Top Books for Cooks 2017

By D. J. Costantino and Hip Torres


D. J. Costantino and Hip Torres
Top Books for Cooks 2017
Top Books for Cooks 2017

This year’s best books for cooks had us tagging along to Chiang Mai, Thailand with Andy Ricker; to Modena with Massimo; into The Cooking Lab with Francisco Migoya; and to the depths of the seas with Barton Seaver. They taught us how to cook with guts, to deep-fry mayo, and how to properly wrap a chocolate bar.

Here are StarChefs Top Books for Cooks. In a year when we all wanted to hide our heads in one, these hardbacks, compendiums, and magnus opuses provide distraction, practical insight, and a full tank of inspiration.


American Seafood: Heritage, Culture & Cookery from Sea to Shining Sea | by Barton Seaver
The details:
Weighing in at 5 pounds 5.6 ounces and clocking in at exactly 520 pages, Barton Seaver’s American Seafood is a referential tour-de-force. Where your Google machine falls short, Seaver’s encyclopedic epic goes the whole nine nautical miles. American Seafood chronicles our oceans’ past, present, and future, and the men and women who derive their livelihoods from them. Embellished by portraits from Jay Fleming, Seaver, and others, as well as archival materials from the 19th and 20th centuries, this book goes hand in hand with Seaver’s mission to revive and support fishing communities and economies and diversify the seafoods we eat. Casting a wide net, he includes more than 500 species from abalone to wreckfish and how best to prepare them.
Favorite specie: Harlequin grunt. Their swim bladders amplify the sound of their constantly grinding teeth, creating an audible bellow or grunt. 
Why you should read it: Bring clarity and confidence to your conversations with fish mongers and other chefs. When they’re talking about oyster fish, blackfish, or chowder fish, you’ll know it’s all just another word for tautog. This book allows you to be a part of an important, chef-driven conversation. 

Bread Is Gold: Extraordinary Meals With Ordinary Ingredients | by Massimo Bottura & Friends
The details:
In a world where one-third of prepared food goes to waste, Bread Is Gold illuminates how to cook with what’s right in front of you. The title references the author’s childhood breakfasts of leftover bread scraps dipped in milk with a splash of coffee. Massimo Bottura recognizes that chefs have become “ambassadors of culture, influential thinkers and activists,” and that they have a role in defining the future of food. He enlisted many of the most important living chefs to contribute their most humble, soulful recipes and the stories behind them, with plenty of space provided to scribble notes.
Favorite dish: Andoni Luiz Adurtiz’s Migas a la Extremeña, page 286
Why should you read it: Dedicated to fighting food waste, this book’s royalties are donated to Bottura’s charity Refettoria Ambrosia (Food For Soul), which creates and sustains community kitchens around the world.  

Cheers to the Publican Repast and Present: Recipes and Ramblings from an American Beer Hall | by Paul Kahan and Cosmo Goss with Rachel Holtzman
The details:
This book is a toast, a prelude to a celebration. Each chapter begins with one: “Shoulders and shanks, knuckles and feet, sautéed, deep-fried miracles to eat. Even slighted scraps, the ‘What’s Left Behind’—fig.[a]: scrumptious pork rind.” That chapter is titled “To What’s Left Behind: Offal, Scraps, and Leftover Bits.” There are also toasts to (chapters for) bread, charcuterie, vegetables, “The Noble Creatures of the Sea and the Much Maligned,” and “Swine, Bovine, and Particularly Fowl.” Learn how Paul Kahan an co. approach, well, everything.
Favorite recipe: It’s a tie: Fried Pig Brains with Gooseberry Salsa Verde, and Barbecued Tripe with Clams, pages 260 and 268.   
Why you should read it: We know you ate at Publican the last time you visited Chicago. This book is a compilation of menu items that influenced a generation of chefs and how we eat, in Chicago, and from coast to coast.

Guerrilla Tacos: Recipes from the Streets of L.A. | by Wesley Avila and Richard Parks III, photographs by Dylan James Ho and Jeni Afuso
The details:
Eggplant tacos, beef tendon tacos, fideo tacos, celeriac tacos, sunchoke tacos, taco pasta and albondigas … You’ll never run out of taco inspiration with this book on your shelf. Oh, and there’s mussel quesadillas, crab and spigarello tostadas, menudo—all from the chef who brought California cuisine to food truck tortas and tortillas. Wes Avila also offers helpful insights for street entrepreneurs, like what to do when your business gets shut down by the police. 
Favorite recipe: Chilaquiles Torta: Chiles, Roma Tomatoes, Swiss Chard, Black Beans, Chipotle Crema, Oaxacan Cheese, and Avocado, page 249
Why should you read it: How many salsa recipes do you know? Avila gives you 25, and they’re all in the first chapter. Nancy Silverton and Skrillex have endorsed this book, so you can’t go wrong. 

Offal Good: Cooking from The Heart, With Guts | by Chris Cosentino with Michael Harlan Turkell
The details:
After a foreword by Andrew Zimmern and a ballad of sorts from Fergus Henderson, comes Chris Cosentino’s manifesto of offal cooking. heads, skins, tongues, feet, ears, brains, lungs, utters, blood, testicles, rectums, lips, and, of course, the cockscomb—which Cosentino candies and uses in a rice pudding—are all broken down by pig, sheep, cow, or fowl. In the rear of the book, there’s a basics section with things like sauces, condiments, spice mixes, stocks, and brines.
Favorite recipe: Pork Liver Bottarga, page 172
Why you should read it: There is no book like this in your collection. Learn how to cook with guts, reduce waste in your kitchen, and inspire creativity with the patron saint of offal cooking. 

On Vegetables | by Jeremy Fox
The details:
In the tradition of Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking, Jeremy Fox’s On Vegetables is an instant classic and mandatory reading for the modern chef. As with the modern memoir à la Marco Pierre White’s White Heat, it’s also deeply personal. The tome has four sections: foreward (by David Chang), introduction (including “but first, a grill cheese sandwich,” “I am not a vegetarian,” and “adulthood, accolades & anxiety), recipes (more than 200 pages of them), and the larder (fermented, dairy, dough, etc.). There’s even a short chapter “things I like:” deli cups, squeeze bottles, and Y peelers.   
Favorite recipe: Carrot Juice Cavatelli, Tops Salsa, and Spiced Pulp Crumble, page 102
Why you should read it: You know why. You’ve been anticipating this book since the first time you heard the word Ubuntu and the last time you stopped by Rustic Canyon.   

Pok Pok: The Drinking Food of Thailand | by Andy Ricker with JJ Goode
The details:
Andy Ricker’s latest book is a tribute to and education on the drinking culture of Thailand and the food that goes along with it. Recipes from the street carts and late-night spots of Northern Thailand are broken down into categories like Grilled, Fried, and Dips. Austin Bush’s photos are visceral and characteristically un-styled, lighting up the pages with authentic energy. There’s also a guide to the Thai pantry so you will no longer be intimidated by Makrut leaves, galangal, or naam makham piak (tamarind water).
Favorite recipe: Sai Krawk Isaan: Fermented Pork-and-Rice Sausages, page 147
Why you should read it: It’s the next best thing to a plane ticket to Bangkok, and with no better guide than Ricker, who has traveled extensively, done his studying, and knows his way round a mortar and pestle.  

Rasika: Flavors of India | by Ashok Bajaj, Vikram Sunderam, and David Hagedorn
The details:
Rasika is the story of chef-driven Indian cuisine in America as told by legendary D.C. Restaurateur Ashok Bajaj and his longtime Chef Vikram Sunderam. The elegant volume chronicles Indian food’s rise in the States and then lays down its foundations, flavors, and sauces. Rasika is a restaurant book, and the details of its culinary success are as complex and elemental as the book’s chapters: rice, breads, chutneys, and cocktails.
Favorite recipe: Boiled Basmati Rice, page 217. Did you know cook time depends on the age of the rice? “There comes a day when you can tell the precise moment when the grain has crossed over al dente to cooked all the way through and you’re destined to lead a life accompanied by perfect rice from there on out.” 
Why you should read it: The true flavors of Indian cuisine are inseparable from technique and heritage, and Bajaj and Sunderam have managed to translate those flavors into fine-dining thousands of miles away from their origins. 

State Bird Provisions | by Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski with JJ Goode
The details:
This book shows how courage of concept and the limitations of your kitchen can become a chef’s greatest strength. A 375-page embodiment of their restaurant, Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski’s State Bird Provisions is packed with information but flows logically and naturally with layouts, fonts, and photos that give it room to breathe and slowly meld with your cook’s brain. It’s a labor of love written by chefs for chefs, with balance between savory and pastry, each with its own series of chapters on how to build out your larder: ferments, pickles & preserves; aïolis; sprinkles, crunches & powders; dollops, sauces & custards. There’s even a fold-out section featuring Mikiko Yui’s iconic ice cream sandwiches.        
Favorite recipe: Savory Pancakes, the whole section, Pages 110 to 131
Why you should read it: It’s the kind of book that will have you furiously scribbling. Plus, you’ll learn the secret sauce of a restaurant that has had a line out the door every day for six years. 

wd~50: The Cookbook | by Wylie Dufresne and Peter Meehan
The details:
Wylie Dufresne has always been an open book, sharing a constant flow of techniques and innovations. For the first time that knowledge has been printed on 344 pages published by Anthony Bourdain’s imprint under Harper Collins. With large format  photographs followed by recipes of ground breaking dishes like Fried Mayonnaise, Carrot-Coconut (Sunny Side Up), and Aerated Foie, it’s as much a text book of contemporary culinary history as cookbook. 
Favorite recipe: Duck Prosciutto, Nori Peanut Butter, Pickled Carrot, Brioche, page 235
Why should you read it: Although Dufresne has moved on to doughnuts, wd~50 is eternal. Buy the book, get in the sandbox, and play.  


Champagne: The Essential Guide To The Wines, Producers, And Terriors Of The Iconic Region | by Peter Liem
The details:
Peter Leim’s flat-out gorgeous and geeky Champagne is as relevant now as it will be in one-hundred years. Everyone loves Champagne, but maybe no one more than Liem who has cemented his name as the authority. It’s the only book on the subject you’ll ever need, whether you’re an enthusiast, on the floor, or studying for that Master’s pin. This 321-pager is divided into three parts—Understanding Champagne, The Place, The People—with a detailed glossary (summing up often heard but seldom defined terms like biodynamics) and the official classification of vineyards called Échelle des Crus. To-the-point and useful topics include “Debunking the Chalk Myth” and “The Vine Cycle,” as well as vintner profiles.  
Why you should read it: Illustrative maps are a tool Liem often uses, but seven vintage folding maps (originally drawn by French publisher Louis Larmat in the 1940s) give this boxset a luxe feel. They’re considered the most meticulous maps of the region ever produced and are as beautiful and detailed as Liem’s book.   

Meehan’s Bartender Manual | by Jim Meehan
The details:
With his essential The PDT Cocktail Book, Jim Meehan redefined the bar book, and he continues to do so with Meehan’s Bartender Manual, a comprehensive work that delves into the practicalities and nature of bartending itself. Meehan begins with the origins of the craft cocktail movement, and goes into bar design, tools, and guides to distilleries and spirits—all before he gets to recipes. Following that are directives for service, etiquette, management, and self-care. Spritzed throughout are pages of advice from industry luminaries and experts from all walks of life: Bobby Stuckey on discipline, Leo Robitschek on insecurity, Audrey Saunders on presence, Jack McGarry on negativity, and Julie Reiner on brutal honesty.     
Favorite recipe: Platanos en Mole Old-Fashioned, page 267
Why you should read it: If bartending is your religion, this is your bible. And if you own a bar or hope to one day, this is required reading.  


Making Chocolate: From Bean to Bar to S’more | by Todd Masonis, Greg D’Alesandsre, Lisa Vega, and Molly Gore
The details:
There are no more secrets. New wave chocolate makers Dandelion are spilling the beans. These bean-to-bar groundbreakers grew a small, bootstrapped business into a San Francisco-based cacao juggernaut that has expanded all the way to Japan. The Dandelion team of authors includes Pastry Chef Lisa Vega, VP of R&D Greg D’Alesandre, and Co-Founder and CEO Todd Masonis. Together, they have compiled a chocolate text that illuminates every aspect of the modern “bean to brownie” business model in five chapters: A Brief and Opinionated History of American Craft Chocolate; the Process; the Ingredients; Scaling Up (And Diving Deep); and Recipes. Photographer Eric Wolfanger (Manresa: An Edible Reflection; Tartine Bread) provides the visuals that are at ounce beautiful and instructive.    
Favorite recipe: Nibby Horchata, page 263
Why you should read it: There are details, diagrams, illustrations, and photos on everything from buying equipment and mills to sourcing cacao and, of course, making s’mores.   

Modernist Bread | by Nathan Myhrvold and Francisco Migoya
The details:
We hope you’ve been hitting the gym and getting those biceps and triceps in shape because it’s that time again. Oh, and don’t forget to lift from the knees when your six-volume set arrives at the loading dock. It’s been seven years since Nathan Myhrvold and The Cooking Lab team delivered the game-changing behemoth Modernist Cuisine, and there’s no question as to what they were up to in the mean-time: working on the revolutionary 2,567-page Modernist Bread with Cooking Lab Executive Chef Francisco Migoya. Think you know how to make brioche? Bagels? Naan, focaccia, pizza, dosa, injera? Crackers? Bao? Pretzels? Well, no you don’t, not really. This is one of the rare works of science, skill, and art that will change your perspective and the way you bake—and blow your mind, more than once. Case in point: pressure caramelizing grains will improve the structure and quality of bread dough, producing a larger volume and more open crumb.  
Favorite recipe: Black Currant and Marcona Almond Sourdough, volume 4, page 82
Why you should read it: Because you have no idea what you don’t know. But soon your mind will be exploding with beautiful bread wisdom. The volumes: 1 History and Fundamentals, 2 Ingredients, 3 Techniques and Equipment, 4 Recipes I, 5 Recipes II, 6 Kitchen Manual.   

Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream: The Art and Science of the Scoop | By Dana Cree, Photographs by Andrea D’Agosto, Illustrations by Anna Posey
The details:
Publican Pastry Chef and recent graduate of the oldest ice cream school in the world at Pennsylvania State University, Dana Cree would like you to meet someone. In Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream, her first book, Cree starts off by breaking down the five components of the world’s favorite (and oft mishandled) treat: ice, fat, protein, sugar, and air (aeration equals mouth-feel, or else ice cream goes from luscious to impenetrable mass). Cree also schools you on texturing agents from xanthan to yolks, and shares nearly 100 pages of recipes ranging from Chocolate and Vanilla to Cinnamon Basil Ice Cream (page 80).
Favorite recipe: Pineapple Jasmine Sherbet, page 104, because it sounds delicious plus illustrates the importance of ratios and infusion techniques—keys to ice cream success! 
Why you should read it: Sex sells. So does ice cream. Add the best possible version to your dessert menu. Cree gets into custard ice creams, Philadelphia-style (egg-less), sherbets, and the uber popular frozen yogurts, and also recommends the best equipment and table top machines too, as well as endless inclusions.  

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