“This may seem like a strange case for a chef to make,” says John Besh in the intro to his latest, My Family Table: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking. He’s kind of right. For most chefs, “home cooking” is the commercial term for everything a chef doesn’t do (and everything a chef doesn’t necessarily want his diners to get comfortable with). So why would a chef like Besh, with seven restaurants under his belt, make it his business—indeed, his mission—to plead on behalf of home cooking? We’re guessing it may have something to do with the “terrifying wasteland of food products between our kitchen stoves and our favorite restaurants.”
Already a tireless advocate for the Southern Louisiana ecosystem, Besh confronts this wasteland head-on—and with delightfully straightforward turns of phrase. “Fast food options are the devil’s work,” he declares (amen). “This is not healthy. This is not real.” What is real? Dishes like the Pecan-baked Ham and Crispy Roast Ducklings in Besh’s “Sunday Supper” menu; the Cheesy McEwen Grits and Crab-Boil Home Fries on the “Breakfast with My Boys” menu; the Cochon de Lait and Dry-Rubbed Pork Ribs in the chapter on “Barbecue Wisdom.” Not that Besh is trying to bribe us into home cooking with a collection of soulful Southern recipes. He’s simply demonstrating—with mouthwatering and frequently charming photographs—how the “mundane” culture of home cooking is actually the lifeblood of America’s culinary future.