* 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.ALL DAY BAKING; savoury, not sweet (Hardie Grant Quadrille, 2021, 224 pages, ISBN 978-174379699-3, $35 USD hardbound) is by Michael James with Pippa James. They had opened Tivoli Road Bakery in Melbourne, and in 2019 set up another bakery at a dairy farm while acting as a consultant and giving baking classes. It comes heavily endowed with no fewer than 11 logrollers. They cover the savoury-salty side of pastry, with pies, sausage rolls, pasties, loaves, tarts, breakfast rolls, quiches, galettes, and others. They've got the basic primer and the pantry, finishing with the techniques. Try the ham and cheese palmiers or the kimchi and cheddar puff pastry tarts. There is also pumpkin and blue cheese galettes, butter chicken pie, Thai green curry sausage rolls and fish pie. They have vegan and gluten-free options, and variations for wholemeal and rye flour. The book is arranged by course or time of day from brekkies onwards. All preps are scaled and there is both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Quality/Price rating: 90.
9.NATURALLY, DELICIOUS DINNERS (Gibbs Smith, 2021, 224 pages, ISBN 968-1-4236-5826-9, $40 hardbound) is by Danny Seo. It's his third cookbook, also developing from his NBC show, "Naturally, Danny Seo". It is all about sustainability and naturalness in cooking. He has a great, relaxing style of discourse. He's starts with some good ideas for breads, biscuits, pizza, straws, dinner rolls, scones, spelt breads, skillet breads, flatbreads, crostata. This is followed by veggies, salads, soups, pastas, one pot dinners, and desserts. For something different, try the pomegranate-citus aquafaba pavlova. The book could have been improved if it had also used metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 88.