Baker and food writer
The bible of tattooed bearded geeky chefs the world over. Fergus Henderson, though self-described as a dutiful cook inspired by French bourgeois cooking, is known for rediscovering a kind of British cooking and returning vigour and boldness to modern kitchen menus. His restaurant St. John, a simple school dining hall configuration, coat-hooks and all, starkly painted white, became the meeting place for artists, writers and alternative cooks in London when it opened in 1994 and encouraged the eating of everything possible, from carrot tops to pigs tails. The book Nose to Tail Eating (1999), published five years after the restaurant opened, only added to it’s fame.
So, here is one of the other books many chefs of my era (yikes) were all inspired by. It was groundbreaking in terms of the style and recipes but it also has lots of humour. I wish I could write as concisively as Fergus but I'll always be a bit of a rattler. Incidentally, before the international fame of the restaurant and the Anthony Bourdain foreward etc...There is a wonderful early edition with the original colour pictures by Jason Lowe which I dont think the later version improved on. This was the book which made me want to work with Jason when I started writing myself some years later.
The importance of this book and its corresponding London restaurant St. John cannot be overestimated. The seismic shift that occurred within the culinary world due to this Spartan tome still reverberates every time a chef puts roast bone marrow with parsley salad centre stage. Fergus Henderson reminded everyone it was time for a return to primacy. Heavy on offal, big on gp’s and wonderfully unique photography; Nose to Tail Eating and to a lesser extent its successor, Beyond Nose to Tail, will stand all tests of time as faffy trends come and go.
Restaurant Critic, Food Writer and Broadcaster
If you're going to kill the animal it seems only polite to use the whole thing." Henderson is a modest master, and although the prose is as minamilist as the white walls of his Smithfield restaurant, they are filled with warmth and wit. Jason Lowe's photography is not only brilliant but quietly revolutionary too, showing hands, and half empty bowls. Then there are the recipes, for everything from bone marrow on toast to shrimps and cabbage to those magnficent madeleines. The book that put British cookery back on the world's table.
Blogger and cookbook author
The St John is my favourite London restaurant, and provider of my all-time favourite dish: bone marrow, sourdough and parsley salad. I bought this book expecting it to include recipes from the restaurant, but didn’t quite anticipate just how witty it would be. I’d happily include it in this list solely for the instruction to: “…cook for a further 2 hours, which gives you time for a bath and a couple of dry martinis”.
Editor-in-Chief, Lucky Peach
Everybody wants to be the guy who taught modern diners how to eat hooves and snouts and balls, but Fergus is the true owner of that title. This book is the source text for so many other books, restaurants, and philosophies. It’s one of a small group of cookbooks that are important beyond their culinary value. Whole-animal cookery isn’t just tasty, it’s important culturally, environmentally, and economically.
If I could work in any restaurant, it would be St John. I love everything about it: its approach to cooking and meat, its pastry department, its ethos, its humour, its menu, and its eccles cake that I inevitably take with me at the end of the meal, to brighten the following day. Its cookbook represents all of this on the page perfectly, and I could cook from it every day without getting bored.
Food blogger, writer and general witterer
For someone who continually harps on about offal all the time, this had to be included in my list. Not that this book is only about cooking the less delectable (but no less delicious) bits and pieces, Fergus Henderson's simple approach brings out the best in even the most mundane sounding of dishes, such as mince and tatties. Plus he stole my heart with that bone marrow and parsley salad.
Blogger at Raining Sideways
A classic, of course! Anthony Bourdain’s Introduction sums it up. I particularly like the notion that “ it would be disingenuous to the animal not to make the most of it” For several years I kept pigs and, with Fergus Henderson’s help, I have been lucky enough to learn from this wonderful book how to use absolutely all the deliciousness from nose to tail of the pork we produced!
Food writer and blogger
The English cook book which is most at home in my Roman kitchen. I have made most things in it. Also his short, often witty head notes are constant source of inspiration as a writer.
A real honest book when people still weren't speaking honestly about cooking. What he talks about is now common place but when the book came out it was fresh and still is.
Author and chef
Gutsy love, stand alone, funny in its brilliant 'no fluff' writing, simple , stylish, odd, timely. A landmark book from a wonderful man, great cook and bon viveur.
Retail Director, Hobbs House Bakery
This opened my eyes to a whole new way of looking at food. I used to take girlfriends on dates to st John as a test to see if they appreciated food the right way.
Head Chef at The Cooking Lab
Such a humble book, with mostly recipes and few photos. His writing is engaging and filled with clever / witty / funny remarks peppered throughout.
Author, journalist, broadcaster and television personality
Even if I didn’t adore this book for its brio and unpretentiously brilliant recipes, I’d have to nominate it for the beauty of Henderson’s writing.
Chef and writer
My most-used and -spattered book. Excellent on pastry, fish and vegetables as well as the obvious. Lovely prose, too.
General Manager, The Hoxton, London
You need to have the respect for what you are cooking this is like the farmer and butcher's guide to cooking!
Food writer and food stylist
An ethos to live by. I love this ground breaking book for its honest truth, its humour and its respect.
Head Chef & partner at The Culpeper
The book that opened my eyes to the crucial need to respect a whole beast.
Real unpretentious, plays to my love of using everything on an animal.
This is how I like my food and Philosophy about food.
Food and wine writer
Great read. Make the 'trotter gear'
Chef and TV Presenter
A joy to read and to make.
Chef/Owner Pok Pok Restaurants
One of my culinary heroes.
Group Executive Chef, Hawksmoor
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Co-founder of Melrose and Morgan
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Author and Blogger