Walk down the book aisle of any convenience store, and conveniently, there will be an extensive selection of cookbooks. We have all seen the hot, new, diet-trend cook books, as well as any book from today’s biggest celebrity chef. But, what cookbooks do chefs actually like? Here is a non-exhaustive list of the books you will see on the a chef’s book shelf.
The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dorenburg
Are you struggling with flavors and ingredients that pair well together? The Flavor Bible shares the gospel of the Food Savior. The Flavor Bible – in my humble opinion – is the single book any culinary student, chef, or self-proclaimed foodie should own. Trying to figure out what to do with the fresh-picked Michigan blueberries? Here is a sample from the book: For each ingredient, the peak season, taste, cooking techniques and complimentary ingredients are given as well simple “math equation” flavor affinities for a quick dish.
On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee
I was introduced to this book about ten months ago. I have always enjoyed the science behind food: reactive natures, the history of ingredients, and the molecular characteristics of food. The book reads like an encyclopedia with separate sections such as history, preparation methods, cooking techniques, and nutrition values. With fifteen jam-packed chapters, the topics ranges from dairy, fruit, vegetables and meat to wine, beer, and chocolate. Each chapter offers excellent quick reference information.
Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
This past spring semester I was enrolled in English 102, and was required to write a 2500-word research paper. Knowing I had to be interested in the topic, I chose to write about salt. Yes, that table ingredient we sprinkle on our french fries. I used over twenty sources for my paper, but Mark Kurlansky’s “Salt” seasoned my curiosity the best. (I can’t go one post without a good pun.) He discusses its significance as an essential ingredient to human health, its impact on commerce, and its service as one of the world’s first currencies. Warning: Once you read this, you may immediately buy everything Mark Kurlansky has ever written.
What Einstein Told His Cook and What Einstein Told His Cook 2 by Robert L. Wolke
The chef I work under gave these books to me for Christmas, after learning of my interest in food science. This book reads similar to Harold McGee’s. Each chapter has a specific topic such as fish, grains, or kitchen equipment, and answers legitimate questions about food. Chapter Two of the sequel is called “Down on the Farm” and some of the questions are: Why is soft service ice cream soft? and How are eggs graded? These are excellent books to answer the questions about food you never knew you had!
The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook
As a sucker for food science and recipe testing, I watch America’s Test Kitchen religiously. The chefs on the show are in research and development. Each episode shares tips and tricks for preparing the best _________ (insert any food here. They have done it all!) as well as food science, kitchen equipment, and food taste testing. This book contains all the recipes from thirteen seasons, explains why the recipes worked especially after many failed attempts during their testing.
I could not write about my favorite cookbooks without including some very significant ones.
Nana’s Recipe Book (pictured at the top of the article)
My grandparents just recently moved into an assisted living facility, and had to downsize considerably. Upon moving out, my grandma gave me her recipe book with all her hand written recipes. I will cherish it forever as it contains some of my favorites: her spaghetti sauce, handmade noodles and dumplings.
My Recipe Books from Culinary School
I have had the privilege of being trained by some of the best Chefs in the industry. Each class I have taken at Joliet Junior College concludes with a large binder of recipes from the semester. I cannot bring myself to throw any of them away, as I know they actually work because I used them everyday in class.
What tomes are most important in your culinary library? Send us a comment below or share your favorite books on social media using the hashtag #FeedYourCuriosity.
Hannah Riehle-Moeller is a recent graduate of Joliet Junior College’s respected culinary arts program. She is currently working as a lab assistant in the culinary department of JJC. Hannah has nearly five years of restaurant experience ranging from a line cook and kitchen manager to owning her own catering business. She is fascinated with the science of food, and is an advocate for the “growing your own food” movement. She cannot emphasize enough the importance of fundamental cooking techniques and knife skills. Her favorite items to prepare include garde manger techniques, such as pickling and canning, as well as braising and making soups. She is overjoyed to share her enthusiasm and appetite for food with the readers of “The Red Fork” and beyond!