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Monday, April 27, 2020

* THE RESTAURANT/CELEBRITY COOKBOOK... 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 –
SHARE (Ryland Peters & Small, 2020, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-78879-211-0 $19.95 USD hardbound) is by Theo Michaels, from BBC's MasterChefUK, some popups, and other food writing and TV gigs (including four previous cookbooks). Here he gives 75 recipes for themed menus of sharing boards. These are for six to eight people, moderately easy to do, and are relevant to communal dining. He begins with deli-style foods (all purchased) to set you up, followed by themes with garnishes. He got brunches, mezes, picnic, BBQ, harvest time, sweets, and feasts. A lot of the book deals with presentation (clusters, colours, height, fillers) in the layout of foods. The range is from fresh figs with goat's cheese and honey through griddled apricots with lavender and bee pollen. Also spicy chicken shawama, roasty squash and lentil salad, tomato and blue cheese salad with ciabatta croutons, and souvlaki with date molasses and tahini dressing. 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: 88


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