We have now learned that some of us are "Left Brained" and some are "Right Brained" but one of my colleagues has come up with a novel idea. It’s kind of like being "Chef Brained."
     I better explain! I have cooked with Chef Tom Colicchio on numerous occasions and can attest first hand to his technical mastery and passion for excellent products. Tom made a very good name for himself working at a number of East Coast restaurants. Most notably he co-created "Gramercy Tavern" in New York City with restaurateur Danny Meyer. Tom won the James Beard Award for "Best Chef New York City" last year and that is the toughest division of them all for regional categories.

     In his new cookbook, "Think Like a Chef," he doesn’t just teach recipes he teaches the Why’s of cooking. The very first book that "launched" my vision was just such a book. It was James Beard’s "Theory and Practice of Good Cooking." Mr. Beard could have used the benefit of Tom’s photographer. The food looks stunning, which makes us, of course, want to make it.

     Tom’s book would be good for many chefs to read. Too often the fundamentals are lost in the zeal to make food seem more than it should be. The primary chapters are about roasting, braising, blanching, stock-making and sauce-making. He moves from there to chapters that encompass "studies." What he means by this is the intensive investigation of a single ingredient, which he looks at (and provides recipes for) from various angles. The chapter on "Tomatoes" takes us from raw tomatoes and garlic through a Ragout of Clams with Pancetta and Mustard Greens to Caramelized Tomato Tarts. From there he goes forward with a section on "Trilogies." Here he weaves together a more chordal-like arrangement that showcases three different ingredients that are very powerful in their unification. Examples? How about "Duck, Root Vegetables and Apples"? In introducing the recipe Chef C. reveals a maxim of this thinking of his. He states, "What grows together goes together." Here he means the seasonality of the ingredients create a harmony that nature sets up in the template of time.

     He ends the book with a chapter called "A Few Favorites." Thanks Tom. This book is one of mine now. It was really a "no-brainer."

Copyright © by Norman Van Aken, 2001