Restaurant/Celebrity Cookbooks (July 23, 2009)
by Dean Tudor, www.deantudor.com
Restaurant/celebrity cookbooks are one of the hottest trends in cookbooks.
Actually, they've been around for many years, but never in such
proliferation. They are automatic sellers, since the book can be
flogged at the restaurant or TV show and since the chef ends up being a
celebrity somewhere, doing guest cooking or catering or even turning up
on the Food Network. Most of these books will certainly appeal to fans
of the chef and/or the restaurant.
Many of the recipes in these books
actually come off the menus of the restaurants involved. Occasionally,
there will be, in these books, special notes or preps, or recipes for
items no longer on the menu. Stories or anecdotes will be related to
the history of a dish. But because most of these books are American,
they use only US volume measurements for the ingredients; sometimes
there is a table of metric equivalents, but more often there is not.
I'll try to point this out.
The usual schtick is "favourite recipes
made easy for everyday cooks." There is also PR copy on "demystifying
ethnic ingredients." PR bumf also includes much use of the magic
phrase "mouth-watering recipes" as if that is what it takes to sell
such a book. I keep hearing from readers, users, and other food writers
that some restaurant recipes (not necessarily from these books) don't
seem to work, but how could that be? They all claim to be kitchen-tested for the home, and many books identify the food researcher by
Most books are loaded with tips, techniques, and advice, as well
as gregarious stories about life in the restaurant world. Photos
abound, usually of the chef bounding about. But of course there are a
lot of food shots, verging on gastroporn. The endorsements are from
other celebrities in a magnificent case of logrolling. If resources are
cited, they are usually American mail order firms, with websites. Some
companies, though, will ship around the world, so don't ignore them
altogether. Here's a rundown on the latest crop of such books.
Pintxos: small plates in the Basque tradition (Ten Speed Press,
2009, 202 pages, ISBN 978-1-58008-922-7, $24.95 US, hard covers) is by
Gerald Hirigoyen, chef-owner of two San Francisco restos (Piperade and
Bocadillos). He was named or nominated for several "best chef" awards
in California. The focusing food writer is Lisa Weiss, who has co-
written many other cookbooks. Top-notch log rollers here are Eric
Ripert, Paula Wolfert, and Chuck Williams (Williams-Sonoma).
"small plates" as the single hottest menu trend in North America, it
seems appropriate to begin specializing beyond Spain and the Eastern
Mediterranean. Here are 75 preps for appetizer-sized French Basque and
Spanish Basque dishes, albeit with some California influences. The
arrangement is by type of dish (griddle, beans, sandwiches, braises,
innards, fried bites, salads, skewers, montaditos, and soups). He has
wine notes that offering pairings for each dish, as well as tips for
cooks to make their own pairings. Avoirdupois measurements are used in
the recipes, but there is no metric table of equivalencies. There are
notes about the Basque pantry, US sources of supply, and a large-typeface index.
Try hanger steak with chimichurri, calamari with
peppers and wild mushroom salad, white bean and salt cod stew, fava
beans with crème fraiche and mint, oxtail empanadas, sweetbreads,
artichoke chips with lemon aioli, or sardines escabeche.
Dirty Dishes: a restaurateur's story of passion, pain and pasta (Bloomsbury, 2009, 256 pages, ISBN 978-1-59691-442-1, $25 US hard
covers) is by Pino Luongo, who has owned and operated several
restaurants, since 1983, in New York and Chicago. Currently, he is chef
and owner of New York's Centolire. As he says, "Everybody has an
opinion about me... A lot of people love me, and a lot of people hate me... a
lot of what you've heard about me is true."
His memoir covers his
Tuscan boyhood right up through his business partners, former partners,
food critics, and others. He is also the author of several cookbooks.
He rose from dishwasher to owner-operator. But after dealing with a
corporate chain (the relationship went sour), he left everything behind
and returned to cooking. Here are his stories about the rich and
famous, ably assisted by collaborator Andrew Friedman, who has co-authored many cookbooks with celebrity chefs. Portions of the book were
in "Don't Try This at Home," a collection of kitchen disasters. And for
the first time since 1988, he's back to just one restaurant.
no index to the contents, so you cannot look up Warhol, Zagat, Stallone,
or Onassis to see what he says about them – you must browse. There are
10 recipes, mostly for basic Tuscan dishes.
Quality/Price rating: 88.
Sizzle in Hell's Kitchen: ethnic recipes from restaurants of New
York City's Ninth Avenue neighborhood (Gibbs Smith, 2009; dist.
Raincoast, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-0445-7, $30 US hard covers) is a
collection of preps collated by Carliss Retif Pond, a culinary advisor
living in New York. Arranged by course (apps to desserts), this
collection reflects the preps as presented by 43 local restaurants
reflecting the cuisines of Africa, Louisiana, Belgium, Brazil, Chile,
Asia, Cuba, Druze (Israel), the Mediterranean, Russia, Puerto Rico,
Argentina, even Ireland: all of course reflective of the waves of
immigrants that have arrived through the Hell's Kitchen area.
are sourced, and include such as railroad pork chops with apricot-mango
sauce, yebeg tibs (Ethiopian), spiedino macelleria, spiha (Deuze), pla
lad prik (Thai), molokhia (Egypt), kartoffelsuppe (Germany), pistou
soup, and samosas with potato and peas. All of it perfect street or
diner food. There are some photos and stories about the restaurants and
their owners, many of which have been ion the same family hands for
generations. Avoirdupois measurements are used in the recipes, but
there is a metric table of equivalencies.
Quality/Price rating: 89.
Canyon Ranch: Nourish: indulgently healthy cuisine (Penguin Viking
Studio, 2009, 372 pages, ISBN 978-0-670-02073-7, $40 US hard covers) is
by Scott Uehlein, executive chef at the Canyon Ranch Health Resort in
Tucson since 1999. For almost thirty years, it has been a top spa
destination for health and wellness. The culinary philosophy here is
the same as at all spas: natural, nutritional, wholesome ingredients
must be fresh and seasonal. Each prep includes nutritional data and
The book is arranged by course, from beverages and snacks
through to desserts, with vegetarian entrees and all of the major food
groups. Avoirdupois measurements are used in the recipes, but there is
no metric table of equivalencies. There is, however, a useful chart of
ingredient conversions from weights to volumes, so that a pound of
acorn squash could be three cups. There are lists of gluten-free
recipes and dairy-free recipes, but no page references are given. There
is also a US web resources listing.
Uehlein emphasizes colour and
downplays white. Try his chilled cucumber soup with arugula, apple-
cranberry salmon salad, tomato feta relish, grilled beef tenderloins
with tomato-blue cheese salsa, and almond macaroons.
Seven Fires: grilling the Argentine way (Artisan, 2009; dist. T.
Allen, 278 pages, ISBN 978-1-57965-354-5, $35 US hard covers) is by
Francis Mallmann, who owns two restaurants in Mendoza and Buenos Aires,
plus a third in Uruguay. This Patagonian chef has applied his skills
for the home cook. According to the publisher, the Argentines grill
more meat per capita than any other country.
Since 1995, Mallmann has
been working exclusively with wood-fired cookery, both rustic and
refined. He has burnt stories and crusty stories here. He has seven
methods of cooking. Parilla is the most prominent, since this is
basically what's called BBQ in North America. But the other six can be
employed as well, although asador (whole pigs or lambs affixed to an
iron cross that faces a bonfire) and rescoldo (cooking food by burying
in hot embers and ashes) may not be too practical at home. Most
recipes are adapted for cooking indoors, so the book is useful for any
kitchen in any season. Preps cover the whole range of food from apps to
desserts; the arrangement of the book includes extensive chapters on
beef, lamb, chicken, pork, plus seafood and vegetables.
Try fresh figs
with mozzarella, pears and iberico ham, bricklayer steak, lamb Malbec,
salt crust chicken, salmon a la vara, or carmelized endives with
vinegar. There are, of course, sections on techniques and equipment
needed. Absolutely gorgeous photography. Avoirdupois measurements are
used in the recipes, but there is a metric table of equivalencies.
Quality/Price rating: 90.
Tea & Cumpets: rituals & recipes from European tearooms and cafes (Chronicle Books, 2009, 180 pages, ISBN 978-0-8118-6214-1, $19.95 US
hard covers) is by Chronicle cookbook author Margaret M. Johnson, who
also writes food articles for the press. Here she collects and collates
recipes from tearooms throughout Europe, in some cases adapting them
for home use. Preps concern mainly sandwiches, pastries, cakes and
scones, crumpets, et al. After the primer material on teas and some
history, she has separate chapters on the sandwiches, the breads, and
Preps are sourced. Thus, there is The Clarence (Dublin) and its spiced egg sandwiches, the cucumber sandwiches from Claridge's
(London), tea brack from the Quay House in Galway, meringues from
Willow Tea Rooms (Glasgow), and gooseberry mousse from Llangoed Hall in
Wales. Most tearooms are in the UK and Eire. Others are spotty in Paris
and Switzerland (in the French cantons), principally at hotels with an
She has a concluding chapter on the French style of
teas, along with recipes for madeleines, crème caramel, and petit pains
au chocolat. There is a US resource list for ingredients. Avoirdupois
measurements are used in the recipes, but there is a metric table of
Quality/Price rating: 87.
Rustic Fruit Desserts: crumbles, buckles, cobblers, pandowdies, and
more (Ten Speed Press, 2009, 164 pages, ISBN 978-1-58008-976-0, $22 US
hard covers) is by Cory Schreiber (founder of Wildwood Restaurant) and
Julie Richardson (founder of Baker & Spice), both of Portland, Oregon.
I am not sure what is in the publisher's mind here: most of the preps
come from Richardson (she's the baker) but it is Schreiber's attributed
book as first author. In addition, the publisher felt it necessary to
have heavy-duty logrolling from such as Sara Moulton (exec chef of
Gourmet) and David Lebovitz (former top dessert chef from Chez
This is a basic book of old-time cooked-fruit desserts,
generally without pastry crusts. Anyone can make them. Included are
crisps, slumps, betties, buckles, grunts, crumbles, cobblers,
pandowdies, bread puddings, cakes, compotes, custards, fools (but no
syllabubs), galettes, teacakes, and trifles. Generic preps are listed
for stone fruit slump, stone fruit tea cake, stone fruit crisp, and
stone fruit upside-down cornmeal cake. Substitutions are encouraged.
Apples, stone fruit, and berries are the main three categories of
fruit. The book is arranged by season as it follows the course of
development of the fruit. And it is also based primarily on what is
available in the Pacific Northwest. Try raspberry red currant cobbler,
upside-down sweet cherry cake, maple apple dumpling, cranberry buckle
with vanilla crumb, or caramel peach grunt. There's a short US sources
lists. Avoirdupois measurements are used in the recipes, but there is
no metric table of equivalencies.
Quality/Price rating: 89.
Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies (Ten Speed Press, 2009,
118 pages, ISBN 9788-0-1-58008-980-7, $16.95 US hard covers) is by
Mollie Cox Bryan, a food writer. Here are more than 65 recipes for pies
from the family-owned "Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant and Bakery" in the
Shenandoah Valley, VA. It is sixty years old, and her family now runs
it, along with some cafeterias, a buffet, catering business and a take-out counter which sells 100 pies a day.
To me, the classic US Southern
pie has always been Chess Pie, made with either lemons or vinegar or a
combination. But try to find it in this book. There is no index entry
for "Chess" Pie. The inside front cover says that there is a Lemon
Chess Pie in the book. Most references I've seen to Chess Pie don't
mention "Lemon" in the title. I look up Lemon in the index, and find an
entry for "Lemon pies" on page 73 and 110. Not on 73, but it is on page
110. Are they trying to hide something? Other deficiencies of the index
include a Make-Your-Own-Flavor Chiffon Pie entry, but none for Chiffon
Pie. Streusel Topping has its own entry, but it is not cross-listed
under Toppings and sauces as it should be.
Part one of the book covers
crusts and toppings. The second part deals with fruits and nut pies.
Cream and custards are up next, followed by frozen/icebox pies, and
"pies for the cupboard." There's some good primer material on how to
make pie crusts and cooking times. Try weepless meringue, caramel apple
nut pie, chestnut pie, winter squash pie, brown sugar pie, raisin pie,
and shoo fly pie. Avoirdupois measurements are used in the recipes, but
there is no metric table of equivalencies.
Quality/Price rating: 88.
Smoked, Slathered, and Seasoned: a complete guide to flavoring food
for the grill (Wiley, 2009, 334 pages, ISBN 978-0-470-18648-0, $19.95
US, soft covers) is by Elizabeth Karmel, owner of the Grill Friends
line of grilling products and the executive chef for Hill Country
barbecue restaurant in New York City. She also runs girlsatthegrill.com
and grillfriends.com. Here she offers a booming 400 recipes for
marinades, brines, barbecue sauces, glazes, mops, salsa, jellies,
dipping sauces, pestos, and tapenades. All of these can be applied to
hot-and-fast grilling or low-and-slow BBQ. The essence is in balancing
the flavours for the likes of ribs, burgers, steaks, poultry, seafood,
vegetables and fruit.
The book is arranged by the title: there's a
section of items to be soaked, another for slathered items, and a third
for seasoned (rubs). Double columns throughout are used, with
economically smaller pictures. There is good use of typefaces and
sizes. Sidebars are used wherever appropriate. Avoirdupois measurements
are used in the recipes, but there is no metric table of equivalencies.
Try pomegranate BBQ sauce, carrot-jalapeno relish, cherry-chile steak
sauce, sesame-soy mop, or roasted garlic-Dijon butter.
A Touch of Tropical Spice: recipes from chili crab to Laksa (Tuttle
Publishing, 2009; distr. Ten Speed, 144 pages, ISBN 978-0-8048-4081-1,
$24.95 US hard covers) has been collated by Wendy Hutton, an Asiatic
food specialist. These 75 preps all come from four Four Seasons Resorts
and Hotels – the ones in Bali at Jimbaran Bay and Sayan, the Maldives
resort at Kuda Huraa, and Hotel Singapore.
This is high-level spicy
Asiatic cooking at its best from the world-renowned Four Seasons teams.
The range is India, Maldives, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand,
and Vietnam, and covering virtually every course from breakfast and
snacks through to evening mains. Brunches and picnics are also
included. In addition to the 75 preps, there are 34 recipes for basics
of sambals, sauces, dips, dressings, jams, chutneys, and pickles.
list of web-based resources includes Australia, Germany, Scandinavia,
the UK, and the USA. Executive chefs responsible for the home versions
of the food are named, and ingredients are expressed in both
avoirdupois and metric weights and measures. Try passionfruit
cheesecake, pan fried fish fillets with mango, grilled rending rib-eye
steaks, sweet corn and leek soup with crab dumplings, BBQ jumbo shrimp
with vindaloo dip, or even "coconut rice with assorted side dishes." All with gorgeous photography.
Quality/Price rating: 89.
The Rusty Parrot Cookbook: recipes from Jackson Hole's acclaimed
lodge (Gibbs Smith, 2009; distr. Raincoast, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-
0347-4, $50 US hard covers) is by Darla Worden and Eliza Cross. Both
are lifestyles writers; Worden lives in Jackson Hole (Wyoming) and
Cross lives in Centennial, Colorado. The Rusty Parrot Lodge & Spa seems
to make everybody's top ten lists. Indeed, it has been AAA Four Diamond
for 15 consecutive years. Their Wild Sage Restaurant specializes in
This is a typical souvenir-type book,
featuring the home kitchen version of their most popular dishes. It has
a lot of photography and essays, historical gleanings from the area.
And of course it has to be nicely recommended for anyone who has had a
good experience there. It is an oversized book, and it is very heavy in
weight. The arrangement is seasonal, with a source directory that is
all US. Surprisingly, they recommend a local Wyoming source for
seafood. Avoirdupois measurements are used in the recipes, but there is
a metric table of equivalencies.
Try a jumbo lump crab cake, opal basil
stuffed chicken breast, yakinori salad roll, hazelnut blanc mange, sake
and green curry-braised pork belly, or griddled haystack mountain goat
Quality/Price rating: 85.