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21 Ultimate Gifts: Delicious Science

Michalene Busico

The GIFT

  • A custom kitchen designed by Nathan Myhrvold, author of Modernist Cuisine, with cutting-edge equipment including combi steam ovens, sous-vide water baths, and a liquid-nitrogen ice-cream maker.
  • A pantry stocked with ingredients for modernist dishes, from hydrocolloids to rare spices, as well as contacts for top purveyors of caviar, truffles, and other luxury foods.
  • Intensive weeklong instruction for you and your personal chef at Myhrvold’s Cooking Lab in Seattle.
  • A hands-on orientation and cooking lesson for you, your family, and your staff in your new kitchen, culminating in a dinner party for up to 25 guests.
  • A signed copy of Modernist Cuisine for you and each of your guests, in one of four languages.

$765,000

The most significant event in the food world this year was not the opening of a new restaurant, or the closing of El Bulli, or the return of the McRib sandwich. It was the publication of a cookbook: a six-volume, 2,400-page masterwork called Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. Authored by Nathan Myhrvold—former chief technology officer at Microsoft—and a team of chefs, editors, researchers, and photographers, it landed with a very loud thud in March. Its first printing sold out in advance, despite a $625 price tag, and its reviews ran the narrow range from "the most astonishing cookbook of our time" (Wall Street Journal) to "the most important culinary book ever" (Saveur). It was the subject of a TED lecture.

Less discussed was the inspiration for the book: Myhrvold’s own kitchen, a 2,000-square-foot assemblage of cutting-edge equipment and appliances in his Seattle-area mansion. "I started using it," says Myhrvold, an obsessed cook, "and I started asking questions."

It is a kitchen even the world’s best chefs can only dream about, but for one Robb Report reader, it could be the beginning of a culinary adventure. For the recipient of this gift, Myhrvold and his team will create the ultimate home kitchen, with all the tools, equipment, and ingredients, including two combi steam ovens, a centrifuge, a computerized smoker, an ultrasonic bath, multiple sous-vide water baths, a rotor-stator homogenizer, a commercial-grade hood system, a plancha griddle, and much more—essentially, all of the equipment in Myhrvold’s own kitchen. The space itself will be designed by Bran Ferren, chief creative officer of Applied Minds and one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business 2011.

 The Modernist Cuisine team will stock the pantry with ingredients ranging from hydrocolloids (used to make gels and spheres) to exotic spices. The recipient will also be introduced to Myhrvold’s network of top purveyors of luxury ingredients—"the guys Thomas Keller at the French Laundry and other great and famous chefs use," Myhrvold says.

The recipient and his or her personal chef will receive a week of training at the Cooking Lab, the Seattle research facility Myhrvold built to develop the book. And once the new kitchen is complete, Myhrvold’s chefs will provide an in-house cooking lesson for the recipient and his or her family and staff, culminating in a dinner party for up to 25 guests. Each will receive a signed copy of Modernist Cuisine in English, French, Spanish, or German.

The menu might include a fresh pea soup made by freezing raw peas in a mint extraction, grinding the mixture into a fine powder, and cooking it with as little heat as possible, to keep the peas sweet rather than starchy. Then perhaps there will be a perfectly succulent roast chicken, prepared by injecting the bird with brine, hanging it in a roomy Revco refrigerator, and roasting it in a computer-controlled, steam-enhanced combi oven. The ultrasonic bath, a device more commonly used to clean jewelry, might be used to make French fries: The agitation that normally cleans nooks and crevices roughens the potato’s surface and makes fries crispier. For dessert, ice cream can be made on a whim, using a liquid-nitrogen Pacojet that freezes smoothly and instantly. Like much of the equipment in this kitchen, it is no longer a secret weapon of the great and famous chefs.

The ultimate modernist kitchen, based on Nathan Myhrvold’s home kitchen, will include:
1. A Revco side-by-side refrigerator and freezer
2. Two stacked Rational combi ovens
3. A Synesso espresso machine
4. Two Mazzer burr coffee grinders
5. A PolyScience compact circulating water bath
6. A custom-made circulating water bath with a tipping mechanism to drain water into the sink
7. An Enviro-Pak smoker (computer automated, for hot and cold smoking)
8. Two Ponton Lemeunier pastry ovens with stone insets and steam jets
9. A second Revco side-by-side refrigerator and freezer
10. Custom wineglass-storage racks
11. A scullery
12. An Irinox blast freezer (circulates extremely cold air through a sealed chamber to accelerate freezing)
13. A Sorvall centrifuge and Henkle­- man vaccum-packing machine (hidden in shelving powered by a hydraulic lift)
14. A custom Thirode stove from France, with six high-induction cooktops, a powerful chrome griddle, gas burners, and a gas grill
15. A custom steel-and-glass hood

 

Nathan Myhrvold, 425.467.2307, nathanmyhrvold@hotmail.com

The final cost of this gift may be higher, depending on the size and scope of the project and on travel Distance for Nathan Myhrvold and Bran Ferren. Structural build-out is not included.

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