With his over-the-top cookbook, “Modernist Cuisine” — weighing in at 40 pounds, six volumes, 2,438 pages and a $625 list price — Nathan Myhrvold has produced an epic tribute to cooking and science, garnished with pages upon pages of striking and innovative photography. Say what you will about the former Microsoft technology chief, this project is a remarkable achievement.
But did he really feel it necessary to subject the TED audience to an advertisement for the thing?
That was my question this weekend after watching the latest TED conference presentation by the Intellectual Ventures founder. Myhrvold gave the talk earlier this year, and the video (above) was made public last week. The talk sounded promising, but Myhrvold focused so much on the book, and the process of creating it, that it felt primarily like a plug for the published product.
OK, so as a pitchman, Myhrvold won’t be replacing Ron Popiel anytime soon. But as a regular viewer of TED talks, I was expecting less subtle selling and more education and inspiration about cooking and science.
It’s telling that the video concludes not with the typical big thought, or grand takeaway, but instead with Myhrvold touting the washable, waterproof paper in the book’s sixth volume.
Looking through the comments online, I’m not the only one who felt this way. “I was patiently watching the advertisement for some cookbook while waiting for the actual TED talk to begin, but there was none!” wrote one viewer on YouTube.
Of course, the luxury of watching online is that you don’t have to keep watching. But I wonder how the people in the audience felt, having paid whatever they paid to be there.
By the way, for a much, much better (and commercial-free) TED talk from Myhrvold, see this video from four years ago, in which he attempts to explain what he does, and how it relates to penguin shit. Now this is a TED talk! Let’s consider it retroactive redemption for the infomercial above.