The Kitchen Library list contains volumes that have given me inspiration and entertainment throughout my career as a cook and chef. Some of these titles have stowed away in my backpack across Europe and the U.S., and have kept me company during the tough times of a young cook. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.
The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook is a longtime classic. I use it often, especially on a lazy Saturday morning when I’m looking for a good breakfast recipe. The French toast recipe will please just about anyone that likes eggs and bread.
Culinary Artistry is one of the first books that really grabbed my attention. The copy I own has literally traveled with me across the globe and is barely recognizable. It has some recipes but it’s not really a cookbook. There are unique sections that outline ideal food and seasoning combinations that really helped me out when my brain was stuck. There are opinions on food and menus from world-renowned chefs about why certain food combinations just work. If you have a deep interest in food as an art form or have aspirations of becoming a chef, then I highly recommend this book.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a non-fiction book from author Michael Pollan. It was a really eye-opening read for me. It talks about the hows and whys of human eating and what makes up the system that produces our food today. I’ve read the book several times and come back to it every once in a while as a reminder to be mindful about where food comes from. Michael Pollan has several books about food and other engaging topics.
The Bread baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart is a serious baking book for people who want to bake amazing bread at home. I make the bagel recipe quite often and people die over it. Try bringing these freshly made bagels, cream cheese and smoked salmon to your favorite wine tasting room and share it with the staff. That act of goodwill will more than earn it’s weight in sparkling wine.
Maybe I’m a sucker for this book because I worked at this place for eighteen months, but the Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook is one of my favorites. This was one of the first great NYC restaurant cookbooks geared towards helping people create restaurant style food at home. There is some great photography and the recipes are relatively easy to understand. It’s a classic.
Larousse Gastronomique is probably the world’s greatest culinary reference book. It became indispensable to me as a young cook working in French kitchens in NYC. I often used it when I was called upon to contribute to the daily specials at the restaurant or just do something creative with leftovers for the staff meal. The Pommes Dauphine recipe was a go-to when leftover mashed potatoes needed to be used up. This book, as with every book on this list, is my favorite.
Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish is my favorite book on bread making. This book clearly explains the skills for baking excellent bread at home using Dutch ovens. Formulas in this book use folding techniques instead of kneading and focuses on using time as an ingredient in good bread production. In my opinion this is a must-have for the serious home baker.
Le Repertoire de la Cuisine is another great culinary reference book, especially for those already well-versed in the techniques of professional cooking. First published in 1914, Le Repertoire de La Cuisine is a culinary treasure written by a student of Auguste Escoffier named Louis Saulniuder. It’s not a large book full of pictures and recipes. It’s more like a hardcover handbook that gives classical recipes and terms in abbreviated form. I’ve literally seen professional French cooks pull this book out of their pockets in the kitchen to remind themselves of a preparation.
A book by Anthony Bourdain on this list is a requirement. Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People who Cook is my favorite book by the famed chef and writer. He has a no B.S. approach to how he explains his viewpoint on the culinary industry and the people who influence it. He offers candid, honest opinions about food, and the struggles of becoming and maintaining the life of a modern day professional chef. I spent twenty five years feeling his pain.
Ma Gastronomie, also referred to as “The Golden Book” because of it’s once yellow cover is a French culinary classic. Not a recipe book per se, but a volume full of stories, pictures, menus and sayings of Chef Fernand Point and his restaurant La Pyramide. If you enjoy classical French cooking and the lore that surrounds it then this is a book you should have in your collection.
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I have been enjoying your blog, Alan. I particularly liked this one, being a former professional cook. I must say, I really enjoyed your menu at The Rock in Nipomo. If you had another restaurant (and I understand why you wouldn’t want to take that on), I would be a frequent visitor.
Thank you very much! I really appreciate your your comment.