StarChefs COOKBOOK Wish List
Top Cookbooks 2007
By Heather Sperling and Tejal Rao
December 2007


Desserts by the Yard by Sherry Yard on StarChefs.comDesserts by the Yard
By Sherry Yard
When we interview young pastry chefs across the country, we always ask them who inspired them and whose desserts continue to inspire them. From coast to coast, we hear Sherry Yard’s name from traditional and experimental chefs alike. In her latest book, you see why: Yard’s desserts are consistently heartwarming, simple and pretty. The book is divided chronologically so that as you read it, you’re reliving, with Yard, her career as a pastry chef – beginning in Brooklyn where she was inspired by her family and moving through New York, London, San Francisco, and beyond. As Yard picks up inspiration (and technique) through her travels, her beautifully composed desserts evolve: in Hollywood she shares her various Oscar desserts, immaculate chocolate boxes with a golden statue perched on top. But it’s not all for show – the book is also filled with personal recipes for dog treats, raspberry soufflés, and straightforward black and white cookies.

Demolition Desserts
By Elizabeth Falkner
Demolition Desserts by Elizabeth Flakner on StarChefs.comSan Francisco has proved itself a hotbed of interesting pastry , the path to which was laid in part by Elizabeth Falkner, a spiky haired rebel of a pastry chef with a reputation for spiking her sweet with savory, and vice versa, and for cheeky dish titles (like “Waking Up in a City that Never Sleeps,” and “Battleship Potemkin,” named for the Sergei Eisenstein film which certainly made more of an impression on Falkner than on the thousands of Film Before WWII students that sit through it each year). Her desserts at Citizen Cake are famous in San Francisco, and (slowly but surely) beyond, and Demolition Desserts stays true to her character and her style, with illustrations, gothic lettering, and occasional playful layout. The prose is written for home cooks, and there are plenty of baking basics, but the stars of the book are Falkner’s playful and clever composed desserts, like “Tiramisushi” and “Lovelova,” and the beautiful full-page photographs of each dish.

1080 RecipesBy Simone and Ines Ortega on StarChefs.com1080 Recipes
By Simone and Ines Ortega (Phaidon)
1080 Recipes is the Spanish version of The Silver Spoon (published in English by Phaidon) – a tome of over 1000 classic recipes from across the country. It unsentimentally codifies what Penelope Casas, Coleman Andrews and Anya Von Bremzen have worked to bring to the West – that is, the variety and splendid simplicity of Spanish home cooking. Modern Spanish gastronomy (alta cocina) is relentlessly technique-driven; for the uninitiated, the basic character of the country’s historical cuisine may come as a surprise, and probably a delight.

A Great American Cook
By Jonathan Waxman (Houghton Mifflin)
A Great American Cook By Jonathan Waxman on StarChefs.com Finally a cookbook from Waxman, who is arguably one of the more renowned and revered chefs in the industry, but not as known outside. Jimmy Bradley (Red Cat, Harrison) describes Waxman’s philosophy as: “something simple done perfectly is always good,” and his cookbook takes the same approach. The font is humble, the layout is basic (sometimes too basic), recipes are approachable in flavor and technique. But the photography that brings the real je ne sais quoi that heightens the book’s appeal, and reminds one of the timeless beauty and seductiveness of fresh ingredients, simply combined (and photographed, of course, in perfect morning light on an appropriately rustic wood table). 

Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children By Anne Cooper on StarChefs.comLunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children
By Anne Cooper
Cooper dubs herself a “renegade lunch lady”; her area of subversion is conventional American school lunch, and she is one of the most passionate and outspoken members of the growing rebel army. Lunch Lessons is a practical guide to the system and how it should change – it has a wealth of information on the current (and dire) state of school food, the actions that can be taken to change it, a policy guide, a resource guide, and recipes for breakfast and lunch, complete with nutrition information.

By James Peterson (10 Speed Press, 2007)
Cooking James Peterson on StarChefs.comThe subtitle is apt, really: “600 recipes, 1500 photographs, one kitchen education.” And a formal French education it’s certainly not. Rather, it’s a guide to the modern American kitchen – it draws from the global flavors that have become part of our lexicon, and places the ingredients and techniques in context in a cook-friendly way. A balance is struck between old and new, and the large format, 500-page volume has the look of a cookbook, but the contents of an encyclopedia – it instructs how to tell the sex of a lobster, how to cut up a raw Pekin duck (with step-by-step photos), and how to make nuoc cham and warm sea urchin mayonnaise.

River Cottage Meat Cookbook By Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall  on StarChefs.comRiver Cottage Meat Cookbook
By Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Hodder and Stoughton)
This encyclopedia of meat was first published in 2004, and the re-release is a perfect excuse for us to point a laudatory finger at what is truly a carnivore’s bible. The photos are beautiful, and the comprehensive coverage of buying, breaking down, and cooking every four-legged and two-legged creature (and their offal) worth knowing is intelligent and incredible. The book teaches, muses, and inspires…inspires you to pick up a good piece of meat and do it justice. And “doing meat justice” isn’t just on the plate – Fearnley-Whittingstall makes a plea for the ethical serving and purchasing of meat, imploring cooks to be informed and serve the best possible product. For “once you are fully confident of your source, and the quality of your raw materials, the way you cook meat will enter a new phase.”

Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art (25Th Anniversary Edition)
By Shizuo Tsuji
Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art  by Shizuo Tsuji on StarChefs.comAnother bible of classic regional cooking, this time from Japan – a country of immeasurable culinary mystique and gastronomic appeal. Japanese techniques and philosophies, like the specific seasonal delicacy of Kaiseki cuisine, are just beginning to permeate the American dining scene (David Bouley and Yoshiki Tsuji, Shizuo’s son, are opening a Kaiseki restaurant in New York next year), and chefs are starting to look East, drawing inspiration from the balance, seasonality, and art inherent in Japan’s culinary culture. This version is a re-release of the original book, with the same fundamentals and techniques, 130 recipes, and new color photographs and new forwards (from Yoshiki and Ruth Reichl).

The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook By Amelia Saltsman on StarChefs.comThe Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook
By Amelia Saltsman (Blenheim Press)
This is a community cookbook – it revolves around the network of growers and buyers at the picturesque farmers’ market in Santa Monica – with national appeal and relevance. There’s a quick guide to basic market-friendly cooking techniques (how to cook fresh shell beans, and such), and then onto the main bulk: the nearly 200 pages of recipes, grouped by category but marked by season (“evergreen” is used for recipes that work year-round). Saltsman shot the photography herself (we wish there was more) and self-published; it’s a novel effort and – local chefs take note – we’d love to see more like it from other parts of the country.

By Lyndsay and Patrick Mikanowski, Photographs by Grant Symon (Flammarion)
Egg By Lyndsay and Patrick Mikanowski, Photographs by Grant Symon on StarChefs.comThe humble egg is the subject of this celebratory art/philosophy/food project. Each egg (truffle-pickled, slightly “cracked,” and gilded) has a recipe and a chef behind it (Thomas Keller, Pascal Barbot, and Dan Barber, respectively) – and those chefs and recipes are stunningly shot by photographer Grant Symon. The trio has collaborated before (on UnCooked and Vegetables by 40 Great French Chefs), and this project is particularly beautiful, fun, and timely – we’ve seen more composed egg appetizers and entrees this year than ever before.

The Sweet Spot By Pichet Ong and Genevieve Ko on StarChefs.comThe Sweet Spot
By Pichet Ong and Genevieve Ko (William Morrow)
Elements of Asian cuisine are as popular with American diners as hamburgers, says Pichet Ong – but what of the desserts? His new cookbook opens the doors to a vast landscape of desserts with Asian flavors, ingredients and techniques. The key, which makes this cookbook one that will end up dog-eared and batter-splattered, is the recipes' accessibility – flavors and components are different, but forms are familiar. There’s coconut cream pie, but with a crust of toasted jasmine rice; instead of panna cotta, there’s a delicate glass of almond tofu topped with a fresh salad of Asian pair, grapes, peaches, and mint.