Modernist Pizza book
Photo: Nathan Myhrvold / The Cooking Lab, LLC

Modernist Cuisine Applies Its Signature Science-Meets-Art Approach to Pizza

Chefs and co-authors Nathan Myhrvold and Francisco Migoya offer data-driven techniques for making the beloved pies in their new book, “Modernist Pizza.”
By Mara Fisher
October 6, 2021
3 minute read

After some 100,000 miles traveled, 250 pizzerias visited, and 12,000 individual pies created at a food lab in Bellevue, Washington, chefs Nathan Myhrvold and Francisco Migoya quite literally have pizza-making down to a science. They present their findings in Modernist Pizza (The Cooking Lab), out this week, a comprehensive three-volume opus dedicated to one of the world’s most beloved foods. It’s the latest in a highly respected series of books produced by Modernist Cuisine, a collective founded by Myhrvold, in 2011, that challenges researchers, machinists, engineers, and other experts (including Migoya, who serves as head chef) to make and think about food in new ways.

As scientific as it is gastronomic, the book stands apart due to Myhrvold’s unconventional approach to cooking. A former chief strategist and chief technology officer at Microsoft (and the guest on Ep. 33 of our Time Sensitive podcast), he holds a Ph.D. in theoretical and mathematical physics and currently serves as CEO of Intellectual Ventures, a firm he co-founded that develops and licenses intellectual property. Here, Myhrvold incorporates his background in technology to consider the art of pizza-making through an empirical lens. Following countless tests and experiments, he and Migoya offer data-driven insight on an extensive array of pizza-centric topics, including the ways in which different types of water affect dough, the use of aging to create mozzarella that produces the optimal melt, and instructions on how to achieve the perfect crumb. Clear-eyed illustrations and hyperrealist photographs, many taken by Myhrvold, bring the book’s knowledge and 1,000-plus recipes to life.

“Pizza is endlessly fascinating,” Myhrvold says. “It’s a combination of art and alchemy, history and creativity, discovery and invention.” Indeed, one of the cornerstone beliefs behind Modernist Pizza is that a pie, like many widely revered dishes, is at once personal and universal, containing endless possibilities for interpretation and experimentation. After years of traveling through various countries to study the dish, the book’s co-authors found that everyone has their own way of making pizza and enjoying it—and that experimenting with the seemingly simple combination of dough, cheese, and sauce is often an exercise in both cooking and in memory and culture.

By exploring pizza from seemingly every possible vantage point, Myhrvold and Migoya honor traditional pizza-making methods while also using them as a starting point to push the craft forward. The result is a visual and intellectual feast of unprecedented breadth that stands to expand the minds of experienced pizzaiolos and newcomers alike.