April 19, 2024

Modernist Cuisine, Sustainability, Culinary Traditions and More with Nathan Myhrvold

Modernist Cuisine, Sustainability, Culinary Traditions and More with Nathan Myhrvold

This week my guest is Nathan Myhrvold of Modernist Cuisine. Nathan graduated high school and went to college at 14. He holds a doctorate in theoretical and mathematical physics, as well as a master’s degree in mathematical economics, from Princeton University. His master’s degree is in geophysics and space physics, and he did postdoctoral cosmology work with Stephen Hawking. Nathan then spent 14 years at Microsoft, where he was their first Chief Technology Officer.

While working at Microsoft, he took a leave of absence to earn his culinary diploma from École de Cuisine La Varenne in France. Myhrvold retired from Microsoft in 1999 to found Intellectual Ventures and pursue several interests. Inspired by the void in literature about culinary science and the cutting-edge techniques used in the world’s best restaurants, Myhrvold assembled the Modernist Cuisine team to share the art andscience of cooking with others. 

In the culinary world, Nathan is known for his cooking lab, and the in-depth book sets Modernist Cuisine, Modernist Bread, and Modernist Pizza, as well as Modernist Cuisine at Home, and Modernist Bread at Home. His photography is sold at Modernist Cuisine Gallery by Nathan Myhrvold with locations in Seattle, New Orleans, and La Jolla.

Topics discussed:
The upcoming Modernist Pastry books
Pizza-making at home
What is Modernist Cuisine?
Breaking culinary traditions, and exploring cooking myths and lore
Microwaves, safety, and how they work
Cooking equipment such as combi ovens and induction cooktops
Sustainability as it relates to the food and beverage industry

Nathan's Website
Modernist Cuisine Website, Instagram and Facebook
The Modernist Pizza Podcast


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00:00:01.229 --> 00:00:20.940
Does eliminating plastic straws really make a difference? You know, for the turtles? Are microwaves harmful or not? How can we make better pizza at home? This week I have Nathan Myhrvold as my guest, the man behind Modernist Cuisine. We talked about those things and so much more. This is Chris spear.

00:00:20.969 --> 00:00:31.859
And you're listening to Chefs Without Restaurants. The show where I speak with culinary entrepreneurs and people working in the food and beverage industry outside of a traditional restaurant setting.

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I have 31 years of working in kitchens, but not restaurants and operate a personal chef service throwing dinner parties in the Washington DC area. So this is a conversation I was really excited to have. When I started my show. Five years ago, I had made a list of all the people I really wanted to have on the show and Nathan was pretty high up on that list. At the time, I had no idea how I'd be able to land him as a guest.

00:00:52.920 --> 00:02:30.990
But here he is today. I'm sure many of you know Nathan from his books, Modernist Cuisine, modernist bread and modernist pizza, as well as the at home versions of Modernist Cuisine and modernist bread. Nathan has done so much that we didn't even get to talk about so I did want to include a little bit in the intro here in case you don't really know everything about him. Not that I remotely know everything about him. But he graduated from high school and went to college at 14. He did postdoctoral cosmology work with Stephen Hawking, and he went on to work as the first Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft where he worked with Bill Gates and his team. While he was there, he did take a leave of absence so he could earn his culinary diploma in France. In 1999, he went on to found Intellectual Ventures and pursue many of his interests. He is someone who has studied paleontology, asteroids, he's worked with lasers. So this is not your every day cook or chef, one of his hobbies is also photography, something that if you've seen the Modernist Cuisine books, you'll know you know, the photography is beautiful in there. In fact, Nathan actually has numerous galleries where the photography of Modernist Cuisine can be seen. So just another one of his hobbies there. Because I only had an hour with him, I really wanted to stick strictly with food, but also see where the conversation went. So some of the things we touch on are his new books that are going to be coming out which is modernist pastry really excited for that.

00:02:31.259 --> 00:02:33.870
We're talking about things like cheese making and winemaking.

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Because he has the series of books, modernist pizza, I want to talk to him about how we can make better pizza at home, especially since I'm someone who just came into a Goonie oven.

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I've been working on that. I also want to know what Modernist Cuisine is. Where did that name come from? What is it mean to him? And then through that conversation of Maurice cuisine, we talked about breaking culinary traditions, you know, one of the things they really did was look at the the myths and legends of cooking and kind of see which ones hold up and which ones were just outright false. I talked to him about microwaves and whether or not they're safe, because this is something I've had conversations with other chefs about recently, we talked about other cooking equipment like combi ovens, and induction cooktops. And we had a really interesting discussion about sustainability, because I know he's been looking at climate change. And I wanted to find out his thoughts on some of these things. And I think some of his opinions might come off as controversial. So I hope you find this conversation as interesting as I did, I had such a great time with it. As always, please reach out to me on social media on Instagram and threads at Chefs Without Restaurants. If you have any feedback or follow up questions or anything, I'd love to continue talking with you. So this week's episode with Nathan Myhrvold will be coming right up after a word from our sponsor.

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00:05:25.920 --> 00:05:28.319
Hey, Nathan, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for coming on.

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Well, thank you. I'm pleased to be here.

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I'm really excited to talk to you today. When I started this podcast, I put together a rough list of kind of my dream guests and you're on that list, I never actually thought it would happen or how it would come about. So to have you here today. And, you know, we I know, we have a limited time, and I probably have way more questions than I can ask.

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But um, you know, I usually started the show by getting to know people's background, but um, I'm not going to do that here. Because there's so much info about you out there already. There's great podcasts.

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I'm gonna link all that in the show notes. actually want to start where I end many of these conversations, which is, what are you excited about right now?

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Because I want you to talk about what you're doing. And what's really getting you fired up at the moment? Well, right

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now we're doing a we're working on a book on pastry. And that is exciting.

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How many volumes?

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Is that going to be another multi volume? It'll be another

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big one. Yeah, in fact, we have two. pastry is a very large topic in a way. And savory food, you might roast all kinds of different meats, or or proteins. It's pretty similar.

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Actually, we had roasting a fish and roasting a leg of lamb aren't that different? Of course, there's some differences. Whereas in the world of pastry, ice cream is really different than cake.

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Okay, it's just a totally different chemistry. Totally different process. So we're struggling to reduce the scope.

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So it'll fit in six volumes. How long? Have

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you been working on that? Is it been ongoing? Couple

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00:07:05.250 --> 00:07:08.819
Wow. estimated timeline of when the out?

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We're much better at making books than we are at estimating how long the books will take. And I think partly that's because if we estimated how long the books would take up front, we might not do.

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Right, even though you've already done a number, you know, in your head that there is this extended timeline.

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you don't know is how long it will take you to figure stuff out? Or how many of the parts have received wisdom of the past? How many of those things are true versus are like completely wrong? And there's a lot

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so where do you even start with something like that, like pastry? I know you have a team so do you do it?

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Where one group is working on ice cream at someone's doing something completely different like cakes? Or do you break it off in chunks where we're going to work on things like cakes all together? And then ice cream altogether?

00:08:02.608 --> 00:08:19.139
We generally work on one broad topic together. So and we're not we've decided for this book not to do ice cream. We're doing mostly what? pastries? So cake. Yes. Croissant? Yes.

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Muffins. Yes. Ice cream? No.

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Now, you still want to like mousse? No, except you use mousse to fill a bunch of different things. So we're sort of doing mousse but not as hardcore as we'll do it if you're sitting down to a bowl of it, I guess.

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So you maybe have a Claire's and cream puffs. And then there's a pastry cream recipe or something in there.

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Oh, for sure. Yeah. What do you personally like? Is there something in pastries that you're drawn to naturally?

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Well, I think the the thing I had thought for a long time, is that pastry is more precise, more closer to the spirit of some of the modernist things that we've done. In the past. The reason we didn't do pace during the first Modernist Cuisine was partially be just to keep the scope down so we could finish the book, but partially it was because pastry was already using weird white powders that you don't know where they came from. And they were telling you Oh, you've got to measure it because nobody adds baking soda by taste. You can solve the taste Yes, but not baking soda tastes, first of all tastes horrible. And second of all, how it tastes is not what's important. It's there to do a job. And you need a certain amount to do that job. So I thought the pastry would be have fewer incorrect myths that were believed that we would discover that the recipes that the world have wood tightly cluster around very similar ratios of ingredients, for example, and very similar things because if you got too far away, it's not going work. Turns out that's all false. pastry is as full, maybe more full of myths and lore and legend. That turns out not to be true if you test it than savory cooking

00:10:16.259 --> 00:10:23.940
now to doing the modernist bread help you, like set you up for that, because you're already dealing kind of with like flowers and baking components. And so,

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absolutely, we we've learned a tremendous amount in the Red Books that helps us here. That said, there's some things that are very different.

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So a lot of the very, of the breads that people love, like a baguette. As for ingredients, they're really I mean, maybe you could get a fifth ingredient in there if you really worked hard, but there's not a lot of ingredients. And so it really puts a much higher emphasis on technique. Cheese, which we have not done a book on Jesus words, or wine wine, okay, one ingredient, the first order approximation. And so it's all about the technique. I

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look forward to modern modernist cheese coming maybe after pastry.

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When my first book hunters cuisine came out. I was in an interview. And the interviewer said, Well, why do you do this complex things? Why don't you have simple food? And I said, Well, what simple food is, oh, you know, like bread, wine and cheese. And I laughed, because those are those complicated things to make in the world. And, you know, famously, the difference between a fantastic winemaker and a not fantastic winemaker, or, the difference between different cheeses is tiny little things in technique. Cheddar cheese is there because you do a process called chattering. So you take the curds, after you've curdled the milk with rennet. And you heat them up a little bit. Not too boiling, just to make them hot. That makes cheddar cheese this little step that normally a little thing like that if you preheated something, would that make a giant difference in the taste? No, it wouldn't. But it doesn't in that case, and 100 other things, you know that with cheese, it's often about well, there's some culture out there have mold or fungus. And if we get just the right one to infect our cheese, it just the right time, and we let it go for just the right period of time, oh, then we'll have fabulous sheets.

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Otherwise, it'll be horrible. So those are super technique oriented also. I like writing books for people that make the stuff. And when you get to things like cheese or wine, they're essentially all professionals. There's a few amateur winemakers is a few amateur cheesemakers by, but it's not at all the same as cakes, where, you know, there's millions of cakes will be baked today. And a large fraction of them will be at home and a large fraction will be done by a professional. And the professionals aren't there's a few big factories that turnout cakes that you find in the supermarket. But a huge fraction of the cakes that people eat actually made by small producers, you don't find that's true for most things, but it is true for most baked goods because small bakeries and cafes and the like hat can play a very good role. So that's a better thing for us than something that's yes, I'm writing this for, you know, a 10th of a percent of the people who love it or a 1,000th of a percent, which are the few people that are at big companies. That isn't doesn't the same thing.

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Well, and you've got a couple of books that are geared towards the home cook, how do you call the info down into one volume. So you've got, you know, modernist bread as set but then you're gonna do modernist bread at home, you've done, you know, Modernist Cuisine at home. How do you decide what's going to make the cut? Are you kind of thinking about what the home cook is more apt to be doing in their home?

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Yes. So the things that for us that make a home cook are different depending on the condition. So we've not done a home pizza book, we may never do a home pizza book, because the big difference between home pizza and professional pizza is almost all home ovens are lousy at pizza. You can make pizza in a home oven, but you're not going to make pizza that is the same as some styles of other pizza. There are styles that work great. So I encourage people to make pizza at home.

00:14:57.929 --> 00:15:15.750
So I want to stay on that for a second. because I was going to ask this a little later, now you're seeing such the rise of like the home pizza oven. I know, hundreds of people have Goonies at home, all my friends have baking steel. So you are seeing the rise of the home pizza. So let's say we've kind of taken care of that.

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Okay, so whether you have a home pizza oven or baking steel, what are the next incremental things someone can do at home to make a better pizza? If we've kind of tackled the temperature issue?

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Or is there some low hanging fruit to help all these people at home who are now exploring pizza at home?

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Well, of course, we wrote a whole book on it. So yes, we have lots of other things. If I could summarize it all in a soundbite, I wouldn't have written a 1600 page book.

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That's not.

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You know, I think the most important thing for something like pizza is practice. You know, my big books typically weigh around 50 pounds. So what I sometimes will tell people is really, it's 100 pound package, because you should get your fifth, you should get your my book that's 50 pounds, and buy a 50 pound sack of flour, and cook from the book, as you go through that 50 pound box. By the time you're done with that sack in another stack, you'll know a whole lot more. And so pizza is something where there's a bunch of steps.

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And it's not as time critical as people think it's not as fragile as people think. People tend to be intimidated by something like it's something they shouldn't be. Making it a number of times is just enormously important.

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Now, there are other tech tricks and things that we have in the book proofing overnight and your fridge is huge. And it's not huge for the reason you think I mean, it lets you have a little bit of extra time and make your head as good. But it also conditions the dough better. So it's way easier to shape. And one of the things people have trouble with in pizza is shaping the dough, which is to say apportioning it and rolling it out flat, having it stay flat, having it be relatively round.

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And your main enemy, there is the flower. And unfortunately, you need strong flower. But the strong if a flower is too strong, it's really springy, and see a push it down and it pulls back up and you push it down again, and it pulls back up. And then you really push down hard.

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And you poke a hole in it. And so I fix this. Yeah. And that's something that overnight proving makes a huge difference with and then practice and handling, it makes a lot of difference.

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Yeah, as a chef, you know, a lot of people who aren't chefs, asked me, you know, how you get good at things. And it's the repetition.

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You know, when you're in a restaurant and you make a crab cake, you know, I'm making 400 of them tonight, and then tomorrow, I'm making 400. And you're just doing it and you get the reps and where's it home, you know, you make a lasagna today, you're probably not going to make it for three or four months, maybe. And it's like you don't remember what happened the last time and until you can keep doing that you're just really not going to be able to improve that much more. Absolutely.

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So people are often too hard on themselves as a home cook, because they'll say, Oh, I made something but it's not as good as at the restaurant. And I'll say, okay, was that the first time you made it? Well, yeah. Do you think it was the first time for the person at the restaurant? Because I assure you, it was not the first time.

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And having practice really improves things. And so Thanksgiving, people ask me, Well, what's a side dish? Or what's a good thing I should do for Thanksgiving? And I would say I'll only give you a recipe if you promise me, you will make it once before Thanksgiving. And you get lots of pushback. And people say, Oh, well, why would I do that? Right? I may not have time or like, No, you have to do it at least once. They

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make stuffing one day a year they make turkey one day a year, you know, they

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wonder why it's hard to get better. Whereas it professional. The more experience you have, the more easier it is to pick up on what you did wrong. But there is a lot to be said for trying it.

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And so the people who get a reputation for being great home cooks are in large part people who made the time and the effort to cook again and again. And if they liked the dish, but it wasn't perfect, they'd keep at it.

00:19:39.868 --> 00:19:50.699
100% great advice for anyone out there who's not maybe in the professional food world who is looking to improve some of the things they make.

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Well, the term Modernist Cuisine I see that used less these days, but it's been used interchangeably kinda I mean, almost like with molecular gastronomy, or like high end plated food with 17 ingredients.

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But is that what you intended?

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Like? What does the term Modernist Cuisine mean to you?

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And how did you land on that term when you started your series of books.

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So mostly what I was trying to do was talk about new techniques that were being used in kitchens, which mostly meant in high end kitchens. It isn't exclusively high end kitchens, but that is where you have the biggest impetus to be creative, a lot of restaurants, creativity is not what they're after.

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People want to be able to go to the same steak house that they went to as a kid and get the same steak and the same, you know, broccoli with cheddar cheese on it, or whatever it is.

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The comfort foods stuff often has this property that is a touchstone that people don't want to change as having the world's most creative.

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Innovative steakhouse is like a contradiction. You know, down home country innovation, no, You never see it. Anyway, the goal was one or excuse me, was talking about recent culinary techniques. And at the time, there were essentially no books on that. Broadly, the last set of culinary innovation that had been documented when I wrote Modernist Cuisine was probably the Nouvelle cuisine movement.

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So the Nouvelle cuisine was a big change in technique, a big change in ingredients it was, it was seen at the time as this giant schism, like a political revolution, and it was viciously attacked by the defenders of the old guard. But then what happened is the it's like the who saw you know, the, the new boss was the same as the old boss, the, the, the Nouvelle cuisine, people won, and they stopped innovating. And they stopped doing this. They, they were a bunch of rebels against classical French cuisine. And they took over classical French cuisine. To the point that today, everything is either nouvelle cuisine, or it's a new vilified, classic thing, or it's something that's almost like a museum piece, like, ah, yeah, so now we will have the civet Royale, you know, from a 19th century recipe just as a culinary historical point or something. So that's what it was about was the innovation in food.

00:22:37.650 --> 00:23:09.599
But I think one of the biggest things that I noticed is, it was also teaching you I think, one it was like debunking a lot of the things you know, someone who came up through culinary school and just working in kitchens, you hear, Well, this is why you do this, you know, don't put a thermometer in a steak because it makes a hole and the juice comes out and all this stuff, you know, and I think we went for decades, it's been that and now it's kind of like, okay, well, let's look at some of these things that we're talking about, like, Is this really true? Or is that not true? And that, to me, is one of the greatest things I think, has kind of come out of books like yours. Well,

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that was the goal was to say, hey, we, if you understand how to cook, and you really understand you have theories about how cooking works that are correct. Meaning you can replicate them with an experiment. That's very powerful. For two reasons. One is, we're curious and people want to know why. And the trouble is, in cooking, no one wanted to go and ask Chef. Oh, why is it we do this? And the chef says, to me, I don't know I, I was told this. It's very unsatisfying to the the culinary student being taught by Chef.

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It's very unsatisfying, the chef west to admit no, I have no clue. So people make stories up.

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And those stories were often sort of theorizing, like well, a hole in steak will probably let juices out. So it's a bad thing.

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And they didn't test it. And of course, when you test it, you discover No, that's stupid, doesn't work that way, at all.

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And so I was surprised for the number of things that just turned out to be empirically wrong, but there were tons of them. And so what we were trying to do is say here are new coding techniques. It was not about modernist Astronomy, or that particular style of cooking.

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That style of cooking you really couldn't do if you didn't understand how things worked.

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Because almost all the recipes were new. We were trying new things all the time. And if you're trying new things, you it really really helps if you know what they are. What how does it work? If you're repeating an old recipe, you don't actually have to know you may tell yourself or tell your your students who your friends are This is what happens. But in fact, you don't need to you just repeat it. But Modernist Cuisine was not about that style of cooking, because you could make and we emphasize this throughout the book, you could make things that looked entirely traditional. They just weren't made that way. And that's perfectly legitimate.

00:25:22.019 --> 00:25:45.450
Right? I heard you talking on another podcast about like duck cold feet, and how you like the whole idea of like cooking it in the duck fat, really, you know, it's tradition. And some people get all upset about that. But at the end of the day, you can cook it and you know, like, in a blind taste, as people wouldn't know that you didn't cook it in the fat. Like, there's just different maybe even better ways to do it. But those are the kind of things I think people hold on to. Absolutely.

00:25:45.449 --> 00:25:54.659
And definitely, if someone wants to go to the traditional method, well, okay.

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But there's lots of people that don't offer that dish in their restaurant, or don't make it at home, because they don't have a huge kettle full of melted duck fat. And it's expensive. And it you know, what do you do with it afterwards. And it's this huge barrier to what's otherwise a really great dish. And so if you make it by steaming it, or by civilian or by some other method, it's no fuss, no muss.

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It's easy, anybody can do it.

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The only thing that matters is the temperature you cook at the time. And so that opens the dish up to a much broader set of people making it at home or professionally. And I think that's only good. Oh, me

00:26:39.119 --> 00:26:42.210
too, anytime that people can do more at home.

00:26:42.539 --> 00:27:13.500
Yeah, why not? One of those home tools that I want to talk about is a microwave and this has recently, I've seen a lot of hate online people say, you know, there's the argument of it alters your food in a way that makes it unsafe to consume there are those people and then there's the other ones who say that, you know, like it leeches radiation into your house and, and then the fallback is like, well, you know, the first thing Gordon Ramsay does when he goes on Kitchen Nightmares as throws out the microwave and people's kitchens, but I think they're an amazing tool. So where do you stand on the line of like microwaves and

00:27:13.619 --> 00:27:59.130
well, they're fantastic for some things. I mean, look, microwaves. First of all, they're all around us. The frequencies that your phone uses are microwave frequencies, Wi Fi is microwave frequencies. In fact, the original Wi Fi, which is used all over still is exactly the same frequency as a microwave oven. So and it's not that people say, Oh, it's radiation on your food. That's absurd. That's misusing the idea of radiation. It's light. Okay, it's a kind of light. It's electromagnetic radiation the same way radio is the same way.

00:27:59.279 --> 00:28:11.819
Light is infrared light, ultraviolet light. Those are all parts of this electromagnetic spectrum. It doesn't make anything radioactive. Now. It has some weird properties to it.

00:28:12.089 --> 00:28:43.380
You know it mostly it hooks it heats waters or fats, it doesn't heat things that are dry. If you put a perfectly desiccated thing in a microwave oven, it will not eat up. That's why people can cook on paper plates, you put a paper plate in there, it will never catch fire. You put that paper plate in your oven at 400 degrees, it will catch fire eventually. Same thing if you put it on a stove, it'll catch fire right away. So you just have to understand what the limitations of microwaves are.

00:28:44.250 --> 00:28:54.480
But for some kitchen tasks, they're great. You know, they're great for softening butter before you put put it in the baked goods are great for melted and chocolate.

00:28:54.900 --> 00:29:30.150
I've told people I like like steaming if you will and the micro you know like you brussel sprouts I put them on a plate covered with plastic microwave them for three minutes and get some pretty well cooked but you you're not boiling them so you don't have the residual water so then you can throw them in a hot pan and they brown much better absolute it doesn't take 45 minutes to roast them in the oven from a raw state. And people just look at me like I'm crazy when I talk about microwaving it like um you know some hacker doesn't know how to cook I said no you like use them for what they're good at. I'm not trying to cook a steak in there. Although you know, I know people have said they can do that. Well,

00:29:30.539 --> 00:30:33.180
was enough effort people can use do some amazing things that what microwave is best at is at doing things like steaming or warming up. You know the usually microwaves have lots of limitations. They're not going to brown or anything. And they're very high power for a small item. They're very low power for a large item. If you fit Turkey in there, you might need to use a rubber mallet and beat on it to get it in there, it wouldn't be faster, because your microwave is typically limited to, you know, 1000 Watts, 1200 Watts 1800 Watts if it's a really powerful one plus usually a professional kitchen one. So meanwhile, my combi oven is like 12,000 watts. So we could put a lot of heat out.

00:30:27.809 --> 00:30:52.799
Very deep things very thick things microwave doesn't have as much advantage to the the microwaves will heat a much deeper distance into a food then then typically occurs with either boiling or with other forms of contact heat. But no, there's nothing wrong with a microwave.

00:30:53.039 --> 00:30:55.920
let's normalize getting combi ovens in everyone's house.

00:30:56.339 --> 00:31:40.890
I've had Combi houses in my house for like 20 years, you're very different than most people were and we've barely scratched the surface. Yes, I'm weird as can be. But well, combi ovens are a fundamentally good idea that you besides controlling heat, and putting hot air in which conventional ovens and convection ovens do, you also control humidity. And that is super important. There's tons of hacks like that someone basting a turkey over and over again, or putting in a tray of water to come to a boil underneath, red that you're trying to bake or baking your bread inside a cast iron pot.

00:31:40.950 --> 00:31:49.319
Those are all hacks to try to get the humidity control that you can have directly with a combi oven. So I'm a big fan of those.

00:31:49.529 --> 00:32:00.569
I worked at IKEA for a number of years, and they exclusively use combi oven. So you know and I got to work with like some of the the trainers to set all the programs. So you know, there's no steamers there.

00:31:58.140 --> 00:32:22.589
There's no drive, it's just they have a suite of five or six combi ovens, and every single thing goes in there and they just have the program set for each one of those and easy peasy. Yep. So what technological advances are you seeing right now in the food? Or like is there a trends as far as equipment or new things that maybe the average person hasn't seen yet that you maybe are seeing coming down the pike?

00:32:26.339 --> 00:32:29.579
I wish there were more.

00:32:26.339 --> 00:32:41.220
There really aren't very many, you know, there's been a set of startups that were trying to do new kinds of food equipment.

00:32:34.589 --> 00:33:19.289
Smart ovens are an example. The smart ovens are mostly trying to be a programmable oven. It's like a combi oven. But instead of having you in the various trainers set up your the programs for the ETF for the food that they're making. Here, it's its own little card and it scans the card or it's got some other thing that I think eventually things in that ilk will work out. Unfortunately, there's there's a bunch of issues that make it difficult for them to penetrate.

00:33:16.680 --> 00:33:34.319
Additionally, like if you make an oven that plugs into a regular outlet, it's not very powerful. So it will, it'll work fine for heating up food for one or two people. But you can get it you can do the Thanksgiving turkey in that. What

00:33:34.319 --> 00:33:52.680
about induction stoves? Like do you think that's something that we're going to be moving more towards? You know, well, yeah. More 20 years, I as a private chef, I cook on a lot of people's homes, but I'd say 1% Maybe you're there like because do you think that's something that we'll get to and that there are major belt we

00:33:53.130 --> 00:34:08.369
should get to for lots of reasons, it's better to cook on. It is way more energy efficient. Mostly what a gas or conventional electric oven does is heat the air in your kitchen.

00:34:08.849 --> 00:34:22.380
It does a lot more of that than it does heating your food. And so as a result, if you have clean particularly everything's was electricity, but even if you don't, it's super efficient.

00:34:22.530 --> 00:34:27.989
You're only heating the pan. And so it's much faster to cook.

00:34:28.260 --> 00:35:00.510
It's more controllable. You don't overcook things. A lot of traditional cooking, you have a goal of heating something a small amount. And your tool is something that where the heat source is 10 times that temperature 100 times that temperature just ridiculous. You know I want to melt chocolate on gas oh well gas stove is it you know 1500 degrees. Want the chocolate at just a little above body type. For sure,

00:35:01.260 --> 00:35:08.489
yeah, when you have it on the lowest setting and things are still simmering, that's a problem when there's like six or eight notches and on one, you're still at a simmer.

00:35:08.489 --> 00:35:11.250
And it's like, I can't get it any lower than that. And

00:35:11.250 --> 00:35:33.630
then some of the things with many people, including me, when I was younger fetishized, having high conduction patterns, like copper pots, or pots with heavy bottoms. You don't, the only reason with a heavy bottom is because you're using a lousy heat source, it's very uneven.

00:35:30.420 --> 00:36:03.449
And you're hoping that the metal in your pan will conduct enough heat sideways, so you don't get hotspots. But if you use induction, and it heats the whole pan, you don't even care about that. So I think induction certainly should happen. And there is a lot of trends towards that. The little induction hot plates are great. And so people who want to do a little bit of induction cooking, the answer is you can buy those hot plates for like $100. And they're great.

00:36:03.599 --> 00:36:29.429
Yeah, and now all the food content creators online are using, you know, because for video, instead of having the stove up against the wall, they have their little aisle, yeah, they can have it right there with a camera in front of them, you know, and, and you're seeing, you know, like Bramble is making a higher end one that, you know, it's a little more expensive, it's in the eight to$1,000 range to get a control freak or something like that.

00:36:24.929 --> 00:36:32.070
But you know, they're very nice, I'm seeing more people use those, which I think is pretty cool.

00:36:32.849 --> 00:36:53.280
That's a great example, because it's something where you can, if you don't want to redo your whole kitchen, you can accessorize with it. But it's also true that if you go to Home Depot, or or higher end place, but even at Home Depot, there are induction things that are available, it's entered the market.

00:36:53.579 --> 00:37:03.539
Oh, yeah, I bought one. It's a dual burner. And I think it was like $150 on Amazon, maybe. And I take that with me when I go to someone's home where I'm not sure how much stove space I'm going to have.

00:37:01.320 --> 00:37:06.809
Or if I have to do a cooking demo inside a library, you know, and they don't want open flames.

00:37:06.929 --> 00:37:12.869
We always used to use the cassette burners with the propane. And you know, now like, no one's like, No, you can't take those into a building and use them.

00:37:14.070 --> 00:37:59.489
Yeah, and it's, it's just genuinely superior. But it does take a while for these things to penetrate. One of the reasons is that it's expensive to redo your kitchen. And there's also sort of a timelag that the sort of kitchen gear that a high end kitchen place would pitch to a someone who considers themselves a foodie is they would pitch something that's wouldn't be in any professional kitchen at all. You know, so you have some big fancy range with super high heat burners, and no one actually uses

00:37:59.639 --> 00:38:14.969
I see, I see the flat top thing, which I would use all the time. But all these new kitchens I go in, they all have this gigantic flat top, and it's like the shiniest, brightest, you know, never been touched. It's like people don't want to use those at all. But it takes up such a huge footprint.

00:38:14.969 --> 00:38:22.858
I'm like, why are you not using it? You know, it's because I think a lot of them just want this very nice looking kitchen that's not actually being used by anyone. Yes.

00:38:23.099 --> 00:38:35.219
And it does take some effort to scrub them and keep them clean. And in particular, if you want it to look like the day you bought it, they have the right strategy, don't use it.

00:38:36.420 --> 00:38:39.960
And of course, the reason it's, it's polished isn't for looks.

00:38:39.989 --> 00:38:47.699
It's a very important functional reason that if it's very shiny, it emits less radiant heat, like by a factor of

00:38:47.699 --> 00:38:50.940
10. So that's a lot more than I would have expected.

00:38:51.570 --> 00:39:21.210
Oh yeah, it's easily a factor of 10. So that's why you can stand in front of them. The Benihana style teppanyaki restaurant, hey, the reason they do it is that that guy would get cooked. He was cooking over and you get cooked to because you're sitting right at the edge of the griddle. You know if you had an old fashioned black cast iron flat top? Boy, you can't have your face that close to it that long? No,

00:39:21.210 --> 00:39:28.440
not at all. One of the things that I think a lot of people are talking about obviously, is sustainability.

00:39:29.099 --> 00:40:01.889
Clearly, that's a much bigger thing, I think in many respects, like regulatory and policies and politics. But on our level, what do you think that we can or should be doing as small operators, whether you have a restaurant or even someone like me as a personal chef, or a caterer? Because, you know, it seems like a lot of stuff is greenwashing and virtue signaling or whatever, you know, we're gonna eliminate this takeout bag and it's gonna save the world But like realistically, do you have any suggestions on what we can be doing? to maybe make some kind of impact?

00:40:03.570 --> 00:40:22.860
Well, no, thanks. No, there's a lot that the trouble is that when the things which are promoted? Well, you back up, it's a little bit like religion.

00:40:17.340 --> 00:40:32.489
Religions generally, not always, but they generally are about, in part, peaceful ways of coexisting with other people.

00:40:28.380 --> 00:41:29.369
But probably more people have been killed in arguments over whose religion was right than heart than any other single cause. There's lots of other causes to be sure. But so in, in the case of sustainability, most of the things that people are suggesting that you do turn out to be either marginal, or just false. You don't like the idea that you should eat everything local? Well, the idea of eating things that are local is cool if you're in a good locale, absolutely. Go for it. When I was working in the pizza book, and we were in Italy, the chef's with some time, this one guy was very proud. He says, Everything in here is remotely, you know, 10 kilometers. And I started laughing. He says, Why are you laughing at me? I said, because you're in the best place in the world for growing this stuff.

00:41:26.880 --> 00:41:47.579
And everyone else on Earth imports your thing. Of course, you're using it local, it's easy for you. You know, you come from a place that has the right climate, it has the right tradition in the farmers, it's developed all of the varieties.

00:41:43.079 --> 00:41:56.909
So yeah, if you live right by where they grow San Marzano tomatoes, it'd be weird if you didn't use san marzano tomatoes.

00:41:50.789 --> 00:42:31.559
It's it's almost too easy in that case. But for other things, you know, most of the flour that's used in Italy, for pizza, and for pasta, comes from Canada. And you might think, Oh, that's terrible, because we're shipping all the way across the world. But in fact, no, it's actually in if you go to a place where the climate is right for wheat, and Canada is one of those places. It's less energy intensive, less emissions intensive, to grow it in Canada and ship it to Italy than the growth in Italy.

00:42:32.670 --> 00:42:36.150
Interest. I had no idea I've never heard this. Oh, yeah, it.

00:42:37.260 --> 00:42:42.000
So here's a an interesting comparison.

00:42:42.599 --> 00:43:08.610
containerships ships will carry enormous tones of fluid for grading, or even use container ships, they use what are called bulk carriers. Those boats have engines that are big, as you'd expect. But they're not that much bigger than truck engines, and they carry enormous ly more.

00:43:01.949 --> 00:43:23.130
I did a calculation on my cookbooks. So my books are printed in China, they have to go in a ship from China, over to Seattle, and then from Seattle.

00:43:24.570 --> 00:44:04.260
They have to go by truck, like to come over to me. And it turns out, there's as many emissions in the last eight miles of going by truck as the entire thing across the whole Pacific. That's crazy. And that's because the container ship has an engine that's maybe 10 times longer, I may have their numbers slightly wrong. 10 times larger than truck engine, but it carries eight containers. Because water is slippery. And by the way, that's why we can afford to ship heavy things around the world.

00:44:04.860 --> 00:44:53.760
You know, flour is not very expensive. So how could you possibly afford to ship flour from Canada to Italy? And if you think about shipping it by going to the post office or calling FedEx? Yeah, you could never afford it. But that's not how it goes. It goes by a super efficient way. So anyway, there's a lot of things like that were very well meaning people have come up with an algorithm. So if there's great food near you, by all means use it. If you live in a place that doesn't have certain kinds of great food, well, I wouldn't worry about it. Okay, like I like coffee. And everyone in Seattle likes coffee and does not grow near here.

00:44:53.789 --> 00:44:56.039
No, it doesn't.

00:44:53.789 --> 00:45:14.519
Well, we just got back from England and you know, it seemed like all the restaurants and cafes are in I was like, you get your takeout coffee and the lids are made of paper, which are not great compared to like the plastic and like, god forbid you need a spoon, takeaway spoon for your yogurt or something and they don't have them. Because we don't believe in plastic spoons.

00:45:11.909 --> 00:45:22.889
It's like, I don't know, is this stuff making a difference? It seems like you're interested in, like sustainability in air quotes there. But like, does that really do anything? I don't know.

00:45:22.949 --> 00:46:29.190
Mostly those things don't do anything. Yeah, that would that was my recent example, which has been debunked at the scientific level, but it may not. It has a word has a reach, everyone has plastic straws. The plastic straws were somehow deeply evil. And this all came from a video from a made by a woman who studies sea turtles. And they found a sea turtle that had a plastic straw stuck in its nose. And they rescued it and they saved it might have otherwise died. Well, it's horrible that happened. The thing is is way, way, way more likely that other things are going to hurt the the plastic straws, and so go to go on a war against plastic straws? Well, well, meaning isn't prioritized very well. And so people say Oh, but at least we've done something. But the trouble is when you convince people that oh, you should do something, even if it's token, and it doesn't do very much. I'm not sure that actually solves the problem. But I've

00:46:29.190 --> 00:46:44.099
heard you also talked about probability. And you know, that comes into play, like what is the probability that that would happen with the turtle? Like, how much? How many mountains? Are we moving to do this one thing, when it's maybe not even that probable that it's really going in as big an issue, it's

00:46:44.099 --> 00:47:33.239
fundamentally an issue for society as a whole, because we're not. Humans aren't good at estimating probability. The best example is people while driving to the airport will worry about their flight, that maybe it's unsafe. And of course, their trip to the airport in the car is vastly more dangerous than getting on the airplane. But it's hard to convince somebody of that, you know, an airplane that uses jet engines go super fast, very high. That relies on physics, it's not part of your everyday experience was you, you understand the car, and you feel like you're in control of the car. Also, turns out more than half the population thinks they're above average at driving. Not true.

00:47:33.268 --> 00:47:37.528
I bet you know, more people have been in car accidents than plane accidents, right? Well,

00:47:37.559 --> 00:48:12.059
if the statistics are such that it's not even remotely close, it's terrible when they find issues with planes, like Boeing is going through issues with, you know, forgetting to put bolts on a door, that's horrible, horrible, it should never exist. But oh my god, the number of people that die because of mechanical problems in cars, is vastly larger. But we don't focus that same amount of attention on it. And we also don't want to give up our cars.

00:48:08.309 --> 00:48:20.130
So we're, well, okay, well, that risk, I'll put a different category, but the plane risk, I'll still worry about it a lot.

00:48:15.510 --> 00:48:42.059
And so when you look at as a society as a whole, obviously, if someone is free to worry about whatever they want to worry about. But in terms of what should we all collectively put our energy towards? Doing things supposedly, for sustainability or for climate or for other things that don't help? is kind of pointless.

00:48:44.070 --> 00:49:05.280
So is there anything I mean, do we just push for more regulation from above and hope that our government or independent people like you are going to be the ones who make the bigger changes, whether it be you know, looking at different power sources or things like that, like, that's really what we need to be tackling the big picture stuff.

00:49:06.090 --> 00:50:16.500
So when I was a kid, I heard the story that we've probably all heard about a drunk looking for his car keys under the lamppost. And it was treated as a joke, it was a child, I was very confused, because I could not tell whether this meant the drunk was brilliant, or the drunk was drunk and being silly, because all he could see was under the lamppost. So of course, it makes sense. Look there. Now if there's zero probability, he lost his keys there. He was being silly. If it was a low probability, but looking somewhere else, you wouldn't find them at all. What the hell do what you can? Well, in this case, the light post or the the area that were illuminated, that we're talking about here was the word role of food and restaurants. And so people say okay, we want to do some we Do you care about sustainability? Mostly, that's about giant government level policy issues about changing our energy system from the ground up at a very high level, it's. But okay, we can't decide on those.

00:50:14.579 --> 00:50:49.530
But we're here in the restaurant. So I know, let's go with takeout. We're getting rid of the takeout spoons, that'll show up. And, on one hand, you can say it's brilliant, because you're doing what you can. On the other hand, it's also objectively quite pointless. So, in this case, I would turn out I would say that is like, that is pointless. Although I do understand why people want to do something within the scope of what they themselves can control. They want to feel good.

00:50:45.239 --> 00:51:19.500
Well, certainly people want to feel good. They want to feel that they are helping a global problem, that they're not part of the problem. They're part of the solution. But you know, feeling Hey, I'm, I'm gonna feel super superior today, because I did my part, I ate my yogurt without the takeout spoon. And yeah, my moustache is full of yogurt now, but that's okay.

00:51:13.679 --> 00:52:02.880
That's a badge of honor. It's a very natural human thing. And then one upping one upsmanship and virtue signaling and like, oh, you even eat yogurt and regular curtains. I'm disappointed in you. I make my own in earthenware jars. And anyway, I think when the the things that are within the scope of what the food world does, a little bit, there's things on emissions, so induction, and more efficient. Cooking in general, Combi is more energy efficient, we're transferring more heat to the food. Yeah, those things you ought to do.

00:51:58.260 --> 00:52:15.929
But they're not as sexy. And they're also not customer facing. If you go out to the customer, and you say that we're doing a better job for the environment, because we have induction stoves in the back.

00:52:15.929 --> 00:52:43.110
And so we're using less energy and we're not heating up the air more. It's not going to get the same play. Nor can they brag, you know, the the verses are yes, I spilled my coffee all over myself because I had this stupid plastic lid. But I felt so superior. Because I did something for the climate, they won't make that same brag. If they said, I had lunch today, and they cooked with induction.

00:52:46.019 --> 00:53:10.349
That would be a good one, though. Maybe it'll move the induction in the right direction. Well, you do so much stuff that is not even related to food, we really stuck into the food realm because that's my wheelhouse. But when you're, when all of a sudden done, and you're not here anymore, what do you want to be known for? You know, and but not it could be food, it could not? Because I know you have a lot of huge things that you're working on.

00:53:07.650 --> 00:53:22.170
But like what do you what do you want to be known for having done when, you know, hopefully, you have a lot of good years. I'm not I'm not saying anything, but just you know, thinking about like, the impact you want to make or whatever your legacy is like, what are you really hoping that that is? Well,

00:53:22.170 --> 00:53:28.980
I was I was at an event where Warren Buffett spoke and someone asked him this question.

00:53:25.590 --> 00:54:36.480
And he said, Oh, I want him to I want people to think back and say that Warren, he was really old. Like I, I don't do things based on trying to build a legacy. Maybe they'll come to the point where the wolf was at the door. And I'll be scrambling desperately to try to have a legacy. But usually, self consciously trying to get a legacy isn't the way to get a good one. So I do a set of things that don't make that much sense. You might think hopefully, that my cooking things make sense. But I also do research on dinosaurs. And I invent technology and I take photographs and I have a set of photo galleries my photo friends don't understand why I waste time researching dinosaurs. My dinosaur friends don't understand why waste time on doing pastry research. Right.

00:54:30.480 --> 00:54:58.829
Hopefully, within the the each of those areas. People will think I made enough of a contribution that they'll look favorably on on this but I have to say I'm not. I don't know what the constituency would be who didn't think yes, he would have been something if he hadn't wasted three quarters of his time on all that other crap he does.

00:55:00.000 --> 00:55:13.530
which is a fair point because you know, a lot of people say you can't be great if you do more than one things. And sometimes that's just in relation to to like, you can't have two businesses that are going to be great. Because you should just go all in. It seems like you have a million things.

00:55:13.530 --> 00:55:16.409
I'm assuming you have the same 24 hours a day, like we all do.

00:55:16.409 --> 00:55:31.500
And I don't know how you are into dinosaurs and asteroids and cooking and photography, it seems like you have so much stuff. Do you ever just Netflix and chill? Do you ever just sit down and watch two hours of a stupid TV show? Or are you always diving into some bigger topic?

00:55:31.559 --> 00:55:35.550
Sometimes I watch TV.

00:55:31.559 --> 00:55:46.769
Yeah, so it was I've watched. I mean, these days, most things are interminable ly long series of one hour shows. So you don't have to invest two hours to know whether you like it.

00:55:43.769 --> 00:56:17.880
Occasionally, I'll watch a movie, which is more like a two hour or if you go to Oppenheimer, it's a three hour film. Yeah, I do occasionally do that, in terms of the advice to specialize in one thing is good advice. The world tends to reward specialization in a particular thing. And trying to split your efforts between a couple of things. It can be problematic, so it's really good advice. No, it's not advice I've ever followed.

00:56:19.110 --> 00:56:21.179
I think I'm doing okay, though, so well.

00:56:22.530 --> 00:56:51.449
So, yeah, but sometimes I do think, hey, you know, if I don't really buckle down and focus on one thing, then maybe it would have amounted to something. From me, I'm just interested in so many things, I can't help but do what I do. In fact, it actually takes a lot of effort to focus, focus on the 10 things I do, and not make it 20.

00:56:45.780 --> 00:57:23.340
So the the question of getting down to one just isn't there, although, for a period of my life, when I worked at Microsoft, and I was a senior executive there, I did put most of my time into one thing. And that was only tolerable because that one thing turned out to be many things inside. Its chief technology officer, lots of different technologies, lots of different things going on. And so that was an example where I could sort of cheat it and be interested in more than one thing, without coming to ruin.

00:57:23.940 --> 00:57:24.150

00:57:24.150 --> 00:57:48.630
not advices from like a business standpoint, to be just a person who enjoys life to follow those interests. You know, it's like, I think we lose a lot of that as you as we grow up, you know, kids, cheese, I think about my kids and my son, especially like, all the things he's interested in, it's like 80 things. And today, it's like soccer. And tomorrow, it's, you know, insects or something like that. And I think we lose that as we grow up. We find, you know, you get on the career path a little early, and you just kind of shuffle everything off.

00:57:48.630 --> 00:57:54.960
And to kind of keep that child like Wonder, I think it seems like you've managed to do that.

00:57:51.929 --> 00:58:00.090
And you know, you're still for better talking about dinosaurs.

00:57:54.960 --> 00:58:03.929
Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. This has been great. I'm so glad I could have you here today. Well,

00:58:03.929 --> 00:58:05.849
it's been fun.

00:58:03.929 --> 00:58:05.849
Thank you. Well, thank

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you so much. I appreciate this and have a great day. You're still here. The podcast is over. If you are indeed still here. Thanks for taking the time to listen to the show. I'd love to direct you to one place and that's chefs without restaurants.org. From there, you'll be able to join our email newsletter. Get connected in our free Facebook group, and join our personal chef catering and food truck database so I can help get you more job leads. And you'll also find a link to our sponsor page where you'll find products and services I love. You pay nothing additional to use these links, but I may get a small commission, which helps keep the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast and organization running. You might even get a discount for using some of these links. As always, you can reach out to me on Instagram at Chefs Without Restaurants or send me an email at chefs without restaurants@gmail.com Thanks so much.