Grant Achatz and Nathan Myhrvold Talk Food and Technology

Grant Achatz, Nathan Myhrvold.

On Wednesday night I attended a panel discussion that explored the ways that science and technology are transforming our notions of food and technology. The participants were Alinea's Grant Achatz, a newly minted author whose book we wrote about here) and former Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold, a food- and cooking-obsessed futurist. It was moderated by Wired senior editor Mark McClusky. It was a lively, informative, and, as you can imagine, extremely heady panel. There was even a fair amount of humor mixed in with the high-planed back and forth.

What do Achatz and Myhrvold think of molecular gastronomy as a name? Not much. What would they rather call it?

"Technoemotional cooking." Or maybe "modernist cuisine."

Technoemotional sounds like a band, doesn't it? Serious eaters, what would you rename the molecular gastronomy movement? We'll send the best name on to Grant Achatz and and Nathan Myrhvold and see what they think.

After the jump, the rest of the conversation's greatest hits.

Myhrvold says he is often criticized for his predilection for cooking with chemicals. His response: "I tell them chemicals are made with elements, too, aren't they?"

Achatz was asked about possible applications for the home cook of what he does. He said with a wry smile, "Aren't thermal circulators the new microwave? I have always thought so."

I asked them about where delicious intersects with technology. Achatz's response: "I tend to evaluate rather than enjoy." Fascinating response, isn't it? Myhrvold said delicious is often not what he's going for. He's trying to provoke people to think about and to taste food in different way. The element of surprise kept coming up over and over again.

Fun Food Fact: Myhrvold said the inventor of Dippin' Dots is a scientist who normally works with frozen bull semen. Maybe that's why I never cared for Dippin' Dots.

Myrhvold said in talking about sous vide that botulism in general does not pose much of a real threat, unless, according to him, you eat beached whale. He did nonetheless say that it is important not to get botulism.