In 2008, Dr. Nathan Myhrvold began to carve out a portion of the 20,000-square-foot warehouse outside Seattle that houses the research lab of Intellectual Ventures. The former Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft had an idea for a cookbook he wanted to write, and he needed some kitchen space.
Maxime Bilet, the kitchen's head chef of R&D and a co-author (with Myhrvold and Chris Young) of the ambitious cookbook, led me through the kitchen, where four full-time staffers were in the process of making me lunch using a variety of outre apparatus. The usual kitchen accoutrements were on display -- stove, sink, cutting boards, refrigerators -- but Bilet's tour started with the ultrasonic bath. An appliance commonly used by jewelers and dentists, it runs super-high-frequency vibrations through a water bath, cleaning the grime off whatever's submerged in the water via high-energy cavitation. The team discovered that subjecting cut potatoes to the bath creates tiny fissures in their surfaces; which, when the potatoes are French-fried, result in a much crispier exterior. From the ultrasonic bath we proceeded to the chamber vacuum sealer, the ultra-high-pressure homogenizer, the rotor-stator homogenizer -- well, just see the gallery.