In 1984, Harold McGee’s beloved book, On Food and Cooking renewed our awareness of the inextricable link between science and cooking, and we began to shift our attention towards the value of that relationship. In 2011, Modernist Cuisine took the science of food to a new aesthetic extreme. In that span of 30 years, the culture and attitudes surrounding food science have evolved as much as its tools and technology. Harold McGee, Maxime Bilet, and Anne McBride discuss these advances, illustrated in the contrasts between these two ground-breaking books.
Anne E. McBride is the culinary program and editorial director for strategic initiatives at The Culinary Institute of America, where her responsibilities include leading the programming for the Worlds of Flavor® International Conference & Festival. She co-authored Les Petits Macarons: Colorful French Confections to Make at Home and Culinary Careers: How to Get Your Dream Job in Food, and, with famed pastry chef François Payard, Chocolate Epiphany and Bite Size. McBride is working towards a Ph.D. in food studies at New York University, where she taught for six years. She is the director of the Experimental Cuisine Collective, an NYU-based interdisciplinary group of more than 2,300 scientists, chefs, media, scholars, and food enthusiasts, and regularly writes on topics related to professional and experimental cooking, including contributions to Food Arts, Gastronomica, the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, and Food Cultures of the World. She is a board member of the Association for the Study of Food and Society, was a two-term board member of the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance, and is a judge for the James Beard Awards.
Maxime Bilet is the co-author of Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, which received the 2012 Book of the Year Award from the James Beard Foundation and the International Association of Culinary Professionals’ Visionary Achievement, among many other awards. He is also the co-author and of Modernist Cuisine at Home.
For six years, he was the director of culinary arts and sciences at The Cooking Lab, housed within Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures Lab in Seattle. He led the research and development for all projects related to The Cooking Lab, as well as conceptualizing and overseeing the unique photography and aesthetic of both books. He and his work have also appeared in television programs, including The Martha Stewart Show, Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods, Top Chef Seattle, and the History Channel’s Modern Marvels. Forbes named him one of the top “30 under 30” in the food and wine industry in 2011, and Scoffier one of the best emerging chefs of that year.
Marion Nestle is the Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at NYU. She holds a doctorate in molecular biology. Her books, Food Politics and What to Eat won James Beard Awards; Why Calories Count won the 2013 IACP food matters book award. The UC Berkeley School of Public Health awarded her its Public Health Hero citation, and Time Magazine ranked her twitter feeds among the top ten in science and health.
Harold McGee writes about the science of food and cooking. He has been named food writer of the year by Bon Appetit magazine, and to the Time 100, an annual list of the world’s most influential people. He started out studying physics and astronomy at the California Institute of Technology, and then English literature at Yale University. In 1984 he published On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Twenty years later, the revised and enlarged edition of On Food and Cooking won several awards, and is now a standard reference in culinary schools and kitchens worldwide. His most recent book, Keys to Good Cooking, was published in 2010, and from 2006 to 2011 he wrote the “Curious Cook” column in the New York Times.