Chefs’ treasured cookbooks

Best cookbooks

If we asked you to identify your favorite cookbook, would you be able to choose just one? Indexed magazine Food & Wine put that question to several great cooks as part of its series Best Cookbooks of All Time. In the most recent installment, F&W asked chef Tom Valenti to name his favorite, and he responded with The Escoffier Cookbook. Says Valenti, “It’s such a window into the past, and some of the recipes are off the hook, like: ‘Take a three-pound chicken, stuff one pound of sliced truffles beneath the skin, then stuff the cavity with an entire lobe of foie gras, truss it and roast along with some beautifully turned potatoes.’ All right, all you millionaires out there, let’s have some chicken for supper!”

The series provides interesting insight on what motivated many chefs. Daniel Boulud treasures his Les Recettes Originales, a series of about a dozen cookbooks created by the publisher Robert Laffont, by French chefs who redefined French cuisine in the 1970s like Frédy Girardet, Roger Verger, and Michel Guérard. While Boulud may have expanded his cookbook collection since his early days as a chef, he says that these volumes “bring me back to my heroes: Jacques Maximin, Georges Blanc, they keep me grounded in French cuisine. I’ve been carrying them around with me for 40 years now.”

Chef Suzanne Goin’s choice is A Return to Cooking by Eric Ripert and Michael Ruhlman. “This book is so personal and beautiful,” says Goin. “There’s honesty in the stories of the struggle and joy of cooking out of one’s element.” The photographs touched her so much that she hired the photographers of A Return to Cooking for her own popular cookbooks Sunday Suppers at Lucques and The A.O.C. Cookbook.

Other chefs’ choices are more obscure. April Bloomfield liked Patience Gray’s Honey from a Weed for its humor, and chef Hugue Dufour stole his copy of an 1894 cookbook called Sandwiches. If you had to choose just one cookbook from your collection to share with others, what would it be? 

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