EVEN AS HOLIDAY COOKING gives you a chance to enjoy evocative seasonal dishes once again, it’s an opportunity for inexpensive travel. Explore the cuisine of a different part of the country or of a different country altogether, and you’ve learned something special about that culture.
So take advantage of this book’s tour of noted chefs and their signature recipes. And learn about each chef’s background and attitude as you do so. You’re not simply cooking Green Olive Tapenade with Alice Waters of Chez Panisse; you’re also learning how she revolutionized menus across the country with her emphasis on absolutely fresh ingredients. Each profile is accompanied by three to six recipes geared toward home preparation without compromising on the intricacies of particular dishes.
It’s unusual for author Child to take such a back seat, but you’ll hear her voice come through in interviews with Jeremiah Tower (Stars), Lidia Bastianich (Felidia), Andre Soltner (Lutèce – see below), Jacques Pepin (chef at large) and others. Recipes are clearly laid out with frequent sidebars of helpful information.
The photographs alone are gorgeous, showing not only food and food preparation but also scenes of the estate and the countryside. Regaleali is as much as style of living as a place on the map, and this book serves both well.
A mixture of photographs and art reproductions characterizes The Heritage of Chinese Cooking, fourth in a series of oversized, beautifully packaged volumes from Random House that looks at the history of a culture’s gastronomy course by course – with plenty of recipes. Understanding how a particular style of cooking evolved is extremely helpful when faced with preparing an unfamiliar dish, and many of these aren’t even familiar from Asian restaurants.
Most of the great chefs research that way: they gaze at cookbooks and mentally develop ideas the recipes provide. But a great chef then puts a signature on a dish. This is what makes Andre Soltner, of Lutèce, so outstanding, and has kept his restaurant so highly rated for over 30 years. Irene Daria’s study of Soltner and his restaurant is subtitled “A Day in the Life of America’s Greatest Restaurant,” and explores a lot of history, interaction, preparation, and just plain chaos over the course of a single day.
Restaurant people will instantly identify with all the behind-the-scenes color, but anyone who’s ever been curious about what goes on behind the swinging door will find a good account here – one that demystifies as well as celebrates. The hard numbers are given, the little mistakes are portrayed, but all in all it’s as good a show as you’ll find on nearby Broadway. Better, probably.
Cooking with Master Chefs by Julia Child
Alfred A. Knopf, $17.95
The Heart of Sicily by Anna Tasca Lanza
Clarkson Potter, $40
The Heritage of Chinese Cooking by Elizabeth Chong
Random House, $45
Lutèce by Irene Daria
Random House, $23
– Metroland Magazine, 9 December 1993