Cooking, with gas

  @FortuneMagazine October 10, 2013: 7:19 AM ET
FIO cooking with gas

A tornado of fire, set up by the ChefSteps crew and sci-fi author Neal Stephenson in Seattle's HazardFactory


It's 11 a.m. and five men are peering at a bright orange air hose. The sun glints off a silverized fire-protection suit, which is lying on the ground next to a bubbling athletic hydrotherapy tub, while a team of L-39 jet aircraft, part of Seattle's Seafair celebration, howls by overhead. The question of the moment: Will the plastic air hose survive its proximity to the day's main event, a 10-foot-long wall of flame that will consume half a cord of firewood to cook a couple hundred pounds of meat? It will, is the consensus of the engineers, and construction of the apparatus resumes.

The staff of ChefSteps -- an energetic team of creative culinary-minded engineers -- have convened here on the rambling grounds of a handsome home overlooking Lake Washington, to put on the latest installment of an annual edible spectacle. Chris Young, one of the ChefSteps founders, has been doing this for several summers now, starting when he was at Intellectual Ventures, Nathan Myhrvold's company, developing the 2,500-page Modernist Cuisine cookbook. "Each time, we've been able to outdo what we did the previous year," Young says. The ChefSteps staff and a crew of comrades from Seattle's tech-minded community -- including author Neal Stephenson, "fire artist" Rusty Oliver, and Nathan Pegram, an engineer who worked on a mosquito-killing laser project for Intellectual Ventures and now builds hardware for ChefSteps -- were here till late last night constructing the steel structure where the grilling will take place.

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