One would think no sector would be more immune to a nerd revolution than the culinary world. After all, whether something tastes good or not is a primordial sensual reaction, and there is, in the end, no arguing with someone who doesn’t like how their dinner tastes, no matter how many statistics you can muster in its defense. But here too, the nerds are on the march. Under the influence of Modernist Cuisine, the 2,438-page, 52-pound bible of deconstructionist cooking, the process of cooking has come to overwhelm the basic joy of eating. Cookbooks have become so complicated and require such an armada of high-tech equipment that their recipes should come with a warning to amateurs: Don’t try this at home.
Recently I had dinner at a restaurant that advertised a certain celebrity chef had consulted on the menu. I was subjected to a 15-minute explanation from the waiter of the elaborate multitiered process by which each dish was meticulously crafted. The food, when it arrived, was quite good. But the fact that it wore its cleverness so prominently on its sleeve did not make it go down any easier.