Mastering the art of cooking is an endeavor of truly epic proportions – at least that’s how it seems to the average Joe who is barely able to whip up a plate of spaghetti and tomato sauce, let alone a full blown holiday feast. But there is no need to be ashamed and, above all, no need to be afraid of failing. We’ve all been there. Even the best chefs in the world had to start somewhere and, contrary to popular belief, it is usually not the kitchen, but the local library or bookstore. You see, there is no better way to learn cooking than to tap the collective wisdom and knowledge of generations upon generations of cooks and chefs. As a starting point, we have rounded up ten books, written by some of the most respected and experienced figures in the culinary field that every foodie needs to have on their shelf.
Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Julia Child)
First published in 1961, the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Louisette Bertholle is a two-volume cookbook that was written particularly for hobby cooks. The first volume features a wide variety of French classics including beef bourguignon, bouillabaisse, and cassoulet, alongside basic French kitchen instruction and how-tos. The second volume zeros in on classic French baking. Owing to the book’s overwhelming success, Julia Child rose to fame as an American household icon, publishing several more books, as well as hosting several TV programs. If you’re looking for a quick and easy introduction to French cuisine, Mastering the Art of French Cooking is definitely the way to go.
You can pick it up here
Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook (Alice Waters)
Slow Food icon Alice Waters was treating her guests at Chez Panisse to organic, local, and sustainable cuisine long before those words became buzzworthy and were preceded by hashtags. Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook, Waters’ seminal debut, lists menus and recipes featured in her Berkeley restaurant, alongside a number of compelling stories of how she and her team juggled day-to-day business. However, it’s not so much a cookbook as it is a restaurant book. The recipes are decidedly obscure at times, the ingredients not easy to come by, but the insights and inspiration you will gain by reading this book is what makes it so valuable.
You can buy it here
MOMOFUKU (David Chang)
Despite overall excitement having cooled down a bit, New York is still one of the hottest cities in the world when it comes to food and food culture. David Chang has been a leading figure in shaping the city’s culinary identity. His Korean-based cuisine has earned him two Michelin Stars and the wide acclaim of food lovers all over the globe. The Momofuku cookbook provides a great overview of Chang’s most popular dishes, including his prized recipe for pork buns.
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On Food and Cooking (Harold McGee)
This is THE definite reference work for every amateur and professional chef alike. Harold McGee’s monumental book provides you with countless eye-opening insights about our favorite pastime – food and cooking. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another book that is able to explain complex food related issues in such an intriguing and easily digestible way.
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Opera dell’Arte del Cucinare (Bartolomeo Scappi, 1570)
Bartolomeo Scappi was the Renaissance equivalent to a celebrity chef. He oversaw the preparation of meals for several cardinals and even managed to snag the coveted position as the personal chef for not only one, but two popes. Opera dell’Arte del Cucinare features more than 1000 original recipes—some of which anticipate modern Italian cuisine— and gives a fascinating account of Renaissance eating habits.
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English Food (Jane Grigson, 1974)
If there is anything with an even worse rap than British dental hygiene, it’s probably British cuisine. That’s how the cliché goes. Reality, however, paints a much better picture, both in terms of dental hygiene and culinary quality, the latter of which is proven by Jane Grigson’s book on English Food. It contains hundreds of carefully researched, foolproof, and easy to recreate recipes with an extra-long section on sugary teatime treats.
Pick it up here
The Flavour Thesaurus (Niki Segnit)
Found a bunch of cilantro in your fridge and need something to go with it? Just flip through Niki Segnit’s The Flavour Thesaurus. This handy little comprehensive guide tells you what goes best with what. It is divided into different flavor sections including Meaty, Cheesy, Woodland and Floral Fruity. The pairing suggestions range from the traditional, like cucumber and dill , to the more unlikely such as watermelon and oyster or blueberry and mushroom.
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Plenty More (Yotam Ottolenghi)
His meat-based recipes are amazing, no doubt about that. But it’s his stellar vegetarian dishes thatYotam Ottolenghi is probably most loved for. Following the wildly successful Plenty, Ottolenghi whipps up some more veggie treats in his aptly named follow up Plenty More.
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How to Eat (Nigella Lawson)
This book marked the beginning of the career of probably one of the most prolific culinary figures of our generation. Since then, Nigella Lawson has released several more books, written columns for newspapers and magazines, and starred in her own cooking shows on TV. Incidentally, she also coined the term food porn – a feat that is both attributed to her rather tactile way of cooking and her sensual curves. What makes this book great isn’t so much the quality of the featured recipes – they’re top notch – as it is the book’s casual and chatty tone. It feels like Nigella is right there with you in your very own kitchen.
Buy it here
The Larousse Book of Bread (Éric Kayser)
Coming from a long line of French bakers, Eric Kayser knew from a young age that one day he would follow the footsteps of his father to become a baker himself. By now his empire spans the globe, with 20 locations of Maison Kayser in Paris alone. While his tarts are surely to die for, his equally amazing recipes for French bread prove to be more suitable for day-to-day use.
Get your copy here
Published on March 29, 2016