Leafing through the Modernist Cuisine Collection

I’m hardly the first person to write about receiving the Modernist Cuisine Cookbook Collection and I am sure all of you that have been coveting this collection have already heard all the stats about the book (lbs. of ink, 2,438 pages etc.).

I wanted these books the minute I began to hear about the project.  I was trying to figure how I would be able to convince my wife that this was actually a purchase I had to have (which means that there would have to be another purchase of equal value for something she felt was equally important) or to convince my boss that the school needed to have it in our library.  So when I won the books along with a new CVap oven at the Starchefs ICC this year I was ecstatic.

I quickly received my CVap oven delivered to our loading dock at the school and I originally thought that they had told me the books would come with the oven.  I contacted the person that sent me the oven to try and track down the books and she told that they were on their way.  A month passed and I began to worry.   I thought the books might come in time for Christmas. That passed.  Then finally after seeing Chris Young lecture at J&W University in January, I decided I would ask him if he knew how I might be able to track down my win.   He suggested getting in touch with someone through the Modernist Cuisine blog and see if they could help.

Someone returned my email, but in the reply they seemed to think that they had already sent out the collection and that they didn’t recognize my name as a recipient.  My heart sank and I felt like every kid that didn’t get the bb gun he expected for Christmas.  I then tried to contact someone else at Winston Industries (makers of the CVap) and see if someone else could help.

A lady named Kerrie got back in touch with me and my hopes were instantly resurrected.  Not only would she track down what had happened with my win but she also put me in touch with the person who represents the CVap in my district.   Gary and Bob came to my school and spent some time with me answering all the questions I had accumulated up to then.   They were great and I now know a lot more about this fine piece of machinery.

I finally got an email from Kerrie telling me the collection was on its way. She even sent me an email a few days later asking me if I had received it as their company had just received their copies.

I taught a class on Spanish wines the night I came home and found the large box on my doorstep.  I labored to get it in the house as it is a really heavy 50# (they could use it as an employment criterion).  The packaging is out of control.  Open the first heavy-duty cardboard box only to find another heavy-duty cardboard box suspended by four cardboard pyramid corners.  Remove the next box which is framed by 4 cardboard dividers and open that up to find a thin cardboard box that holds the kitchen manual.  Then a final cut into the smaller box reveals the mother-load wrapped in plastic and surrounded by a heavy plexiglass case.

I removed the first book and started to read.  OMFG I thought to myself – it’s going to take me a long time to digest all this information.   The magnitude is overwhelming.  The size of the books themselves are unwieldy (my wife said they were obnoxiously huge) and requires you to be sitting in a comfortable chair.  The detail is over the top.  Not only answering the questions you have always wanted to ask but providing way more than you could ever come up with.   My reading then went to leafing as I turned each exquisite page to reveal another beautiful picture or detailed graph.

Is this the cookbook to end all cookbooks?  Who will ever be able to raise the bar above this.  I remember feeling the same way when I got  the El Bulli book and was surprised that it came with a CD rom.   $200 for a book.  The CD rom was a disappointment, the recipes were hardly user friendly and what was up with all the different powders I had never heard of.  No description of what they were and where to source.  But I do remember thinking who would ever have the audacity to print something that could cost more than that.  Then Ducasse put out his collection and then Blumenthal and Achatz’s books.  But now what all you boys gonna do.

Who’s going to try to be the next king of the mountain?

I feel remarkably lucky to have won two amazing items that are the building blocks of the Modernist food movement.  A manual to help me understand the other and to allow me to take my knowledge of cooking even further. I can’t thank you enough Winston Industries or Starchefs for giving me the opportunity to lay down that winning entry.


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