Top Ten Cook Books You Should Own
There is a lot of advice I would want to give young cooks. One of the biggest is read. Read all the books you can on food, technique and the Best Chefs! It seems odd, shouldn’t you spend all your time in the kitchen if you want to get good at cooking?
You should spend a lot of time in the kitchen to become a great cook or chef. However, you also need to focus on understanding food and how flavors operate. Yes, there is some thought that goes into every dish. That is why I love reference books (which are the two top books on my list). From their, recipes books are great for pictures and inspirations. Even reading a Chef’s bibliography is great. You can really put your feet in their shoes and understand their trials and their triumphs.
I do have one quick rant to make about some recipe books…. I have some issues with Chef recipe books. Often times, they are unfair to the end-reader. Try doing anything from Alinea’s cook book with no training or proper equipment. Yeah, it isn’t fun! It’s like most Chefs slap together a book, and expect the layman to be able to follow it. It is like having a UI that requires an instruction manual to operate it. It just doesn’t make sense.
All that aside, the books below are great for anyone. Whether you are planning to be a Chef, or maybe you are just a home cook. Either way, these books will help you grow your skills. So take a moment and pick up a book!
The first book I would recommend any aspiring chef, cook even hobbyist is the flavor bible. It is not a cook book, it is more of a reference book. It helps develop any bodies understanding of how flavors work with each other. Don’t worry about getting the fanciest cook books with the freshest techniques. Instead, especially as a cook starting out, your goal should be to understand food at the lowest levels. Dishes will come with time and experience. It is more important to understand what flavors pair well with thyme, paprika, lemons and so on. This book is great because it is written in such a way that any one can understand. You don’t need any fancy kitchen equipment, or vacuum sealing machine. Just a few ingredients and time to read.
Before we start getting into the cook books, I have one more reference book I would recommend everybody who wants to be good at cooking get or read is On Food and Cooking. If you want to understand the science behind cheese, sweetness, and food in general. This book is amazing. When I first started at the Herbfarm, the current Sous Chef the time handed me this book and I couldn’t get enough of it. Don’t expect any pretty pictures, only basic diagrams of microbes and fauna here! Like the previous recommendation, I am a firm believer in understanding something at its lowest point first and then building from there. That way you can really make it your own.
Recipe Books and More
This is by far my favorite recipe book. When I worked at the Herbfarm and did a lot of the pastry, I would pour through this book. The pictures are fantastic, and the recipes are great. Now that is a rare find. I do often find it is a trade off, good pictures, bad recipes or the other way around. This one is fabulous. Jut look at the picture on the front cover, this dessert is so simple, but is so delicious. If anyone needs any present ideas out there for me, just saying.
I am not sure if the price is accurate on Amazon.com!!! It was putting it close to 900-1000 USD. I find that so hard to believe. However, I never had to pay for it..
For the most part, I tend to dislike modern Chef recipe books. They often have impossible techniques for home cooks to try and it is not always a skill thing. Sometimes it is a equipment problem, a miscommunication in the recipe, maybe even just getting an ingredient. Cooking out of a Chef cook book is like any “Expectations vs. reality meme ever(Don’t even get me started on Alinea’s Cook book). Manresa was probably one of the better cook books that a home cook has some chance of scaling. If anything…the pictures are beautiful
I am a little bit of a history nerd. Not necessarily do I know everything about history. However, I love knowing how concepts, movements, etc, got from point A to point B. One such movement is the slow food movement. This book was written by one of the Chefs that has played a large role in this movement. She came along much after the inception. Nevertheless, you can’t here about Berkley or American slow food without Alice Waters coming into the conversation. She just has such a simple and beautiful way about food. There is no fuss or muss. She just makes good food. Alice Waters in not necessarily the first person to do it, and every country has had it’s own start. In fact, I got to meet a lady very closely intertwined(She was the President of it..no biggy) with the Beirut Slow Food Movement. It is however, a great bit of history to read into!
Personally, this book is more for the Food Porn. All the pictures in here are gorgeous and the recipes are great. Honestly, you should just keep this book in your house for a slow day. Get a nice warm cup of coffee and spend hours glancing at the pure beauty of the food Tartine puts out. They are beyond just “Solid Technique”. If you never even cook anything out of this book, you will still be glad you bought it.
Alright, not all these books are here for the recipes. This book’s concept involves 50 top chefs and an interviewer. They went around and asked what they would eat for their last meal. Then the Chef would respond, give his or her reasoning why and add in the recipe. The recipes are good, but just that. Here, it is more about understanding great chefs. Getting a little bit of history. If you are just coming through the ranks, it is a great read. For some of you, the book will resonate greatly. You will feel like these chefs. That is why I recommend this book for any cook and just curious mind
In one of my posts I talk about understanding the history of the culinary world. Now, in no way does it start with Marco Pier White, or end there. I also don’t think anyone wants to read Escoffier in the original French. So here is a great look into the culinary mind that is Marco Pier white. Say what you want about him, he is a sell out or this or that. He earned his way up through the ranks and is probably ten times the chef any of us cooks will ever be.
I said I am not a fan of modern Chef cook books. I never said anything about some of the olderish one’s. I am going to yell this from the mountain tops and make five more lists that scream this into you. Technique! It is all about technique and understanding food. If you can’t properly truss a chicken, break down a salmon or sear a steak. Why are you a cook? Cooking sous vide is great, it makes life so easy. But where is the love? Not to be corny or anything. Isn’t there something sensual about cooking? The heat, fire, flame? If you take it away, why even cook?
This book will take you back, you will be reading some techniques you may never have even heard of and maybe you should never make! Still, understand it, and use it for your experiences ahead.
I am Just Here for the Food Alton Brown
Finally, some books are just for fun. Alton Brown is a great American and Food icon. His show, Good Eats has probably been around longer than most of us have been around. This book is a great combination of humor and food, science and gastronomy. If you haven’t figured it out yet. I am a huge nerd. These are the books that get my gears going. You can buy all the recipe books you want. Just memorizing a bunch of recipes will do you no good. What happens when you get something you have never seen before? Well, if you have used books like The Flavor Bible, I am Just Here for the Food and On Food and Cooking you can think “Oh this is like” or “this tastes like”. From there it is just putting together new pieces.