* THE RESTAURANT/CELEBRITY COOKBOOK...
...is one of the hottest trends in cookbooks. Actually, they've been around for many years, but never in such proliferation. They are automatic best 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 and/or the media personality. 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 shtick is "favourite recipes made easy for everyday cooks". There is also PR copy on "demystifying ethnic ingredients". PR bumpf 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 at home, but how could that be? The books all claim to be kitchen tested for the home, and many books identify the food researcher by name. 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. The celebrity books, with well-known chefs or entertainers, seem to have too much self-involvement and ego. And, of course, there are a lot of food photo shots, verging on gastroporn. There are endorsements from other celebrities in magnificent cases 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 –
8.EATING FOR PLEASURE, PEOPLE, & PLANET (Interlink Books, 2020, 240 pages, ISBN 978-1-62371-953-1 $35 USD hardbound) is by Tom Hunt, the award-winning British chef at Poco (UK). He is also a food writer offering ingenuous no-waste recipes. He's also a director or member of several food associations which deal with hunger and poverty. Here his message is basically "eat well, waste nothing", concentrating on sustainable diets for everyday cooking that consider how we farm, trade, eat, and dispose of food. The first part of the book (in 50 pages) deals with a roots-to-fruit manifesto for eating for pleasure, eating whole foods, and eating the best food you can (better farming, Fairtrade). The recipes are divided into morning meals, slow food fast at lunch and dinner, family meals, feats plates, new ways with salads, and sweet treats. At the end there is a "roots-to-fruit" pantry: aquafaba, green sauces, umami powders, kombucha, stocks, barley water, pickles and preserves, apple cider vinegars, bread and pastries, and plant-based milks. The book could have been improved if it also used more metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 90.
9.BAKING WITH BRUNO; a French baker's North American love story (Whitecap, 2020, 148 pages, ISBN 978-1-77050-332-8 $34.95 CAD paperbound) is by Chef Bruno Feldeisen, a French-born baker and pastry chef with extensive North American west coast experience and multiple TV appearances on the Food Network and CBC, etc. He's always been intrigued by local North American food, and he developed recipes for these plates. He's got a pantry, a tools kit, and the procedures (all laid out for us in the first 30 pages). He begins with jams and sauces before moving on to cookies and sweets, custards, puddings and mousses, followed by cakes and tarts, breads and pies. It's a nifty book, and the photos by Henry Wu do a very good job of illustrating the finished plate, right down to a stray crumb or two. Ingredients are listed in both metric and avoirdupois Imperial, very much appreciated by baking fans. Quality/price rating: 89.
May we all have 2020 vision.