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Netflix announces The Chefs Table documentary series

Massimo Bottura   Francis Mallman

Food lovers are eager to learn about their favorite chefs' opinions, techniques, and paths to culinary success. Even if we don't have the opportunity to eat at their restaurants, for some chefs we can catch a glimpse of them through their cookbook writing. Soon Netflix will make it easier to discover what makes world-famous chefs tick with a documentary series set to debut next year in all markets where Netflix is available. The series will first focus on Massimo Bottura, founder of Modena's Ostera Fancescana and author of Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef (coming soon to a cookbook store near you). 

Other chefs to be profiled include Sweden's Magnus Nilsson, Ben Shrewry of Attica restaurant in Melbourne, Dan Barber of Blue Hill in New York, Buenos Aires chef Francis Mallmann, and Niki Nakayama of N/Naka in Los Angeles. This is the first documentary series commission by Netflix, and director David Gelb (best known for the award-winning Jiro Dreams of Sushi) will be overseeing production.

Photos of Massimo Bottura and Francis Mallmann from the EYB Library

Oseland leaves Saveur

James OselandThis week brings another shakeup in food journalism as longtime Saveur editor-in-chief James Oseland announced he is leaving the magazine to start a new publication with publisher Rodale. There Oseland "will start a new magazine brand, transforming the 62-year-old Organic Gardening magazine into Organic Life. The new magazine is expected to include coverage of "food, garden, home and well-being," a Rodale spokeswoman said." The revamped magazine will debut next spring.

It will be a challenge to replace Oseland, 51. Under his direction, Saveur has garnered numerous accolades and over 25 awards, including several from the James Beard Foundation. Oseland is quite a multi-tasker: during his tenure at Saveur he has also served as a judge on Top Chef Masters, authored several Saveur cookbooks, and recently published his own book, A Fork in the Road

Oseland is the latest high-ranking executive to leave Saveur in the past six months. Previously senior editor Tejal Rao, copy chief Greg Robertson, and executive digital editor Helen Rosner have exited the company. 

The Splendid Table turns 20

The Splendid TableWhile some cooking programs have turned to high drama to attract bigger ratings, one show has remained rock steady for 20 years: NPR's The Splendid Table. Host Lynne Rossetto Kasper reminisces with Eater about the show, recalling the early episodes which featured luminaries like chefs Danny Meyer and Michael Romano of The Union Square Cafe, food scientist and cookbook author Shirley Corriher, and Julia Child, who appeared regularly on the early shows.

Kasper also discusses the changes that have happened over the past two decades. She feels there is now "more varied material on food. We were always tracking what was happening in the food world in the broadest sense. One of the great changes was that in the beginning, whenever we mentioned the word "sustainable" or "organic," we had to explain it. Today, you don't even have to think about explaining it."

The Spendid Table has certainly contributed to the broader U.S. interest in food today. Says Kasper: "We saw the changes. Some people have said we nudged some of those, or at least broadened the awareness of those changes in what we were doing. I consider that a great compliment." Congratulations to The Splendid Table and Lynne Rossetto Kasper on twenty years of great food radio.


Jacques Pépin on "reality" cooking shows

Jacques PepinTurn on any televised cooking program and you are likely to hear yelling--a lot of yelling. The drama drives ratings, but how much is what we are seeing like a real restaurant kitchen? If you ask Jacques Pépin, the answer is "not much." In a recent Daily Meal article, Pépin blasts this negative depiction of professional kitchens.

While he admits that sometimes the stress of service causes tempers to flare and results in the occasional verbal barrage, Pépin notes that this is usually temporary and that it often "ends in a friendly discussion over a glass of wine or a beer." Kitchens work best when there is order and dignity, and in these so-called reality shows "the confrontation and the bitter drama are not conducive to producing good food."

To add insult to injury, very little actual cooking is shown. We don't see "the process of combining ingredients together to create a dish...nor is the process of tasting, adding an ingredient, then tasting again and commenting ever shown." Pépin singles out Hell's Kitchen, noting that while the conflict depicted may be good for ratings, it is "unjust to dedicated cooks and unfair to the trade." He notes that if you were to visit the kitchen in a respected restaurant (citing restaurants run by Thomas Keller, Alice Waters, and Grant Achatz), you would see "a kitchen that is well organized, with a contented, dedicated, hard-working staff."

Do you agree with Chef Pépin or do you think he's being too hard on Gordon Ramsay and these shows?

Chefs' first food memories

Ruth Rogers

If you think that many chefs had poignant or powerful experiences with food when they were young that influenced their career path, you would be correct. Thanks to this short video from The Guardian, you can learn about the first food memories of some of the UK's best chefs, many of whom have cookbooks in the EYB Library.

In the video, Ruth Rogers from The River Cafe recalls growing up in the countryside, where there was always a sense that "you ate what was growing at the time." Bobby Chinn from House of Ho discusses the multi-cultural food influences in his extended family, and the first time he realized that food could be bad (when he was sent to boarding school). Chris Galvin waxes poetic about how the table is "the last bastion of civilisation."

Other top British chefs also share entertaining food memories in the video. If you have a food memory that influenced you, we'd love to hear it. 

Meet the 15-year-old chef

Flynn McGarry

Some kids like to help their parents in the kitchen, but Flynn McGarry takes it a step further. McGarry has been cooking since he was 10 years old, teaching himself the basics from cookbooks and the internet. At the tender age of 11 1/2, he began hosting a supper club, where chefs and celebrities now pay $160 per person to eat what McGarry calls "progressive American cuisine."

A recent meal, described in the The New York Times Magazine article linked above, contained creative courses like ember-roasted carrot gelee with smoked egg yolk served alongside compressed mango, pickled mustard seeds and coffee-pickled carrots. Another menu item was Beet Wellington (no, that's not a typo) made with roasted beets and a mushroom duxelle wrapped in puff pastry and served with creamed sorrel and a beet bordelaise sauce.  It's enough to give someone who's been cooking for years an inferiority complex.

Parents often indulge their kids' obsessions by buying chemistry sets or sports equipment, but McGarry's parents easily topped that. They built a kitchen in his bedroom to resemble the one at Alinea  in Chicago. As you might expect, his parents aren't a traditional 9-to-5 suburban couple; McGarry's mother is a former NBC executive and his father is a professional photographer.

While there's a lot of attention being paid to McGarry's age, cooking has long been a craft started young. European restaurants frequently take on apprentices who are 15 to 16 years old. But instead of toiling away peeling carrots while waiting for his turn to move up, McGarry, who is homeschooled, spends over 160 hours per month cooking in his family's home near San Francisco.

Whether McGarry will fulfill his dream of opening a Michelin-starred restaurant remains to be seen. He's turned down a few reality TV show offers, but a book and a possible travel series are in the works. Perhaps EYB will soon have a cookbook authored by McGarry to index. What do you think of this chef prodigy?

Photo courtesy The New York Times Magazine

The Fat Duck flies south

The Fat Duck

Restaurants open, close, and change locations every day. Usually it's only noteworthy to the people in the local area. However, when the restaurant in question is Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck, and when the move is not across town but across the globe, people pay attention.

As reported in The Guardian, the restaurant, including its staff, will travel to Melbourne this December and open in February at the five-star Crown Towers hotel. After six months, The Fat Duck will return to England, and the Melbourne venue "will be used for Dinner, to be opened under the supervision of long-time Blumenthal sidekick Ashley Palmer-Watts, who heads the London kitchen." The move will allow renovations to proceed in the 17th-century building in Bray currently housing The Fat Duck.

Those of us in the U.S. will have to make do with Chef Blumenthal's cookbooks, many of which grace the bookshelves of EYB members. His most recent effort, Historic Heston, was both an EYB pick for 2013 and has been nominated for a James Beard Foundation book award. Heston Blumenthal at Home is the most popular of his cookbooks amongst EYB members, and several of its recipes have been rated with five stars. If you have a favorite Blumenthal recipe or technique, we'd like to hear about it.


Photo courtesy of The Guardian

Clarissa Dickson Wright dies at 66

Clarissa Dickson Wright

Clarissa Dickson Wright was someone who enjoyed life to the fullest.  Her career spanned being a barrister at Grey's Inn, to working in two cookbook stores, to cooking in a club and most famously, travelling around the UK in a motorcycle and sidecar with Jennifer Paterson, as The Two Fat Ladies.

The Two Fat Ladies were unlikely TV stars - two overweight, middle-aged women, who loved food and life.  But their TV show became immensely popular, in the UK and around the world, and spawned numerous cookbooks.  Clarissa was also a lover of cookbooks, working in two cookbook stores - Books for Cooks in London's Notting Hill and the Cook's Book Shop in Edinburgh.  I remember her at Books for Cooks, doling out expert advice to anyone who asked.

In later life she became more controversial, with her opinions on hunting (pro) and badger culling (she suggested eating the carcasses and gave recipes). But she was always entertaining and was extremely knowledgeable on food history, especially British food. Her spokeswoman Heather Holden-Brown said "In recent years, she often said 'I've had a fantastic life and I've done everything I could have wanted to do and more'." What a great epitaph!

Read the obituaries in the BBC, The London Evening Standard, and The Guardian

And the nominees are...

IACP nominees 2014

It's the end of February, so it must be time for culinary award season to begin. We've already addressed Food52's The Piglet competition, which is in the quarterfinal round, the James Beard Foundation cookbook awards, which will be announced on March 18 (read about JBF restaurants and chef semifinalists), and the IACP nominees were also recently announced. Without further ado, here are the cookbook nominees for the IACP awards (you can view the complete IACP list here). Is your favorite cookbook on the list?

The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen by Matt Lee & Ted Lee
I Love New York: Ingredients and Recipes by Daniel Humm & Will Guidara
Mad Hungry Cravings by Lucinda Scala Quinn

Baking: Savory or Sweet
The Art of French Pastry (Random House)
Jenny McCoy's Desserts by Jenny McCoy
Southern Italian Desserts by Rosetta Costantino

Beverage/ Reference/ Technical
The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food & Drink in America, Second Edition by Andrew F. Smith
Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding & Jose Vouillamoz
The New Cider Maker's Handbook
by Claude Jolicoeur

Chefs and Restaurants
The A.O.C. Cookbook by Suzanne Goin
Stone Edge Farm Cookbook by John McReynolds
Le Pigeon: Cooking at the Dirty Bird by Gabriel Rucker, Meredith Erickson, Lauren Fortgang, and Andrew Fortgang

Children, Youth and Family
CHOP CHOP: The Kids' Guide to Cooking Real Food with Your Family by Sally Sampson
Baby & Toddler on the Go: Fresh, Homemade Foods To Take Out and About by Kim Laidlaw
Best Lunch Box Ever: Ideas and Recipes for School Lunches Kids Will Love by Katie Sullivan Morford

The Chelsea Market Cookbook: 100 Recipes from New York's Premier Indoor Food Hall by Michael Phillips with Rick Rodgers
Prep School by James P. DeWan
Toronto Star Cookbook by Jennifer Bain

Culinary History
Cuisine & Empire: Cooking in World History by Rachel Laudan
An Early Meal -  A Viking Age Cookbook & Culinary Odyssey by Daniel Serra & Hanna Tunberg
Repast: Dining Out at the Dawn of the New American Century, 1900-1910 by Michael Lesy and Lisa Stoffer

Culinary Travel
The Perfect Meal by John Baxter
The Sardinian Cookbook by Viktorija Todorovska
Cooking from the Heart by John Besh

First Book
Lark - Cooking Against the Grain by John Sundstrom
Mr. Wilkinson's Vegetables: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Garden by Matt Wilkinson
Stone Edge Farm Cookbook by John McReynolds

The Art of Simple Food II: Recipes, Flavor and Inspiration from the New Kitchen Garden by Alice Waters
Heart of the Plate by Mollie Katzen
Keepers by Kathy Brennan & Caroline Campion

Health & Special Diet
Gluten-Free Girl Everyday by Shauna James Ahern
The Longevity Kitchen by Rebecca Katz & Mat Edelson
Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom by Deborah Madison

Balaboosta by Einat Admony
Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes by Ivan Orkin
Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way by Oretta Zanini De Vita & Maureen B. Fant

Single Subject
In the Charcuterie by Taylor Boetticher & Toponia Miller
Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes by Ivan Orkin
Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook by Rick Mast and Michael Mast

The Journey by Katy Sparks, Alex Raij, Maneet Chauhan, Rita Sodi and Kathleen Squires
Indian Cooking Unfolded: A Master Class in Indian Cooking, with 100 Easy Recipes Using 10 Ingredients or Less by Raghavan Iyer
Modernist Cuisine at Home by Nathan Myhrvold & Maxime Bilet

A cover story

Nigella Lawson cookbook covers

Nigella Lawson recently announced the publication of "covetable new editions" of nine of her bestselling cookbooks. (You may have to scroll down the page a bit to view the announcement.) The first two books, Nigella Express and How To Be a Domestic Goddess, pictured above, have covers described on Nigella's website as "striking" and "witty."

An April, 2014 release date is scheduled for the first two editions, with How to Eat  and Nigella Summer (previously titled Forever Summer) to be released in June. The remaining five titles will follow throughout 2014 and early 2015.

The new artwork is a departure from previous covers, which frequently contained photographs of Nigella. Sometimes the U.S. and U.K. editions of previous cookbooks contained different covers, but it appears the covers will be the same for all new editions in this series. For those who are disappointed not to see Nigella on the cookbooks, don't fret. The new books will contain "sumptuous new endpapers featuring Nigella at work in the kitchen," which will also be available in the eBook editions.

While reissuing cookbooks is commonplace, this may be the first time anyone has done so purely for a collectible cover. (Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong). Cookbook reissues frequently contain updated and revised content as well as new covers; Nigella's website doesn't say whether any such revisions will be found in the new releases.

To tide you over until the April release date, you may want to revisit some of Nigella's most popular recipes on Eat Your Books:

Banana Bread from How To Be a Domestic Goddess
Clementine Cake from How to Eat
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake from Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home
Mirin Glazed Salmon from Nigella Express
Quick Chili from Nigella Express

Let us know what you think of the new covers. 

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