Editor-in-Chief, Lucky Peach
Peter Meehan and David Chang
This book demonstrated to me exactly how far food has come as a cultural institution. Here were two guys who were interested and knowledgable about so much more than food, and who had a story to tell. Their cookbook was a great book, not just a great cookbook, and that really shifted the earth underneath my feet.
Karen Leibowitz and Anthony Myint
I cooked at Mission Street Food and I edited and designed this book, so I'm biased. But we approached this project with no idea of what we were doing—only what we wanted to do. I came to love making cookbooks because of it.
When I was a young cook, Babbo was the restaurant I looked up to. I watched Molto Mario religiously. I read and reread Bill Buford's profile of Molto in the New Yorker countless times. On my first ever visit to New York, my chef gave me $200 to eat at Babbo. I've cooked from this book dozens of times through the years and still look to it for reference.
I have no time to test and retest recipes. If it doesn't come out the first time, I'll probably never try it again. So whenever I'm trying to cook something new, I always look to see how the Cooks Illustrated guys did it first.
Fuchsia gets Chinese food. She's done a tremendous service for Westerners in unpacking a very dense and insular cooking culture. Every time someone "discovers" some new Chinese dish, chances are Fuchsia's already written about it.
Diana is so uncompromising, it's hilarious. But she's earned the right to be so, given the work she's put into documenting authentic Mexican dishes. She's an anthropologist as much as a cookbook writer.
Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
Southeast Asian cooking was a complete mystery to me before I started cooking from this book. In a lot of ways, it's still a great unknown frontier to me (and most people). I love how this book for its recipes and for the story it weaves about a fearless family traveling throughout SE Asia—it's inspiring both in the kitchen and outside of it.
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.
There are two Mexican cookbooks on my list, which seems sort of excessive, but whatever. I'm from California and if California food (not California "cuisine") is defined by one thing, it's Mexican food.
Even to a born-and-raised Californian, the Chez Panisse books were a revelation to me. This book was a vital part of the education in conscious farming, cooking, and eating that I received when I moved to the Bay Area fifteen years ago. The recipes ain’t too shabby either.
The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook