Nathan Myhrvold – dinosaur-hunting, myth-busting physicist geek chef inventor tycoon (and lots of other things too)

3 Feb 2015: My piece for Intelligent Life – now FREE to read on moreintelligentlife.com.

COMMISSION FOR INTELLIGENT LIFE MAGAZINE JAN / FEB 2015 FeaturesNathan Myrhvold

Dr Nathan Myhrvold in his office with a prehistoric shark fossil and an ICBM nose cone

HEAD EAST FROM downtown Seattle, into the suburban technopolis that has grown up around Microsoft’s headquarters, and you will find the warehouses and towers of a company called Intellectual Ventures. A featureless block turns out to be the cave of a geek Aladdin. In the corridors are a second-world-war German cipher machine (part of the Enigma apparatus), a Japanese anti-aircraft gun and a whole host of shabby Bakelite and wooden machines that are the ancestors of the computer on your desk. The staff kitchen has a hybridised coffee machine, which remembers all the espressos it has ever made and can replicate them. At reception, a full-size T. rex roars out of the wall: it appeared in the film of “Jurassic Park”. In the boss’s corner office, when you’ve taken in the view of the snow-peaked Cascade mountains, you can gaze upon dinosaur toenails and an entire fossilised prehistoric crocodile. You may also spot a model of a Gulfstream V jet. The coffee table, part of a nuclear-reactor core, stands beside a hip-high cone tipped with dull metal and a shabby column of plastic and old circuit boards. This is the nose cone and command centre of a Titan I intercontinental ballistic missile, the tactical nuclear device that saw the United States through the early cold war: technology that worked because it was never used. The hoard is more than a monument to its owner’s bubbling curiosity. It is also a statement from a self-styled “technological optimist”, a man who, at 55, has an unshaken belief that human ingenuity will sort everything out. Read the rest here

Jamie’s great – or simply good?

3rd November 2011, The Times

His new book is tipped to be No 1 and a TV show (his 21st) is under way. Is Jamie Oliver the Elizabeth David of our time?

Is Jamie Oliver great or simply good, Alex Renton, The Times

Jamie Oliver

When Jamie Oliver addressed the United Nations last month — not words I thought I’d ever write — I went to the end of the kitchen bookshelf and pulled out a battered, rather sticky volume called The Naked Chef. It might contain, I thought, some clues to explain one of the most extraordinary — and high-speed — career paths of our times.

Published just 12 years ago, The Naked Chef has a tousle-haired bloke on the front with a sweet grin and a Hawaiian shirt. Inside he lays out a range of simple, smiley dishes with the message: “Go on, get stuck in!”

Read more of this piece at Times Online

How to make the perfect stock

roast chicken

Anthony Blake Picture Library

8th April 2010

The chef Tom Kitchin swap tips with Alex Renton on how to make the perfect stock

“You can cheat on light chicken stock, You can cheat sometimes on fish stock. But bouillon [beef stock] cubes don’t make it. They taste like . . . well . . . salty bouillon cubes.”

So says the American chef Anthony Bourdain, author of Kitchen Confidential, and an expert on chefs’ crimes, moral and technical. In top kitchens artificial stock is as unmentionable as silicone on a supermodel. Except, of course, chez Marco Pierre White, who says that he has used Knorr cubes for 30 years and now takes money from Unilever to advertise them on the telly.

How to make the perfect stock