For the casual cook, the pleasuring of pouring over a cookbook filled with beautiful pictures is sometimes enough in itself, whether or not the recipes actually work is almost irrelevant, they’ll probably never be attempted anyway. But which are the books that professional chefs keep coming back to time and time again? We asked five of our chefs to pick their all-time favourite cookbook.
Christopher Mark, culinary director of Black Sheep Restaurants
Jacques Pepin, La Technique
While this isn’t a book I refer to much these days, as a teenager this book was the first of its kind and really helped me. It is hard to imagine now, when everyone has a camera in their pocket and everything is documented, but back then there was a lot of mystery around French cooking. Older cookbooks not only didn’t have pictures but they also assumed a lot of knowledge, recipes were almost in code. This was the first book that broke down the techniques and illustrated them with black and white photos, it was groundbreaking at the time. I’m sure now it is a bit dated (although it wasre-releasedd a few years ago) but there would still be a lot of relevant information for someone just starting out, everything from how to make an omelette to how to truss a chicken.
Daniel Calvert, BELON
Thomas Keller, The French Laundry Cookbook
I find something new in “The French Laundry Cookbook” every time I open it, and still find the food relevant today. When I was 16 I set a goal to train under Thomas Keller, and after working with him, this book has special meaning.
Enrique Olvera, Mexico From the Inside Out
As far as cookbooks go, I’m never really looking for recipes. I do, however, look to cookbooks for inspiration, an idea or an ingredient that sparks some excitement in my soul. Sometimes you may be thumbing through a cookbook and come across a different way to use a particular ingredient, such as using corn husks to infuse a wonderful smoky aroma into a tenderloin giving it more depth and flavour. I go through quite a few cookbooks but one that I have recently gravitated towards is one that is a little closer to my heart. “Mexico From The Inside Out” reaches to my Hispanic heritage as my parents are from Mexcio. Although the food may not be traditional, the ingredients are all too familiar to me, from the mole and salsas to the tomatillos and the use of avocados.
Jowett Yu, Ho Lee Fook
Michel Bras, Essential Cuisine
First published in 2002, his timeless cuisine is just as relevant then as it is now. It’s an absolutely stunning book with recipes that actually work. The original print has crappy binding and it’s rare to find a mint copy. They ran a second print, but since then the publisher has gone out of business. It’s a rare treasure if you find a copy in good condition but worth seeking out. A true grail.
Luca Marinelli, Osteria Marzia
Gualtiero Marchesi, La Cucina Italiana
The world’s best-known Italian chef, Gualtiero Marchesi, transformed Italian food from rustic, homestyle cooking to nouvelle cuisine and everything that came after. “La Cucina Italiana” is a tome with over 1000 recipes that cover family recipes and regional specialities. It isn’t filled with pictures, like a lot of cookbooks are these days. Just practical, easy to execute recipes. I don’t think there is an English version, but if you have an Italian speaker in your life who is interested in cooking, this is a must-have.