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A five-year adventure spent learning to cook using paint sprayers, antigriddles, and intimidatingly-named powders. Read more

Oakland, CA Art Books
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This project was successfully funded on May 24, 2014.

A five-year adventure spent learning to cook using paint sprayers, antigriddles, and intimidatingly-named powders.

Oakland, CA Art Books
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About this project

What's the deal here?

Hi there; I'm Allen. I've spent the past five years working my way though the Alinea cookbook. I've been documenting my progress in writing and photography along the way. Over the course of the project, I've built precisely-controllable heating chambers for warming chocolate, learned how to import super-fresh fish from the Tsukiji fish market in Japan and washed more dishes than I could possibly keep count of. Every recipe in the book has offered new and unique opportunities for me to deepen my understanding and appreciation of the food I eat, how it is procured and prepared and how it can be used as more than just a source of nourishment, but as an expression of artistic creativity.

That's me, pouring some liquid nitrogen into a dewar flask. (2011)
That's me, pouring some liquid nitrogen into a dewar flask. (2011)
A heating chamber used to warm chocolate to 94℉ (just under its melting point), made from a foam cooler, a halogen work light, and a PID temperature controller. (2011)
A heating chamber used to warm chocolate to 94℉ (just under its melting point), made from a foam cooler, a halogen work light, and a PID temperature controller. (2011)
One of many, many impromptu photography sessions set up in my kitchen (2009)
One of many, many impromptu photography sessions set up in my kitchen (2009)
Icefish, Horseradish, Asparagus, Shellfish (2014)
Icefish, Horseradish, Asparagus, Shellfish (2014)

What's this book about?

Having recently completed the project, I wanted to share the story of what it's been like to do this. Maintaining focus on such a long-form project has taken a lot of effort; while my blog contains the hyper-detailed intricacies of each dish, behind it have been questions I've asked myself over the years, insights I've gained and lots of other stories I haven't gotten the chance to tell. It's also an opportunity to share some pretty photography.

Here are some prototypes of the interior design of the book:

So, it's part story book, part photo album. All awesome.

Wild Turbot, Shellfish, Water Chestnuts, Hyacinth Vapor (2013)
Wild Turbot, Shellfish, Water Chestnuts, Hyacinth Vapor (2013)

What's the current status of the book?

  • The writing is complete, save some final editing. 
  • My wife Sarah has undertaken the design work, drawing inspiration from our favorite food, photography and design books to come up with something that merges together story and pictures in a unique and interesting way.
  • We've been working with a high-end printer that specializes in museum quality books to develop a plan for the manufacturing of our idea. 

Together we feel we've created something befitting the standards I'd set for myself in completing this project, which have in turn been based on the precision, quality and finesse of Alinea itself.

Tapioca pearls, cooked in stocks made from Skittles
Tapioca pearls, cooked in stocks made from Skittles
Spun Sugar on Licorice (2011)
Spun Sugar on Licorice (2011)
The components for Chocolate, Avocado, Lime (2011)
The components for Chocolate, Avocado, Lime (2011)

Specs:

  • Approx 350 pages (I'm still sorting through which photos to include, and finalizing design stuff)
  • Hard cover, with some swanky embossing/debossing to make it feel nice to the touch
  • Approx 9in. x 12in.
  • Printed using stochastic screening and wide-gamut inks, to preserve as much saturation and detail in the photos as possible
Bubble Gum, Long Pepper, Hibiscus, Creme Fraiche (2012)
Bubble Gum, Long Pepper, Hibiscus, Creme Fraiche (2012)

Stretch Goals:

I've deliberately chosen not to offer multiple reward tiers or copies of this book of varying quality or scale. What I'd rather focus on is creating a single variant at the highest level quality I can afford to produce. The funding amount I've set here was chosen to cover the cost of a book I think will be "pretty awesome" in quality. Anything donated above that will go into further enhancing the quality of the book.

Risks and challenges

Writing and designing a book book is hard; the good news is that the bulk of this part is well underway. Sarah and I are still nailing down aspects of the design, and I'm still honing the writing, but for the most part the book is in good shape. What remains is the printing and binding process.

For this, I'm working with a printer that will help me through the process of manufacturing the books. While I've tried to be as cautious and thorough as I can in estimating time and budget costs, I've also never done this before, so I anticipate unanticipatable challenges, which I'll just have to roll with as best I can. I personally find that sort of stuff to be interesting to learn about, as I imagine most people who back this project probably would as well. To that end, I plan to be as transparent about this process as possible, so we all learn together.

One challenge I already anticipate will be packaging and distributing the books to backers, a process that I'll probably undertake while sitting in my living room watching reruns of Seinfeld.

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FAQ

  • It is not! If you're interested in the actual recipes of Alinea, you can find those in Alinea's cookbook itself. If you're curious about other books featuring actual recipes in the vein of modernist cooking, I would be entirely happy to offer recommendations, just drop me a line.

    Last updated:
  • It is not! That seemed like cheating to me. The written component of this book is entirely new, sort of the start-to-finish story of undertaking this project, what I've learned from it, etc. There's also a lot of stuff included that I never felt fit well into the blog.

    Last updated:

Rewards

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    Pledge $75 or more

    483 backers Limited (517 left of 1000)

    A signed and numbered hardcover copy of The Alinea Project.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world

Funding period

- (30 days)