Culinary Book List

Below I have created a list of books that I would like to read or have read, that are great references about cooking in general or about being a chef. Some of them are text books that I have had to read for NECI, and others are just really good smart books that I think would be interesting to read.

Own and reading or referencing from most

The American Culinary Federation’s Guide to Culinary Competitions: Cooking to Win!
Edward G. Leonard, CMC, AAC

The American Culinary Federation’s Guide to Culinary Competitions: Cooking To Win! is the only book that offers all the insights, hints and expert techniques to help achieve winning results at hot, cold, specialty and sponsor competitions. Endorsed by the ACF and written by longtime member and manager of ACF Culinary Team USA, Edward G. Leonard, CMC, AAC. ACF’s Guide to Culinary Competitions provides an exclusive glimpse into the world of culinary competitions beyond the rules and regulations.


The American Culinary Federation’s Guide to Culinary Certification
Michael Baskette, CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC; Brad Barnes, CMC, CCA, AAC

The American Culinary Federation’s Guide to Culinary Certification: The Mark of Professionalism, is the essential guide to obtaining the valuable inside track to earning the certification awarded to chefs. It includes:

  • A clear explanation of specific skills for five levels
  • A road map to passing every certification level
  • Helpful exam-taking tips

Escoffier: The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery
H. L. Cracknell; R. J. Kaufmann (Translators)

Presented for the first time to the English-speaking public, here is the entire translation of Auguste Escoffier’s masterpiece Le Guide Culinaire. Its basic principles are as valid today as when it was first published in 1903. It offers those who practice the art of cookery—whether they be professional chefs or managers, housewives, gourmets or students of haute cuisine—invaluable guidelines culled from more than fifty years’ experience.

On Cooking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals (4th Edition)
Sarah R. Labensky; Alan M. Hause

This book is an attractively designed introduction to cooking and the culinary arts, focusing on information relevant to today’s students. This comprehensive text emphasizes an understanding of cooking fundamentals, explores contemporary dining and vegetarian cooking, discusses nutrition and special health issues, and provides information on other relevant topics such as culinary and food science.

Professional Baking, Trade Version (5th Edition)
Wayne Gisslen

This new edition gives professional and home bakers peerless up-to-date coverage of the theory and practice of baking. Keeping pace with current trends in the field, this edition includes a new chapter on baking for special diets, expanded and detailed information on ingredients and their use in baking, and new sections on sugar confections, as well as 100 new photographs. Complete with more than 775 classic and creative recipes to explore, Professional Baking offers an excellent foundation for mastering the art and craft of baking.

Leadership Lessons from a Chef: Finding Time to Be Great
Charles Carroll

Leadership Lessons from a Chef is about creating excellence in the professional kitchen. Here the difference between good and great comes down to the details, and attention to these details comes from the right attitude reaching across all staff. A good culinary manager, according to author and award-winning Certified Executive Chef Charles Carroll, skillfully cultivates this attitude for success, and so leads the way toward kitchen excellence. Using stories and examples drawn from his many years’ experience, Chef Carroll gives you a leader’s tour through the working kitchen. Offering proven wisdom in plainspoken terms instead of abstract management theories, the practical tools and ideas found in this groundbreaking book can be used immediately to motivate and develop an effective team environment among kitchen staffs.

The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg

An alphabetical index of flavors and ingredients, the book allows readers to search complimentary combinations for a particular ingredient (over 70 flavors go well with chickpeas; over 100 are listed for oranges), emphasizing the classics (chives with eggs, nutmeg with cream, sardines and olive oil, etc.). Entries for ingredients such as chicken, beets and lamb span multiple pages and feature menu items from chefs such as Grant Achatz of Alinea, Alred Portale of Gotham Bar and Grill and Le Bernardin’s Eric Ripert. Regional tastes are well-represented in broad entries for classic German and English flavors, as well as the more fine-tuned flavors of, for example, northern France or West Africa. The listings, combinations and short essays from various chefs on different matches are meant to inspire rather than dictate-there are, in fact, no recipes included. Instead, the volume is meant as a jumping-off point for those comfortable in the kitchen and eager to explore; though experienced cooks and chefs will benefit most, novices will find themselves referring to this handsome volume again and again as their confidence grows.

On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee

A classic tome of gastronomic science and lore, On Food and Cooking delivers an erudite discussion of table ingredients and their interactions with our bodies. Following the historical, literary, scientific and practical treatment of foodstuffs from dairy to meat to vegetables, McGee explains the nature of digestion and hunger before tackling basic ingredient components, cooking methods and utensils. He explains what happens when food spoils, why eggs are so nutritious and how alcohol makes us drunk. As fascinating as it is comprehensive, this is as practical, interesting and necessary for the cook as for the scholar.


The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection by Michael Ruhlman

For his first book, The Making of a Chef, hands-on journalist Michael Ruhlman attended the most prestigious cooking school in the U.S., the Culinary Institute of America. He also earned his chef’s whites and began cooking professionally. Ruhlman ventures further into the secret lives of chefs with his second book, The Soul of a Chef. This enthusiastically researched report is divided into three parts: The first concerns the Certified Master Chef exam, a brutal weeklong cooking marathon that measures the skill levels of professional chefs. The second and third parts of Ruhlman’s book are devoted to the careers of two different chefs, Michael Symon of Cleveland’s Lola Bistro and Thomas Keller of Napa Valley’s legendary French Laundry. The thread connecting these three tales together is Ruhlman’s quest for culinary perfection: Does it exist? Is it possible? How is it even measurable? Ruhlman does indeed stumble onto the realization of his high-minded ideal, serving up a palatable conclusion for hard-core foodies equally obsessed with the perfect meal.


Becoming a Chef by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page

With more and more chefs achieving celebrity status, interest in the exciting world of today’s leading chefs is higher than ever. Essential reading for anyone who loves food, Becoming a Chef gives an entertaining and informative insider’s look at this dynamic profession, going behind the scenes to look into some of the most celebrated restaurant kitchens across the nation. More than 60 leading chefs-including some of the newest up-and-coming-discuss the inspiration, effort, and quirks of fate that turned would-be painters, anthropologists, and football players into culinary artists.


Herbs & Spices: The Cook’s Reference by Jill Norman

More and more herbs and spices appear in American kitchens daily, encouraged by television chefs and promoted through new ethnic cuisines entering the mainstream. Jill Norman’s Herbs & Spices comes at exactly the right moment to guide readers through the tangle of leaves, seeds, and berries. Norman thoughtfully organizes herbs into major classifications by their predominant bouquets. This approach immediately assists the cook looking for substitutions. Norman’s tasting notes, borrowing a vocabulary identical to that used for wine, establish a standard language for characterizing each item’s salient aromas and flavors. Full-color, close-up pictures aid in identification. Text outlines culinary uses and purchasing and storing data and gives information on growing one’s own herbs. A short recipe section offers examples of how specific herbs and spices are used in cooking. A directory of mail-order sources further assists those who lack local access. Norman has made a vital contribution to reference collections for quick identification of species and for the use of herbs and spices in cooking.


The Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion (Deluxe Edition) by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst

The latest addition to the Companion culinary series is dubbed the “deluxe” volume because of its expanded and restructured content updated by Ron Herbst in memory of his wife, Sharon Tyler Herbst, the original author. The book maintains its reputation as an encyclopedia of literally every dish, ingredient and spice imaginable, each featuring cross-references and a pronunciation guide—especially helpful for those with a fancy palate. This time around, Herbst organizes some of the more popular entries such as apples, beer, cookies and olives into their own glossaries appearing alphabetically throughout the book. Fans of the series will find this an obvious and welcome revision, this one with gold-gilded page edges. Quotes from famous chefs, diagrams of meat cuts and sketches on every page make this a solid companion for home cooks


A Master Class: Sensational Recipes from the Chefs of the New England Culinary Institute and Ellen Michaud by Chefs of the New England Culinary Institute and Ellen Michaud

New England cooking has come a long way from clam chowder, baked beans, and Indian pudding. This collection of recipes from Vermont’s New England Culinary Institute takes its inspiration from the four seasons, which in that region offer some marked extremes. Although recipes stress today’s lighter and more environmentally aware cooking, classic New England favorites still survive, albeit in new and unfamiliar guises. Bright red and green sauce crowns fresh oysters for the Christmas holiday. Maple syrup sweetens baked beans. A biscuit crust blankets rich lobsterpot pie. In a remarkable juxtaposition of flavors, lamb cutlets find themselves accompanied by a coffee-based sauce with cardamom, allspice, and dates. New England cooking has adapted to a new wave of immigrants: crab, shrimp, and scallops combine with melted cheese in a decidedly international New England quesadilla. For regional collections


Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making by James Peterson

The winner of the James Beard Foundation Cookbook of the Year Award when it was first published nearly two decades ago, Sauces is, in the words of Mark Bittman, “the single contemporary reference on the subject that is both comprehensive and comprehensible.” Through two successful editions, it has established itself as a modern cookbook classic—and an essential reference for every serious cook.

James Peterson trained as a chef in France, and the book offers a thorough grounding in the art of classical French sauce making, from velouté, béchamel, and demi-glace to hollandaise, mayonnaise, and crème anglaise. But Peterson also presents a wide variety of lighter contemporary sauces—including pan sauces, purées, and vinaigrettes—as well as sauces from around the world, including salsas, pasta sauces, and Asian-style dipping and curry sauces. Best of all, he includes recipes not just for sauces, but for finished dishes. These recipes give Sauces a broader scope, showing how good cooking and sauce making are intimately related—and demonstrating how a correctly prepared sauce can transform a well-cooked dish into something truly sublime.

Now, with this new edition, Peterson has thoroughly revised and expanded Sauces to make it even more indispensable. You’ll find more than sixty all-new recipes for dishes that showcase the leading role of sauces in cooking, such as Chicken Tagine with Harissa Sauce, Osso Buco with Julienned Vegetables, Lobster à la Nage, and Gold-Plated Chicken with Ginger, Saffron, and Almonds. There are intriguing historical recipes from medieval and seventeenth-century Europe as well as broth-based classics such as Pot au Feu and Bollito Misto. And, by popular request, Peterson at last includes a recipe for traditional American Roast Turkey with Giblet Gravy.

This new edition has been completely redesigned to make it easier to use and includes more than thirty beautiful new color photographs of finished dishes with sauces. If you’re a fan of the book’s previous editions, you should note that Peterson has not cut any recipes for this edition, and that he has reinstated the popular sauce charts that appeared in the first edition.

Lively, erudite, and authoritative, Sauces remains the definitive modern work on the subject. And with this edition’s additional recipes—there are now a total of 440—it is now even more valuable as a general cookbook. You’ll find all the techniques and know-how you need to master the art of sauce making, and you’ll also discover how sauces can take your cooking to a whole new level.


Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes – Hardcover (Oct. 28, 2010) by Harold McGee

No matter how creative the chef, every great dish relies on proven science, and this compendium of well-researched data is a textbook for proper food preparation. Curious Cook columnist for the New York Times and author (On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen), McGee will banish any romantic notions about cooking with his fast-draw expertise. Keys is a companion guide designed to be used in conjunction with cookbooks. With chapters devoted to Kitchen Tools, Heat and Heating Appliances, and Cooking Methods, McGee’s 101 approach takes nothing for granted, but will surprise readers with lesser known insights, such as that salted water reduces the loss of flavorful and nutritious substances during boiling and that foil should not be used to wrap acidic foods or nonaluminum metal pans. McGee breaks down methods with basic tips–in pan-frying, for instance, warming meats to room temperature and drying food surfaces ahead are important factors for success that are often left out of recipes. Descriptions of foods from common fruits to cultured dairy products and seed legumes are detailed but not trivially so, with McGee summarizing the safe handling, purchase and storage, preparation, and basic characteristics. With an eminently pragmatic approach to cooking and a user-friendly précis of a lifetime’s devotion to the kitchen, this is an invaluable addition to food literature.



About Wine
J. Patrick Henderson; Dellie Rex

About Wine is a unique resource designed for those who require practical information on how to manage wine and wine sales for restaurants and the hospitality business. Unlike other texts on this subject, this text seeks first to give the reader background information on the origins of wine and how it is produced, and then builds upon this knowledge with information on the wine-producing regions of the United States and the world.

Repertoire de La Cuisine, Le: A Guide to Fine Foods by Louis Saulnier

Le Repertoire De La Cuisine, A Guide to Fine Foods, treasured by thousands in the culinary profession throughout the past two decades. If you are interested in good food and cooking, this book will prove of great value and will be constantly in use. This volume presents the fundamental elements of cookery: explanations of French culinary terms; recipes for the great sauces; and ingredients and preparations for appetizers, soups, egg and fish courses, entrees, salads, vegetables, and desserts.

The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America by Michael Ruhlman

Ever wonder what goes on in a busy kitchen, why your meal comes late or shows up poorly cooked? The temptation is to blame the waiter, but there are a world of cooks behind those swinging doors, and Ruhlman marches you right into it. It’s a world where, when everything is going right, time halts and consciousness expands. And when a few things go wrong, the earth begins to wobble on its axis. Ruhlamn has the writerly skills to make the education of a chef a visceral experience



Working the Plate: The Art of Food Presentation – Hardcover (Sept. 25, 2006) by Christopher Styler and David Lazarus In the world of cooking, presentation is every bit as important as flavor. This idea is critical for restaurants, where a dish’s appearance could determine the difference between excellent reviews and bankruptcy. Enter Styler’s new work, a step-by-step recipe manual for home cooks interested in making their dishes look as good as they taste. This is no ordinary cookbook; think of it as a compilation of ideas. Ten of the nation’s top chefs here introduce eight styles of plating. Delineated by chapters focusing on the art and principles of plating, the brief but packed text allows readers to indulge in various styles, including “Minimalist,” “Artist,” “Architect,” “Contemporary European Style,” “Asian Influence,” and “Desserts: Classic and Contemporary.” The book features photographs of chefs preparing dishes and is sparsely designed with an eye to beauty, allowing food design to take center stage. Styler doesn’t seek to be an authority on plating but instead hopes that this work will serve as an introduction to the art.


What to Drink with What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea – Even Water – Based on Expert Advice from America’s Best Sommeliers – Hardcover (Sept. 2006) by Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page, and Michael Sofronski

Dornenburg and Page, authors of Becoming a Chef and Culinary Artistry, demystify the challenge of food and beverage pairing in this exhaustive, accessible resource. Believing that the best matches create peak experiences, the authors consult with the world’s most discriminating palates, who see food and drink as inseparable. With stories from such noted chefs as Daniel Boulud, Traci Des Jardins and Patrick O’Connell and a host of top sommeliers, this comprehensive collection provides a wealth of guidelines for pairings, not only by specific food, but by food type, time of day, characteristics, season and personal mood. From fast food to ethnic cuisine, they include unlikely entries such as Kentucky Fried Chicken (Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer), oxtails (Barolo), moussaka (Retsina, Rioja), potato chips (beer, champagne) and saag paneer (Pinot Gris). While focusing primarily on wine, the authors include matches for a variety of other beverages, including tea, water, coffee, beer and spirits, and offer the pairings in reverse—what to serve if you’ve already selected your beverage. This encyclopedic collection is highly recommended for those who give serious thought to the flavor of each dish.

A History of the World in 6 Glasses tells the story of humanity from the Stone Age to the 21st century through the lens of beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola. Beer was first made in the Fertile Crescent and by 3000 B.C.E. was so important to Mesopotamia and Egypt that it was used to pay wages. In ancient Greece wine became the main export of her vast seaborne trade, helping spread Greek culture abroad. Spirits such as brandy and rum fueled the Age of Exploration, fortifying seamen on long voyages and oiling the pernicious slave trade. Although coffee originated in the Arab world, it stoked revolutionary thought in Europe during the Age of Reason, when coffeehouses became centers of intellectual exchange. And hundreds of years after the Chinese began drinking tea, it became especially popular in Britain, with far-reaching effects on British foreign policy. Finally, though carbonated drinks were invented in 18th-century Europe they became a 20th-century phenomenon, and Coca-Cola in particular is the leading symbol of globalization.
Today’s professional chefs have the world to use as their pantry and draw freely on a global palette of flavors. Now Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page bring together some of the foremost culinary authorities to reveal how to use different flavors and techniques to create a new level of culinary artistry. Mario Batali, Daniel Boulud, Alain Ducasse, Paula Wolfert, and many others share the foundations of ten influential cuisines: Japanese, Italian, Spanish, French, Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese, Moroccan.
Packed with information, ideas, and photographs that will inspire every cook, The New American Chef shares a mouthwatering array of nearly 200 authentic recipes, including Honey Spare Ribs from Michael Tong of Shun Lee Palace, Gazpacho Andaluz from Jose Andres of Jaleo, and Steamed Sea Bass with Lily Buds from Charles Phan of The Slanted Door.
Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes by Jennifer McLagan and Leigh BeischFor all of history, minus the last thirty years, fat has been at the center of human diets and cultures. When scientists theorized a link between saturated fat and heart disease, industry, media, and government joined forces to label fat a greasy killer, best avoided. But according to Jennifer McLagan, not only is our fat phobia overwrought, it also hasn’t benefited us in any way. Instead it has driven us into the arms of trans fats and refined carbohydrates, and fostered punitive, dreary attitudes toward food–that wellspring of life and pleasure.  In Fat, McLagan sets out with equal parts passion, scholarship, and appetite to win us back to a healthy relationship with animal fats. She starts by defusing fat’s bad rap, both reminding us of what we already know–that fat is fundamental to the flavor of our food–and enlightening us with the many ways fat (yes, even animal fat) is indispensable to our health. Mostly, though, Fat is about pleasures–the satisfactions of handling good ingredients skillfully, learning the cultural associations of these primal foodstuffs, recollecting and creating personal memories of beloved dishes, and gratifying the palate and the soul with fat’s irreplaceable savor.
Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman, Brian Polcyn and Thomas KellerCharcuterie—a culinary specialty that originally referred to the creation of pork products such as salami, sausages, and prosciutto—is true food craftsmanship, the art of turning preserved food into items of beauty and taste. Today the term encompasses a vast range of preparations, most of which involve salting, cooking, smoking, and drying. In addition to providing classic recipes for sausages, terrines, and pâtés, Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn expand the definition to include anything preserved or prepared ahead such as Mediterranean olive and vegetable rillettes, duck confit, and pickles and sauerkraut. Ruhlman, coauthor of The French Laundry Cookbook, and Polcyn, an expert charcuterie instructor at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Michigan, present 125 recipes that are both intriguing to professionals and accessible to home cooks, including salted, airdried ham; Maryland crab, scallop, and saffron terrine; Da Bomb breakfast sausage; mortadella and soppressata; and even spicy smoked almonds.
The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating by Fergus Henderson The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating is a certified “foodie” classic. In it, Fergus Henderson — whose London restaurant, St. John, is a world-renowned destination for people who love to eat “on the wild side” — presents the recipes that have marked him out as one of the most innovative, yet traditional, chefs. Here are recipes that hark back to a strong rural tradition of delicious thrift, and that literally represent Henderson’s motto, “Nose to Tail Eating” — be they Pig’s Trotter Stuffed with Potato, Rabbit Wrapped in Fennel and Bacon, or his signature dish of Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad. For those of a less carnivorous bent, there are also splendid dishes such as Deviled Crab; Smoked Haddock, Mustard, and Saffron; Green Beans, Shallots, Garlic, and Anchovies; and to keep the sweetest tooth happy, there are gloriously satisfying puddings, notably the St. John Eccles Cakes, and a very nearly perfect Chocolate Ice Cream.
Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes by Mark Bitterman
In Salted, Bitterman traces the mineral’s history, from humankind’s first salty bite to its use in modern industry to the resurgent interest in artisan salts. Featuring more than 50 recipes that showcase this versatile and marvelous ingredient, Salted also includes a field guide to artisan salts profiling 80 varieties and exploring their dazzling characters, unique stories, production methods, and uses in cooking; plus a quick-reference guide covering over 150 salts. Salting is one of the more ingrained habits in cooking, and according to Bitterman, all habits need to be questioned. He challenges you to think creatively about salting, promising that by understanding and mastering the principles behind it—and becoming familiar with the primary types of artisanal salts available—you will be better equipped to get the best results for your individual cooking style and personal taste. Whether he’s detailing the glistening staccato crunch of fleur de sel harvested from millennia-old Celtic saltmaking settlements in France or the brooding sizzle of forgotten rock salts transported by the Tauregs across the Sahara, Bitterman’s mission is to encourage us to explore the dazzling world of salt beyond the iodized curtain.
The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg A wine book unlike any other, THE FOOD LOVER’S GUIDE TO WINE offers a fresh perspective via the single aspect of wine most compelling to food lovers: flavor. At the heart of this indispensable reference, formatted like the authors’ two previous bestsellers The Flavor Bible and What to Drink with What You Eat, is an encyclopedic A-to-Z guide profiling hundreds of different wines by their essential characteristics-from body and intensity to distinguishing flavors, from suggested serving temperatures and ideal food pairings to recommended producers (including many iconic examples). The book provides illuminating insights from dozens of America’s best sommeliers via informative sidebars, charts and boxes, which complement the book’s gorgeous four-color photography.


This is a series of books all centered around the cuisine of one country, or a set of countries. Each on of the books is a wealth of information about the cuisines of the country and really helps shed some light on where the traditions we have today come from. I have used all of the following books as a great reference for many of my class projects in NECI. All of the books have the same basic description so I’m not going to bother posting them, but please take my word for it and check them out.

Culinaria Greece by Marianthi Milona,

CULINARIA CHINA: Country. Cuisine. Culture. by Kathrin Schlotter and Elke Spielmanns-Rome,

CULINARIA ITALY (Relaunch): Country. Cuisine. Culture. by Claudia Piras,

Don’t Own but would like to read

The Chef’s Répertoire
Chef Gui Alinat

A collection of classic dishes found on American menus with their pronunciations, origins, ingredients, and techniques. Each dish is defined using chef’s vocabulary. An excellent pocket reference for every culinary professional.

 Culinary Artistry by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page

If you really find food fascinating–the idea of food, working with food, and the eating of food–then Culinary Artistry should be on your bookshelf. There are two books at work here. One is What Chefs Have to Say About the Foods They Create. The other is Fun with Food Spread Sheets. A cynic might suggest that after putting together Becoming a Chef, the authors had so much leftover interview material that Culinary Artistry was but the natural outcome. The chef’s point of view, however, would be to make use of everything passing through the kitchen, to throw nothing away. In other words, if Becoming a Chef is an entrée, then Culinary Artistryis the special of the day.The book is divided into sections that discuss and reach out to chefs to join in that discussion of such ideas as the chef as artist, dealing with sensory perception in food, composing with flavors, putting a dish together, putting together an entire menu, and standing back to admire the growth of a personal cuisine. This is thoughtful material. It is not how-to material. These guided conversations are made practical for the home cook by charts such as which foods are in season and when, the basic flavors of foods (bananas are sweet; anchovies are salty), food matches made in heaven (lamb chops with aioli or ginger or shallots), seasoning matches made in heaven (dill and salmon), flavors of the world (Armenia means parsley and yogurt), common accompaniments to entrées (beef and potatoes), and, most fun of all, the desert-island lists of many of the chefs quoted so extensively throughout the text. Many recipes accompany the text.

Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History) – Paperback (Aug. 1, 2008) by Hervé This and Malcolm DeBevoise

Originally published in France, This’s book documents the sensory phenomena of eating and uses basic physics to put to bed many culinary myths. In each short chapter This presents a piece of debatable conventional wisdom-such as whether it is better to make a stock by placing meat in already boiling water, or water before it is boiled-and gives its history, often quoting famous French chefs, before making scientific pronouncements. In the chapter on al dente pasta, for instance, This discusses pasta-making experiments, the science behind cooking it and whether it is better to use oil or butter to prevent it from sticking. Most of the discussions revolve around common practices and phenomenon-chilling wine, why spices are spicy, how to best cool a hot drink-but more than a few are either irrelevant or Franco-specific (such as the chapters on quenelles and preparing fondue). This’s experimentation, however, is not for the mildly curious, but readers unafraid to, say, microwave mayonnaise will find many ideas here.

Kitchen Mysteries: Revealing the Science of Cooking (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History) – Paperback (July 20, 2010) by Hervé This and Jody Gladding

Fans of Curious Cook Harold McGee will relish the latest from This (Molecular Gastronomy), a French chemist and foodie hero who has helped to usher in the current restaurant world vogue for turning the kitchen into a laboratory. This uses simple questions and observations about food (Does hot pepper burn a hole in the stomach?; Why must infants not be fed sausages?) as springboards for delightful explorations into culinary scientific principles. In brief, confident chapters, he moves through assorted ingredients (milk, vegetables, cheese), cooking methods (steaming, roasting, deep-frying) and whole categories of food and drink (bread, cake, sauces, salad) in his quest to explain kitchen phenomena. The book is more practical than theoretical, as This often breezes over much of the science, focusing not on the experiments and equations that answered his questions but rather on what they mean for the cook: how to ripen tomatoes properly, why to cook a roux for a long time, and so on. He distances himself even further from typical scientific writing with his charmingly enthusiastic tone, which keeps his prose from sounding dry even when he goes into more details about enzyme properties or protein varieties, so that even those who might be turned off by the thought of food chemistry will quickly be drawn in by his obvious love of food and eagerness to apply his research to helping people cook better

Building a Meal: From Molecular Gastronomy to Culinary Constructivism (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History) – Hardcover (Apr. 3, 2009) by Hervé This and Malcolm DeBevoise  French chemist This, co-creator (with fellow scientist Nicholas Kurti) of the kitchen science discipline known as molecular gastronomy, offers readers a window into his world through this wide-ranging, deeply engaging scientific deconstruction of classic dishes. Those hoping to find recipes for concoctions like wasabi foam or celery “caviar” will be disappointed; This dismisses such cuisine as parlor tricks for foodies. Instead, he examines what he calls “culinary dictums,” such as adding salt to water when boiling eggs or starting a stock with cold water, using science to confirm, disprove or update common kitchen wisdom. Beginning with the humble hard-boiled egg, This explains food concepts thoroughly but plainly-among them why creamy sauces “break,” the proper time to salt a steak, and the importance of soaking sliced potatoes in water before French frying them. This’s tour is frequently fascinating, and his digressions on a host of topics (from cooking trends to proper mayonnaise-beating etiquette to noted French mathematician Blaise Pascal) lend charm and warmth. For anyone expecting a clinical approach buttressed by equations and formulas, the biggest surprise isn’t This’s dedication to good old flavor, but his insistence that love is a cook’s most important ingredient.

Cooking: The Quintessential Art (California Studies in Food and Culture) – Paperback (Apr. 21, 2010) by Hervé This, Pierre Gagnaire, and M. B. DeBevoise

Among the arts, culinary art ranks as one of the least objectively defined, yet it’s one universally enjoyed. In recent years, molecular gastronomy’s deconstructions have forced some deeper thought about taste and its relationship to other senses of smell, sight, touch, and even hearing. To illustrate his theories of taste in classic style, This invents dialogues among characters representing different schools of philosophical thought. He seeks to develop a scholarly aesthetic of taste that can stand up to the same sort of analysis that the visual arts enjoy. French chef Gagnaire applies This’ theory to kitchen practice. The recipes he offers assume command of all the skills required in classical French cooking as well as access to pristinely fresh ingredients, such as foie gras and kidneys. This’ work is an intellectual exercise wholly removed from food-entertainment television.

The Science of the Oven (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History) РHardcover (Aug. 13, 2009) by Herv̩ This and Jody Gladding

For people with a (very) serious interest in food, this is satisfying stuff.

Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making

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