I think that the word 'geek' has very broad connotations - from a pejorative to the more complementary form used in self identification. I guess it's the latter sense that we're talking about here.
I think that some food geeks might be people who've amassed a great deal of food knowledge but don't actually cook (much) themselves. Perhaps like a jaded restaurant critic - armed with copious notes about all manner of preparations previously encountered. A sort of foodie naturalist, I guess. Christopher Kimball - at least in his role as host of America's Test Kitchen - might be the poster boy of this sort of food geek.
But for the doers, I don't think that equipment is necessary, but will tend to turn up (as OliverB said). Sodium citrate, a handful of cheese, and a can of beer is all it really takes to get some geeky nachos, but any of us that do that sort of thing also have some favored hardware up our sleeves.
And I think that's where some further distinctions can be made. I propose the terms Enthusiast, Hacker, and Boffin.
The Enthusiast has the means and desire to understand and acquire as much of the technology as he desires and will employ it all exactly as designed. Most likely to become a serial product reviewer at Amazon.
I'll stand in for the Hacker, although probably best typified in the geek community by John Draper, AKA Captain Crunch, who discovered that a toy whistle found in boxes of Cap'n Crunch could lead him to a method of making free phone calls on AT&T's networks. It about how to make incredibly simple things work in unexpected ways. For me, in the last couple of weeks, it's been about making progress towards the world's fastest (good) grilled cheese sandwich....
Take a half a sheet of aluminum foil. Cut it in half. Brush one side of each half with melted butter. Place a slice of bread on each half. That was prep work. Put those in a zip-lock bag in the fridge (unbuttered sides facing and touching each other).
Now, to the sandwich - Put a pan on the stove on max heat. Grab a coated paper plate and drop a handful of shredded cheese on it. Put that in the microwave until melted - about 30 seconds. While that's going, grab your bread and lay the slices on the counter aluminum foil-side down. Take the paper plate out of the microwave and slide the melted cheese carefully onto one slice (some tomato slices are a nice addition here - sprinkle with kosher salt). Cover with the other slice (need I say aluminum foil side up?). Now, drop that bad boy into the heated pan for 10-15 seconds. Place your hand on top of the sandwich to secure it. Flip the pan over and up so the sandwich is left on your palm. Now drop the other side into the pan and remove the first piece of aluminum foil from the top. Wipe the cheese grease from the paper plate and (after another 10-15 seconds) de-pan (as before) the sandwich onto it - removing the second piece of foil. Throw the foil in the trash and (once cooled) the pan back into the cupboard (it was never dirtied).
That's a pretty geeky way of doing it, I think.
And now to the Boffin. Well, that would be Nathan Myrvold and his merry band, I think. They really represent the best of both approaches. The resources to try everything, but with no particular attachment to any of them. Just an edict to get results.
ETA: I'd gladly put my grilled cheese up against Nathan's. ;)
Edited by IndyRob, 20 February 2013 - 08:06 PM.