Thursday, November 17, 2016

Top Ten Cook Books You Need to Own

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. Even with companies like Joule coming along and trying to make home Sous Vide machines. It really doesn't seem sustainable. Instead, focus on teaching home cooks how to do your basics. Then show them something cool. I think creating tiered cook books would be better. With levels..I have a book like that somewhere. I just can't find it the moment.

 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. Some of them will teach you more about food and what makes it tick. Other books will be for the food porn. Still others will be to help you understand chef lives. How some of the greats made it to where they were.

So take a moment and pick up a book!

Reference Books

Flavor Bible by Little Brown

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. It highlights the best flavor combinations in bold, and bold and stars for those that are classic, holy grail level combos. It even has example dishes from restaurants. Including a blurb from my old kitchen, Cafe Juanita!

On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee

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. I say this a lot. However, if you want to break the rules like a master, learn the rules like a pro. Once you can wax on and wax off. No one can beat you! Not that this is a competition or anything.

Recipe Books and More

Grand Livre de Cuisine by Alain Ducasse

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. Each page has pictures and recipes like that. Most of which are doable at home. Ducasse really had a way with desserts, and food in general. This book is worth every penny if I was rich...

Nothing in this book really should challenge a home cook. The difference between what a chef and a home cook would make in the end is purely technique. The chefs would just have a better executed product, or we  have a problem. So don't think you can't do these recipes. I believe in you.

 If anyone needs any present ideas out there for me, just saying.

I am not sure if the price is accurate on!!! It was putting it close to 900-1000 USD. I find that so hard to believe. However, I never had to pay for it..

Manresa-The Edible Edition

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. The fossilized vegetables is a pretty cool dish. I have even followed some forums that have home cooks talking about making this specific dish. It does require pickling lime (if you don't want to pay for Manresa's Calx which is super expensive). This particular dish has you slow roast root veg that have been soaked in a pickling lime solution. In the end, it creates a petrified look and shell on the outside and a super soft inside. More than a little cool for a cook book. Again, if anything the pictures are great.

Alice Waters :The Art of Simple Foods

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 with the Beirut Slow Food Movement. It is however, a great bit of history to read into!

Tartine -Pastry

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 (Although, I wish they had more pictures!). They are beyond just "Solid Technique". If you never even cook anything out of this book, you will still be glad you bought it. Just the few pictures from the front I think tell you it all. There is a lot of technique in this book. You might want to youtube a few things before you bake away. Nevertheless. Go at it!

My Last Supper: The Next Course -50 More Great Chefs Last Supper

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 you will recall their stories as if they were your own. That is why I recommend this book for any cook and just any curious mind. Why not see what great chefs are thinking? Why not see that they are just like you and me. Some of them just want their mothers cooking, or some simple dish before they die. They don't often want a 10 course meal with foie and truffle. In the end, we are all human and nothing bring us closer to it than simple home food.


White Heat-25

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. So take a moment and see how Marco Pier White, the bad boy chef got 3 michellin stars so young. Maybe you have seen a video of him recently when he is older. His young side was even more brash and fully of fire. You should try you tubing a few clips!

La Technique by Jacque Pepin

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.

These were just my favorite books. Are you a chef out there. Maybe a home cook. What books are part of your collection. What cook books would you give to a new young cook. Let me know! Not only for other young cooks, but I love learning. So maybe I haven't even heard of your cook book. I already had one person send me a vegetarian cook book. I didn't have any in my list...which makes sense to me. However, I would now like to go look up the book. Maybe it is worth reading. How would I know unless I read it. 

Thank you for reading about  my top 10 cook books. Have a great day!

All of the links to products are Amazon Affiliate links. I would like to be candid that I do receive a percentage of the purchase price. That being said, all the products I reference I have either used or own. I want to help people looking for products anyway! I don’t want people buying things that won’t benefit them.

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Tags: Best Books For Chefs, Top Cook Books, Chef Life, Cooks love books, Alton Brown's best book, How to create a dish, Cooking Techniques

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