’t think that there is a succinct answer to this question. American cuisine is as diverse as the people cooking across our country. What excites us about American cuisine is also what excites us about America—its unique ability to absorb the ideas of other cultures, reinvent itself, and pioneer previously unexplored ideas.
Chef most admired: We admire any chef or cook who makes the effort to innovate, who has the courage to break the rules and do something completely new. Nothing is more difficult.
Kitchen tool you wish you had: We are always looking out for tools that let us try something new, whether they are designed for the kitchen or for the lab. A technology that could evenly heat the center of a piece of food while leaving the exterior cool, or even frozen, would be interesting.
Most important kitchen rule: Innovation requires failure, so fail often! Failure frees you to try something new that just might work. Many of humanity’s greatest discoveries were serendipitous failures.
Coolest chef you have worked with: [Chris Young]: My mentor, Heston Blumenthal, who taught me that no matter how talented and creative you are as a chef, you’re only as good as your last service and that you can always raise the bar a bit higher.
Where you’d like to go for culinary travel: [Chris Young]: Sichuan region of south-west China, because when I’m not doing the cooking, it’s food I love to eat.