* 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 –
12.EAT BETTER FOREVER; 7 ways to transform your diet (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2020, 416 pages, ISBN 978-1-5266-0280-0, $39.60 hardbound) is by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, chef and author of the River Cottage books (as well as a TV presenter in the UK). These are his healthy habits for life, with over 100 recipes. So his primer details the value of whole foods, varies foods, go with your gut, reduce refined carbs, factor in fat, think about your drink, and eat mindfully. This way you will lose weight and also be more healthy. These are all displayed in the first 200 pages, followed by 200 pages of recipes arranged by course (breakfast, lunch boxes, salads, soups, et al). He advocates for pestomega (nuts and herbs) for a sauce, nutty citrus hummus, bean pate, et al. A very well-packed book which includes Waldorg yogurt, red cabbage with carrot and clementines in a salad, seedy and nutty date and lime bites, and artichoke with white beans and radicchio gratin. 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.
13.THE FRENCH LAUNDRY, PER SE (Artisan, 2020, 400 pages, $100 hardbound) is by Thomas Keller, a major cookbook author with material from all of his reaturants, and the first US chef to have two Michelin Guide three-star-rated restaurants. The French Laundry is in Yountville, California, and per se is in NYC. Both are connected by video, and both exchange ideas. The major secret to Keller's success has been acquiring the best top notch ingredients from their food connections: the farmers, fishermen, foragers. Here are the major 70 prep recipes plus photos and descriptions for home use and entertaining, plus 40 more recipes for the basic techniques of saucing, dehydrating, broths, compound butters, and more. Food stories and essays complete the package. Typical plates include smoked sturgeon rillettes and celery root pastrami. Not only is this a coffee table book, at 28.5 cm. square in size -- it IS a coffee table by itself.....For the foodie in your life. Quality/price rating: 90.
14.THE DOUBLE HAPPINESS COOKBOOK; 88 feel-good recipes and food stories (Figure.1, 2021, 312 pages, $37.99 hardbound) is by Trevor Lui, who has been cooking since he was seven, when he first manned the grill at Highbell, his father's North York Chinese restaurant. This memoir and cookbook has developed Toronto boites which include Kanpai Snack Bar, La Brea Food and Popa. Typical are ramen carbonara, udon-stuffed meatballs, the Last Samurai, and bulgogi beef tostadas. A lot of it falls into the category of street food trucks, but the range does include vegetarian, choicen and egg dishes, family style comfort foods, rice and noodles. Many preps are contributed by his fellow chefs, and there are food stories for just about every recipe. A good gift book too. Quality/price rating: 91.