‘The Photography of Modernist Cuisine’: See food in stunning new ways


Nathan Myhrvold, the former Microsoft executive turned cookbook author, doesn’t do anything by half measures. The chieftain behind the six-volume, 2,400-page, 43-pound “Modernist Cuisine” this month publishes “The Photography of Modernist Cuisine.” It’s a (very) large-format 300-page compilation of the “Modernist Cuisine” cookbook’s stunning photographs as well as never-published-before images.

The front cover is a closeup of a beefsteak tomato, so macro you can see the fibers of the stem, and the back cover is a strawberry plunging into water, one of the many examples of shooting liquids from the side.

In between are photos divided into the chapters: Plants, Animals, Cutaway, Cooking and Phenomena. Crystallized vitamin C was photographed using a microscope (“useful for imaging the cellular structure fo plant tissue or details such as the fat-covered bubbles in whipped cream”). Closeups include a grapefruit segment whose membrane has been sloughed away by enzymes, the undulating folds of the surface of red cabbage, the black foot of a silkie chicken.


The frozen hindquarters of a pig was cut with a band saw for a cross-sectional view, illustrating the areas that contain more dark-red myoglobin. Pots and pressure cookers were sliced in half and heat-tolerant glass adhered to the side so that food could be photographed during the cooking process.

It is a coffee table book for food and photo lovers. There are no recipes in the book, but there are plenty of photo tips, including tips for taking photos of food at home or in restaurants:

  • Sit where the light is good
  • Shoot from a high or low angle, focus on the closest or most interesting part of the food, and simplify the scene
  • Use a tripod and the self timer to prevent camera shake
  • When shooting with a smartphone, use an app that can capture high-dynamic-range images
  • Diffuse a flash through a napkin
  • Bounce the flash off a card and a white surface

“The Photography of Modernist Cuisine” by Nathan Myhrvold, The Cooking Lab, $120.


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