Pastry Chef, Consultant, Writer, Creative Director at ICE, NYC
Point is often credited as the father of contemporary cooking, and as the important link between the stodgy, codified technique of Escoffiers day and the generation that would come to revolutionize the way we cook and eat through nouvelle cuisine. This book should be required reading for anyone entering the field, but can also be enjoyed by all who simply love to eat, as Point himself surely did. His many aphorisms on life, both in and out of the kitchen, are collected here and make for a very entertaining read.
I like to think of John Thorne as one the pioneers of the food-blogging phenomenon, though he began writing his short dispatches and newsletters in the early 1980s - long before the advent of the internet. This older collection of short essays - most of them accompanied by simple recipes - includes one of my all-time favorite pieces of food writing. The chapter Learning to Eat details the emergence of both Thornes developed palate and an interest in cooking, serving as a reminder that the simplest of pleasures are often the most rewarding.
Above all else, I love being a chef because of the community that serves as a foundation of our profession. Im indebted to so many friends and colleagues for inspiration and motivation - and Francisco Migoya has long been one of those peers whose work continues to push our craft ever forward. Elements of Dessert - his third book - reflects the very expansive role of the restaurant pastry chef and the wide range of skillsets that come to bear in that environment. One reason I admire Franciscos work is that, while he may have one foot planted firmly in progressive sensibilities, the other foot is well grounded in classic ideas and techniques.
This hefty volume, along with a durable chefs knife, was among my first investments as a young cook. An encyclopedic treatment of French cuisine from abaisse to zuppa inglese, Larousse remains a rock-solid standard I still reference on occasion. And as modern cooking evolves at an exponential pace, its also an important document of the increasingly obscure, the rare classics in danger becoming forgotten.
Marco Pierre White
I am likely just one of many professional chefs who consider this book a sort of modern classic. At a time when British food was still scoffed at, and long before anyone ever heard of Gordon Ramsay, battered copies of White Heat were circulating among cooks on this side of the pond. Whites book is a portrait of the first rock star/gastro-punk chef on his meteoric rise toward running a restaurant empire that would be awarded a constellation of Michelin stars. Perhaps more interesting than his recipes are the grainy black-and-white photos of life in the kitchen trenches, captioned with quotes from the maniacally restless chef, to a certain degree glamorizing the sweat, stress, and drive of a young and passionate chef obsessed with perfection. I still get a little pumped when I see it today.
Like most of its residents, I too came to New York City from somewhere else. Im also fascinated by the citys history, which is why I enjoyed Kurlanskys book on two levels, as it tells the story of New York from the oysters point of view. Like his other books, Cod and Salt, Kurlansky expertly weaves history, culture, and politics into our influential foodways. Prior to reading The Big Oyster, I never knew of the bivalves role in shaping the city, yet I no longer look out into New York harbor without thinking of the day they might return.
Flemings dessert book is perhaps one of the most valued, for its ability to inspire the professional pastry chef while also remaining accessible to the novice at home; her style infuses the simple and familiar with an unmatched elegance and sophistication. And few pastry chefs have been able to subtly incorporate the exotic flavors of herbs, flowers, and spices as much as Claudia. This book is deceivingly compact, considering the wealth and breadth of techniques on offer. In short, Claudia influenced an entire generation of pastry chefs.
Eric Ripert and Michael Ruhlman
This book was an instant favorite of mine, well before I had any idea that Ripert would one day be my boss! Its premise is unique and compelling: a busy chefs inward journey back to the pure act of cooking, the story seen through the eyes not only of the chef himself, but also a writer, a painter and the photographers invited along for the ride. And that ride took the group to disparate locales- the Napa Valley, Long Island, Vermont, and Puerto Rico- to cook what was available and what they wanted to eat. The brief narratives and recipes provide insight into how personal experience, technique, seasonality, and sense of place all inform the choices made by the cook.
Perhaps more than any other, I have used this practical and easy to digest reference for years. Figoni breaks down the basic science of pastry and baking techniques to better understand classic preparations along with the composition and function of the ingredients that go into them. This book is highly recommended for all pastry cooks and students.
Perhaps more than anyone, Daniel Boulud's career is almost synonymous with the notion of mentorship. His legacy makes up a significant part of a whole generation of leading chefs who have worked their way through his kitchens. Letters to a Young Chef inspires the reader through Daniels own apprenticeships; his experiences are immediately relatable to anyone with the passion and drive to cook at the highest level.