Friday, March 11, 2011

Chef Richard Blais on waiting for "Modernist Cuisine"

Chef Richard Blais/Our Labor of Love

Modernist Cuisine, the biggest cookbook of the decade, and I do mean big, started shipping this week. Judging from the early reviews like Michael Ruhlman's in the New York Times, Modernist Cuisine is an amazing cookbook, or more accurately, culinary encyclopedia.

Just by the numbers, it is significant: six years of work by a team of 20 chefs, writers, photographers and designers led by the former Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft Nathan Myrhvold; six volumes (5 subject books plus a kitchen manual); 2,438 pages; 49 pounds of cooking knowledge. And did I mention the $625 list price? To add to the mystique, there is but a single press run of just 6,000 copies, with the possibility of a second run.

Additional press runs or not, Modernist Cuisine’s impact will be felt throughout the contemporary cooking community. One of the best-known practitioners of the art of modernist cuisine is Atlanta’s Richard Blais, of Top Chef All-Stars and concept chef of Flip Burger Boutique. He tweeted in February that he pre-ordered a copy through Amazon, which is offering the book at $461.62, 26% off the cover price of $625. I contacted Blais through his publicist and here’s what he had to say while he waits by the mailbox.

You tweeted that you pre-ordered the book, Modernist Cuisine. Have you seen a copy or received your copy yet or do you expect to receive it soon?

Blais: I am on the pre-order wait list like everyone else…

Why do you want to own the book?

Blais: I think it has a chance to be a real revelation and a game changer in our industry. Knowing what I know about his [Myrhvold’s] work and what he has done globally, I think it is a fascinating undertaking.

Do you know Nathan Myrhvold (or the co-authors)? Have you followed the production of the books?

Blais: Yet to meet him, I just know of his stories through features and walking chats with other chefs.

What are you most interested in out of the six volumes?

Blais: I think I will find it all very interesting and I've heard the food photography is spectacular!

How do you plan to use the book?

Blais: I plan to read it and be inspired by it.

Is there anyone you would lend the book to?

Blais: Oh sure, anytime I have a book it belongs to all my chefs. We all learn from each other; it's what being a chef is about. It's very fraternal.

And he adds:

I can’t wait to get it! I am checking the mailbox every day.

Text copyright 2011, Lucy Mercer. Photo of Richard Blais provided by The Reynolds Group. 
Modernist Cuisine photo from

A version of this story appears on


Linda said...

Nice interview, Lucy! Let me know if you are able to get a review copy-- that would be a coup.

Lucy said...

Thanks for reading, Linda! Even Ruhlman had to return his review copy. Now it's your turn to get a Myrhvold interview!