The Setup

Interview

What do people use to get stuff done?

Michael Natkin

Michael Natkin

Software developer, cook

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Michael Natkin. At ChefSteps.com I write code, wear many hats, and occasionally cook. I also have my own blog Herbivoracious.com, and wrote a cookbook: Herbivoracious: A Flavor Revolution with 150 Vibrant and Original Vegetarian Recipes. I've been working as a professional programmer since I was 16, and I'm 46 now.

In the early 90's I worked at Industrial Light and Magic, making melting Terminators and wiggling T-Rex bellies, then at Silicon Graphics, and then I spent 12 years at Adobe as an engineering lead on Adobe After Effects, all the while nursing a passion for cooking, and occasionally taking time off to work at restaurants. ChefSteps has turned out be an incredible opportunity to bring together my love for code and food.

What hardware do you use?

I'm really not a hardware nut, I just like to have the tools that stay out of my way and let me concentrate on the task at hand. Speed is mainly what I care about. I'm pretty much tethered to my aging MacBook Pro. I'll probably upgrade it to a new model with a retina display and SSD soon.

At work I dock the Macbook into a couple of big monitors so I can have lots of code windows open, and a Kinesis keyboard that saved my wrists, but I also use it on the fly quite a bit, including shooting tethered in my photo studio.

I do all of my food photography with a Nikon D300, mostly with a 50mm / f1.4 and a beautiful macro 105mm / f2.8. We've got some pretty fun hardware at ChefSteps too - chamber vacuum machines, rotor-stator homogenizers, centrifuges, and a $30,000 oven. But that's probably not what you meant :).

And what software?

These days I'm writing for a fairly standard Rails / HAML / Bootstrap / Coffeescript / JQuery / Heroku stack. I use RubyMine for an IDE. I'm not particularly wedded to it though.

Serious web dev is new to me in the past 4 months, coming out of almost 30 years of C and C++ programming, so I'm trying out new tools and focusing more on results than perfecting my setup. Man is it ever nice not to be waiting 5 to 30 minutes at a time for compiles and app launches. You whippersnappers that have grown up instantly seeing the results of your code in the browser don't know how good you have it! It is impressive to me to see how much the web and open source community has matured, writing and sharing really beautiful, well structured, reusable, elegant code. The learning curve now is to figure out which components work well, and work well together.

What would be your dream setup?

I'm pretty much the world's most impatient person. If I can describe structurally and semantically how a problem should be solved, it irritates me that I still actually have to noodle around creating the code for it. So my ideal setup is probably still a few hundred years out, and involves brain-wave monitors, genetic algorithms and asymmetrical thermodynamic cycles.

Previously: / Next up: