The James Beard Foundation has announced the winners for its book, broadcast and journalism awards for 2012 - and two of the big winners are from Seattle.
"Modernist Cuisine" by Nathan Myhrvold with Chris Young and Maxime Bilet won both Cookbook of the Year and Cooking from a Professional Point of View. The six-volume, 2,438-page set illustrates science-inspired techniques for preparing food. The authors—and their 20-person team at The Cooking Lab— developed new flavors and textures using tools such as water baths, homogenizers, centrifuges, and ingredients such as hydrocolloids, emulsifiers and enzymes.
Myhrvold has an impressive background in both science and food. He was the first chief technology officer at Microsoft and has multiple degrees in mathmatics, geophysics, space physcis, mathmatical economics and theoretical physics. While doing post-doctorate work at Cambridge University, he worked on quantum theories of gravity with renowned cosmologist Stephen Hawking.
In 1999, Myhrvold left Microsoft to pursue several interests, including a lifelong interest in cooking and food science. He worked for two years as a stagier in Seattle's French restaurant Rovers and trained with chef Anne Willan at the Ecole De La Varenne. He also worked as Chief Gastronomic officer for Zagat Survey. Through his visits to the world’s top restaurants, Myhrvold became acquainted with many of the leading Modernist chefs and the science-inspired cooking techniques they pioneered.
Myhrvold is currently chief executive officer and a founder of Intellectual Ventures, which creates and invests in inventions. Myhrvold himself has nearly 250 patents issued or pending, including several related to food technology.
Maureen O'Hagan with The Seattle Times won for Health and Well-Being for her article "Feeling the Weight: The Emotional Battle to Control Kids' Diet."
O'Hagan's series of stories ran last June in Pacific Northwest magazine and focused on how children are bombarded with messages promoting sugary and starchy foods and steps they could take to battle obesity.
The chefs awards will be announced Monday night, May 7. For the full list of winners and the latest updates on the awards, go to the James Beard Awards website.