The King of Food Porn Strikes Again - OZY | A Modern Media Company

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

Because as hard as you try, your iPhone food shots will never, in a million years, look like these.

What Georgia O’Keefe was to petunias and Robert Mapplethorpe was to penises, Nathan Myhrvold is to … popcorn kernels. And paella. And peppermills, mid-grind and sawed in half.

Under the super-macro Canon lens or microscope of Microsoft’s former chief technology officer and co-founder of Intellectual Ventures, a head of savoy cabbage — albeit a decent looking member of the brassica oleracea species to begin with — has never been more beautiful: an actual cabbage centerfold that bleeds out to the edges of the ginormous (26” x 16.5”) page of LumiSilk 200 matte art paper. It out-porns whomever might be splayed across the pages of the current Playboy.

According to Forbes, Myhrvold sold $3 million worth of cookbooks over the past couple of years.

“The Cabbage Close-Up,” as it’s titled, is just one of 405 images in The Photography of Modernist Cuisine, a 12-pound, 299-page, $120 non-cookbook published recently by Myhrvold’s own Cooking Lab in Bellevue, Washington. It’s like one big, fat ode to food — and a fitting tome for your Thanksgiving (coffee-)table.

Impressed by the heft? That’s paltry when compared to his first book in the trilogy, Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking (2011), which clocked in at six volumes, 40 pounds, 2,438-pages and sold for $625. Who would buy such a book, you ask? A lot of people, it turns out; according to Forbes, Myhrvold sold $3 million worth of cookbooks over the past couple of years — and racked up all the top awards from James Beard to Gourmand to the IACP, to boot.

And now Myhrvold has decided to drop the recipes (really, who needs ‘em?) — and make one mind-blowing picture book.   

Behold! Painstakingly executed food photos — created by a team of 37 photographers, editors, chefs and writers — take otherwise ordinary items picked from the garden or pulled from the pantry and transform them into provocative pieces of art.

All of which put those perfectly plump, motor-oil-glazed turkeys on consumer magazine covers to shame. Instead of clichéd food images of, say, an apple pie set in the grass or a ceramic soup bowl brimming with crusty breadcrumbs, think: Exploding Eggs. Enzyme-Peeled Grapefruit. A Foot of Silkie Chicken. Carrots on the Boil. A Panorama of Steak made from 286 individual photographs. Mac and Cheese that’s got nothing to do with Kraft. 

Eat up? Or, on second thought, after staring too long at that thoroughly unappetizing, fat-bubbling image called “Crust of a Seared Steak,” maybe just flip through.

Myhrvold’s work is worth seeing without the book crease running down the middle: The Photography of Modernist Cuisine is on display at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle through February 17 — and will travel around the world for the next three years. modernistcuisine.com

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