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Former Microsoft CTO Builds Kitchen Laboratory 127

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-do-you-want-to-eat-today dept.
circletimessquare writes "Nathan Myhrvold, former CTO of Microsoft, is self-publishing a cook book with scientific underpinnings. The man who presided over the original iterations of Windows has built a laboratory kitchen, hired 5 chefs, and plays with misplaced lab equipment: using an autoclave as a pressure cooker, using a 100-ton hydraulic press to make beef jerky, and using an ultrasonic welder for... he's not sure yet. The article includes a video on how to cryosear and cryorender duck. 'It's basically like a software project,' Dr. Myhrvold said. 'It's very much like a review we would do at Microsoft.' Is it possible to BSoD food?"

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Former Microsoft CTO Builds Kitchen Laboratory

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  • by yttrstein (891553) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @02:43AM (#30140818) Homepage
    It is now.
  • ... slow as Vista, we will starve to death.

  • by iMaple (769378) * on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @02:57AM (#30140886)

    The was an article on him a few years ago which seemed to suggest that he was being a patent troll and his 'inventions' just a cover (though to be fair he is a real super genius... worked with Stephen Hawking, publications in Nature and Science and even a paper on paleontology !!! ):

    http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2006/07/10/8380798/ [cnn.com]

    (Who's afraid of Nathan Myhrvold?
    The giants of tech, that's who. And they have a nasty name for the former Microsoft honcho: "patent troll."
    FORTUNE Magazine
    By Nicholas Varchaver, FORTUNE senior writer
    June 26 2006: 1:20 PM EDT)

    Patent troll or not, I have to admit that kitchen would have any tech savy cook drooling :) :)

    • And now, they can make potato chips at EXACTY 204.6 C. And, perfect cooked rice
    • by Anonymous Coward

      http://www.fatduck.co.uk/

      "We embrace innovation—new ingredients, techniques, appliances, information, and ideas—whenever it can make a real contribution to our cooking.

      We do not pursue novelty for its own sake. We may use modern thickeners, sugar substitutes, enzymes, liquid nitrogen, sous-vide, dehydration, and other nontraditional means, but these do not define our cooking. They are a few of the many tools that we are fortunate to have available as we strive to make delicious and stimulating d

    • Reminds me this old joke parodying Microsoft business practice and FUD strategies :
      Microsoft Cuisine [davar.net].

    • by oldhack (1037484)
      The troll will try to patent every god damn "dish" he and his chefs would cook up, both literally and figuratively.
  • Dear Microsoft (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by Dunbal (464142)

    Thou shalt not brute-force cooking.

    REAL chefs will have no interest in your stupid book.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Who said he wants chefs to read it?

      maybe it's aimed at engineers, scientists and programmers, and people who like reading interesting things written by interesting people...

      Besides, any fool can cook ordinary food in an ordinary kitchen. It's the mad food scientists like Heston Blumenthal and presumably this bloke (would help if it was actually possible to RTFA...) that are doing interesting and different things (they might be pointless and daft, but they're interesting and definitely book-worthy)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by JohnBailey (1092697)

      Thou shalt not brute-force cooking. REAL chefs will have no interest in your stupid book.

      Never heard of Heston Blumenthal then...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by gstoddart (321705)

        "Thou shalt not brute-force cooking. REAL chefs will have no interest in your stupid book."

        Never heard of Heston Blumenthal then...

        Or Wylie Dufresne [wd-50.com], or Homaro Cantu [wikipedia.org], or the field of Molecular Gastronomy [wikipedia.org].

        Lots of chefs are using cutting edge technology to do really exotic things with food both in technique and results. And, they've been doing it for a long time.

        Cheers

        • by pnuema (523776)
          Speaking as someone who had one of the best meals of his life at wd-50 (got to stammeringly meet Mr. Dufresne too), if you have not tried it, you have no idea what you are missing. It's like getting dinner and a magic show all at the same time. The best thing we had was the dessert - a gianduja (hazelnut chocolate) that was cold to the touch, and molten on the inside. It was amazing.
  • MS food (Score:5, Funny)

    by AHuxley (892839) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @02:58AM (#30140892) Homepage Journal
    After you consume it, 2 ports will open spontaneously and you will be ejecting data for days.
  • All your roast-beefs are belong to us ?!?

  • try to get his ingredients.. or he'll sue your under the DMCA.
  • Method (Score:4, Funny)

    by supernova_hq (1014429) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @03:24AM (#30141000)
    If they program like they cook, it explains ME and Vista.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by bobdotorg (598873)

      If they program like they cook, it explains ME and Vista.

      I was thinking more along the lines of they ate too much of a bad batch of Win 98 and barfed up ME.

      After snacking on that XP that had been left out of the refrigerator too long, barfed up Vista.

  • he's forcing ram to do preposterous things.
  • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @03:32AM (#30141036)
    For those who don't know, this is nothing new. Heston Blumenthal, who runs The Fat Duck [fatduck.co.uk] at Bray, Berkshire, for those of you with a few hundred euros to spend on dinner, has been doing this for years. Blumenthal uses laboratory equipment because it gives better, more consistent results than standard cooking equipment and is designed to stand up to the workloads of a commercial kitchen, but he has extended this a long way to develop new ideas. I'm assuming that this guy knows about him and his work and decided to try to go one better (possibly because of his connection to a company famous for doing precisely that?)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by beh (4759)

      Same thought here - sounds a lot like Heston Blumenthal's approach to cooking... ...and in a true Microsoft way, Nathan Myhrvold will now 'innovate' this as the new way, long after others have 'paved the way'... ;-)

      Though, I doubt Myhrvold will pick up 3 Michelin stars along the way, like Blumenthal has.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by SerpentMage (13390)

      Oh yes let's do crap dishes and make people pay oodles of money for it.

      I have seen and heard about the Fat Duck and while the elite cuisine establishment can be quite anal, we don't need to go to molecular chemistry. For if we go to molecular chemistry why are we even using real food in the first place? Why not just synthesize everything in the first place? Would make life a lot easier for the Fat Duck....

      What bothers me with people like Nathan and in fact the entire freaken generation like him is that they

      • by RMH101 (636144) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @04:07AM (#30141182)
        I'm assuming you've not eaten at the Fat Duck? It's not won the "world's best restaurant" title for nothing. Whilst you can take this too far and create some truly out-there dishes (HB's famous "Sound of the Sea" for example, the idea of taking a scientific approach to cooking, rather than the Mrs Beaton hand-me-down-old-wives-tales, isn't a bad one. You can use great, natural ingredients but cook them in accurate, innovative methods. Much like military/aeronautic technology trickles down to the consumer eventually, so might this: e.g. sous vide cooking in the home, etc.
        • Doing food chemistry in the kitchen is just novelty. The restaurant is loved because it's new and exciting to the jaded, idle rich. One immutable property of novelty is that it always wears off.
          • by Abcd1234 (188840)

            Doing food chemistry in the kitchen is just novelty. The restaurant is loved because it's new and exciting to the jaded, idle rich.

            As opposed to jaded, bored Slashdot nerds? :)

            Applying our understanding of the human body and food chemistry to the art of creating great food makes a ton of sense. It allows one to create new, unique experiences, be it flavours, textures, colours, etc, and to do so optimizing for what we know about human anatomy (an excellent example of this is the use of atomizers to stimulat

      • by gbjbaanb (229885)

        I wish these folks would just sit on the sidelines and let people come up with real solutions

        Perhaps you should ignore the media hype about the Fat duck and its so-called 'molecular cooking' (which is just a term used to describe thinking what happens when you cook - like protein chains tightening under heat, etc).

        For real solutions, take a look at what he did with the restaurant chain Little Chef. This was an iconic British brand from years back that was in decline, so he came in to make menus for it that would fit its price range and quick cook requirements. He did very well at it too. There were

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by asliarun (636603)

        Flamebait, but I'll bite.

        Oh yes let's do crap dishes and make people pay oodles of money for it.

        So what? You pay money for crappy food, don't you? Or do you eat Kobe steaks all the time? In any case, crappiness is purely a subjective thing. Lots of people don't seem to find it crappy at all.

        I have seen and heard about the Fat Duck and while the elite cuisine establishment can be quite anal, we don't need to go to molecular chemistry. For if we go to molecular chemistry why are we even using real food in the first place? Why not just synthesize everything in the first place? Would make life a lot easier for the Fat Duck....

        Sure, it could. However, why is the field of culinary fine dining suddenly beholden to your fancies? Fat Duck is doing what it wants to, and this is obviously working for them.

        In any case, this so-called molecular gastronomy has been going on for a long long time. What do you think makes yo

      • What's molecular chemistry? More to the point, what's nonmolecular chemistry?

      • by Sockatume (732728)

        Cooking is applied chemistry. Ergo, understanding the chemistry of food can be useful for a chef, especially an experimental one.

    • by kjart (941720)

      FTA:

      He hired 15 people, including 5 professional chefs, a photographer, an art director and writers and editors, to create it. They included Christopher Young, a biochemistry-graduate-student-turned-chef who headed the research kitchen at the Fat Duck near London

      So, he's hired the guy that probably actually came up with that idea and is also apparently a 'master french chef' himself (according to Wikipedia at least). They also have a quote from Wylie Dufresne who sounded somewhat impressed, so I tend to t

      • by _Shad0w_ (127912)

        If it's cheaper than the Fat Duck one - which was over £100 last time I checked - I shall pick up a copy. If only for entertainment purposes.

    • "He hired 15 people, including 5 professional chefs, a photographer, an art director and writers and editors, to create it. They included Christopher Young, a biochemistry-graduate-student-turned-chef who headed the research kitchen at the Fat Duck near London, one of the most innovative restaurants in the world."

      • by blueg3 (192743)

        He's not "the" Fat Duck guy, he's "a" Fat Duck guy. The Fat Duck guy is Heston Blumenthal.

      • The article is wrong. Mhyrvold just hired one of Blumenthal's staff, not the man himself. It doesn't properly credit Blumenthal or explain the extent to which Mhyrvold is just copying someone else's work, by, in effect, hiring one of his developers.
    • by Eevee (535658)

      From the fine article you didn't read:

      He hired 15 people, including 5 professional chefs, a photographer, an art director and writers and editors, to create it. They included Christopher Young, a biochemistry-graduate-student-turned-chef who headed the research kitchen at the Fat Duck near London, one of the most innovative restaurants in the world.

      So yes, it isn't new. But the article didn't claim it was and even explicitly named the Fat Duck as one of the inspirations for the work.

  • ...Heston Blumenthal's output. Who hasn't? The only reason the rest of us don't have kitchens filled with expensive gadgets (and experienced help) is lack of finance. :)

  • Has been doing this for years. I am unsurprised that the NYT doesn't even bother to acknowledge this.

  • I hope that this laboratory kitchen is not to cooking what windows is to software.
    But I can't help thinking it is...

    That's such a waste of resources (food, talent, machine, time)

  • ... is to be the outcome.

    Shades a new light on the idiom mischief is brewing.

    CC.
  • ... inventing a new battery, taming hurricanes, defeating disease... attracting lightning, tunneling it into the autoclave... Frankenstein! Just like he did when he managed the Windows codebase.

  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @03:51AM (#30141124)
    This is not a new idea. See wikipedia on molecular gastronomy [wikipedia.org]. Mhyrvold will probably try to patent [slashdot.org] it though.
    • by Mark_in_Brazil (537925) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @07:09AM (#30142006)

      This is not a new idea. See wikipedia on molecular gastronomy [wikipedia.org]. Mhyrvold will probably try to patent [slashdot.org] it though.

      Color me shocked that a Microsoftie is doing something unoriginal.

      Now, if Microsoft-style food makes your stomach unstable, that's just because you can't expect the creator of the food to test it in every possible stomach, and I'm sure they'll fix it in one of the service packs.

      And the fact that Myhrvold doesn't yet know about things like pasteurization, filtering, and qualification of suppliers, used to deal with physical, chemical, and biological threats in the food does not mean that any food-borne pathogens, poisons, hormones, rocks or glass shards are his fault. He wants to dominate the market, and making lots of food for lots of people (he's working on deals with schools so kids won't be able to eat any kind of food but Myhrvold Food) means that there will be more of it in which pathogens, dangerous chemicals, and solid debris can hide. That's not Myhrvold's fault, and you fanbois who insist on eating food whose ingredients have been properly qualified, inspected, and treated to remove possible threats, well, the only reason your food is not being attacked is because Myhrvold's food presents a much more high-profile target for biological, chemical, and physical threats, so the threats don't even bother showing up in other food.

      Plus, Myhrvold paid a company a bunch of money and they did a study showing that if you ignore hospital bills, funeral expenses, cleaning bills to remove spewed vomit, violently ejected diarrhea, and squirted blood from clothes, personal belongings, homes, places of work, car interiors, stores, schools, etc., and the permanent damage done to the digestive systems of those who have eaten Myhrvold Food and survived, then despite the fact that Myhrvold food is cheaper than what you get at those fancy restaurants that obey the safety and inspection laws, and even cheaper in total overall cost than the food you buy inexpensively at grocery stores and farmers' markets.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Who said it was? The article explains that he lured away one of Blumenthal's own research chefs for the book project, and even the summary is pretty clear on the matter.

  • "The project has grown in size and scope. Originally planned as a 300-page discussion of sous vide, an increasingly popular restaurant technique of cooking food in vacuum-sealed bags in warm water baths, the book has swelled to 1,500 pages that will also cover microbiology, food safety, the physics of heat transfer on the stove and in the oven, formulas for turning fruit and vegetable juices into gels, and more."

    Has gone from win 2000 to vista, how long before it cuts the bloat and comes to Win 7??

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RMH101 (636144)
      sous vide rocks. probably not enough to warrant 300 pages discussing it, but it's great. you cook at sub-boiling temperatures, with food sealed in an evacuated plastic bag and placed under hot water for long periods. kills all bacteria, so the result doesn't need refridgerating and has a very long shelf life (I've started seeing sous-vide-cooked lamb in my local supermarket: might give the impression it's junk food as it's on the shelf next to the beans rather than in the chilled section but the taste is
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        it's great. you cook at sub-boiling temperatures, with food sealed in an evacuated plastic bag and placed under hot water for long periods. kills all bacteria, so the result doesn't need refridgerating

        This is not only wrong, but incredibly dangerous. While you can pasteurize food to kill bacteria (allowing you to safely cook chicken to only 141 degrees, for example, by keeping it at that temperature for a long enough time), sub-boiling temperatures do not kill botulism spores. Those spores are temporarily deactivated at cooking or refrigeration temperatures, but will survive the process. And, since they thrive in an anaerobic environment, the vacuum packing makes it more dangerous, not less, to store the

  • I very much want a copy of that cook book! Oh, and the kitchen to go with it.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Given that he's experimenting with beef jerky and cryoseared duck, I doubt he'd go in such a direction but what I'd like to see is a good vegan cheese.

    Those of you you have never tried the existing vegan cheese products will no doubt be puzzled - but those of you who have will either see the need or are hard-core masochists (the ethical problem with cheese is that to keep the cows producing milk the cows have to keep having calves and the calves get turned into veal which is quite unpleasant for the calves

    • Don't worry about the veal. My enjoyment evens out the calf's problems.
    • Is Ruth Kimber, as documented on Channel 4 with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Ruth produces (among other things) beef, veal and milk. Her calves get an outdoor life (no crating). She argues, and I tend to support this, that in the wild most ruminants cannot grow to maturity (otherwise you get population surges and mass starvation.) By producing calves and only allowing a certain number to survive to be adults, we actually mimic the natural environment with us as the top level predator.

      I personally do not ha

    • by Ironica (124657)

      Daiya is fairly good, as is Follow Your Heart. But it is very difficult to replicate the stretchiness that casein imparts to cheese with other proteins.

      I don't even want a cheese that's vegan, necessarily... I have no ethical problems with animal products*. I just want a cheese sub that doesn't contain any trace of dairy, soy, canola, eggs, or for that matter, gluten or corn.

      * I have ethical problems with the way most food animals are raised, and do my best to choose meat that's been pastured and grass- (

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      the ethical problem with cheese is that to keep the cows producing milk the cows have to keep having calves and the calves get turned into veal which is quite unpleasant for the calves

      Couldn't someone just start a farm where the calves weren't sold for veal and charge a premium price to vegans to cover the loss in earnings, or something?

  • by initialE (758110) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @04:09AM (#30141186)

    This [sky.com] is why kitchen laboratories should not be taken so lightly.

    • by Abcd1234 (188840)

      No, that's why liquid nitrogen shouldn't be taken lightly:

      He reportedly said afterwards he had been trying to fill a gas lighter but his 16-year-old girlfriend said he was attempting to empty the bottle./blockquote.

      No matter which one of those claims is true, either way, he's a fucking idiot.

  • For any who are new to this approach to cooking, it is called molecular gastronomy. See here [khymos.org] for a good primer.

    This stuff is seriously cool and eating at a restaurant specializing in this style, while expensive, is definitely an experience worth having.

    I live in Chicago and we are proud to have several famous chefs from this school of cooking with great restaurants including Alinea, Graham Elliot and Moto (along with its sister restaurant Otom). I only wish some of the ingredients and techniques were less

    • by stupid_is (716292)
      Is it pure coincidence that the restaurant "Moto" is in the same city as a similarly titled mobile phone & network infrastructure company?
  • Autoclaved Turkey (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Rollgunner (630808)
    We did this once for a lab Christmas party. Frozen solid to cooked in about 25 minutes.

    Problem is, with normal oven cooking, a lot of the liquids boil out and evaporate. Not so with the autoclave.

    It was so juicy you could almost *drink* it.
  • by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @05:34AM (#30141532)
    This has already been done before, and been done much better. This guy is just throwing random shit into random industrial equipment. Yeah, i guess it is a lot like MS code. Throw enough shit at the wall and some of it will stick. This isn't cooking, this is brute force mutilation of food.

    You don't just take a random piece of equipment and say "hey, let's throw all sorts of food into this and see if it makes it taste good". You think about what you can use the equipment for, then what you need done to food. You look for how these two things coincide. Yeah, there's a bit of experimentation involved, but it's not random shit. You don't take a damn ultrasonic welder and say "LOLOL LET'S USE THIS ON FOODSTUFFS AND CALL IT COOKING!!!"

    Typical MS nonsense.

    REAL chefs use rotovaps for distilling marinades and such. Things that the equiptment is good for. They use temperature controlled baths to control the temperature of things that need to be temperature controlled. They don't use 10 ton presses at all. Ten tons is good for just about nothing except obliterating your food.
    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      This guy is just throwing random shit into random industrial equipment. Yeah, i guess it is a lot like MS code. Throw enough shit at the wall and some of it will stick. This isn't cooking, this is brute force mutilation of food.

      There is a board of health after all.

      --

      Bubble sorted mousse, may contain moose.

  • Dr. Myhrvold has long pursued a Renaissance man portfolio of interests.

    Renaissance man? More like Toad from the "Wind and the Willows".

  • Microsoft : overkill.
  • Food Science should be left to food scientists.

    "Having money should never be confused for a license to be a fuckwit." - eg

    Nathan Myhrvold should stick to what he does best.
    Retirement.

    Ehud

  • Growing up with a mom working as a chef or cook in various kitchens the whole way, I'd often be baffled by how awkward and backwards the tech involved was. Tons of stuff was clearly considered way obsolete by standards in non-food engineering. Like many fields (like cells having features you'd never see on a cordless or a car having features a house rarely has) cooking sticks to tradition for no particular reason. It's of course ok to treat it as an art, but while painting in oil has it's place it's also us
    • Er, no. The reason that houses mostly don't have all the features that cars have is because houses are much bigger and the costs are much higher, also houses have to operate 24/7 and cars don't. Most people simply can't afford it, or they prefer the old ways because, let's face it, they are more aesthetically attractive. I've just moved from a house in a conservation area to one with modern tech, and although I really like the convenience, I miss my open fireplaces, hardwood windows and solid stone walls.
  • I don't know about you, but I feel WAY SAFER now that Nathan Myhrvold is staying away from Microsoft and spending his time having fun with his molecular gastronomy investigation venture. I mean, this is the guy who was going to take over the world with a micropayments scheme. He could mess up your world if he really was a black hat. But if you want to you just don't have to eat his cooking... well unless it's THAT good. ;)

    Of course, if you consider how much El Bulli's cookbook cost, if he could release it o

  • That's it? At my previous job those were the SMALL ones. If you really wanted to have fun the 500 Ton was sitting around idle a lot. Not sure how well it would make beef jerky though - kinda oily & not a lot of heat.

    Of course, I'm a mechanical engineer - what do I know?
  • Is it possible to BSOD food?

    The article includes a video on how to cyanosear and cyanorender duck, doesn't it?

    (blink)

    Never mind.

  • I think we may be getting an insight into the reason for the underlying problems windows has had since the beginning ... are there discarded code modules from 1980? Altair code?

  • by dontPanik (1296779) <ndeselms.gmail@com> on Wednesday November 18, 2009 @10:26AM (#30143990)
    Can we have a Windows 7 release party in his kitchen?
  • Hmm...all his food has a slight hint of apples.
  • So if you cooked food in the autoclave you'd never really have to worry about it going bad. You'd be eating sterile food! Although if food already went bad before, would toxins still be present? I think I remember reading something about E. Coli and similar bacterias getting people sick because of the immune response to LPS--a component of their cell walls. Maybe some of the biologists in the room can correct me.

  • There's already a very good book [amazon.com] along those lines (affiliate link to "On Food And Cooking").

  • Typical microsoft approach. Take an everyday activity (cooking, writing a letter) and add bells and whistles to the point where you need a serious hardware upgrade to even get started any more..

  • Molecular gastronomy [wikipedia.org] - it's been around for years.
  • It looks like you're trying to bring meaning to your empty life by filling the hole in your stomach!

    Would you like to...

    • Deep-Fry a Twinkie?
    • Raise your pate to room temperature?
    • Stir your chili con queso while simulaneously microwaving it?

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