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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?

American
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

Compilations
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

General
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

International
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

E-Cookbook
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. 



Per Deborah Madison, the word "veggies" should be banned

Vegies

There is a trend for certain food terms to become popular and then reviled. "Food porn" came in and went out pretty fast; "foodies" has lasted longer but there is now gradual consensus that it should be eliminated from polite conversation as a derogatory term. But "veggies"?

According to Deborah Madison (The Greens Cookbook, Vegetable Literacy, and other numerous vegetarian books) "veggies" should indeed join the crowd. In her article on Zester, Stop Calling Them Veggies: Vegetables Are Due Respect, she writes:

"And why would I bother to have and squander any emotion at all about the word veggies? I've wondered myself about why I don't like it and won't use it. I think it's this: The word veggie is infantile. Like puppies. Or Cuties. It reduces vegetables to something fluffy and insubstantial. Think about it: We don't say "fruities," or "meaties" "or "wheaties" - unless it's the cereal. We don't say "eggies" or "beefies." We don't have a Thanksgiving birdy; we havethe bird. But we don't seem to be able to say vegetable.  Certainly it's no longer than saying "Grass-fed beef" or "I'll have a latte." Veggie turns vegetables into something kind of sweet but dumb, and in turn, one who eats a lot of vegetables might be construed as something of a lightweight, but one who can somehow excused. "It's just veggies, after all. They'll snap out of it."

She goes on to highlight why "plants are generally quite amazing, strong and clever beings that evolve with time."

Interestingly, by the way, in response to some of the replies to the blog, she does address the British term "veg" - "I am okay with "veg" because it makes me think of vegetation."

Obviously Deborah spends a great deal of time thinking about vegetables, so this is a subject much closer to her than it is to me, but I have to say that, in general, if we can just get people thinking about vegetables in a fond way - and maybe "veggie" does that - I can't get bothered by it. And it doesn't, at least to me, have the derogatory tone that "foodie" has. What do you think?

Take 5 famous chefs and put them in office cubicles....

Chef in cubicle

We have to applaud Food & Wine's latest video, which Braiser is previewing. Narrated by their Editor-in-Chief, Dana Cowin, it follows five famous chefs - Mario Batali, Eric Ripert, David Chang, Hugh Acheson, and Grant Achatz - as they become chefs-in-residence at the F&W offices. It's only 5 minutes long, but if you've ever worked in an office or cubicle, you'll definitely relate.

Check it out here.

Three cooking tips from Thomas Keller

Chicken breasts with tarragon

During a recent interview with world-famous chef Thomas Keller, The Splendid Table asked him how home cooks could improve their skills. He responded with three pieces of advice; here is a summary of the lengthier reply NPR printed in their article:

Learn to salt properly: Among the other tips he gives about salting, we found his advice about salting technique especially enlightening: "Season your food properly -- not by seasoning a piece of meat with salt when you're really close to it, but by actually holding your hand up rather high, having the salt between your fingers and letting it fall. As it falls through the air, it's dispersed out evenly over the piece of meat, the vegetables or whatever you're using."

Season with vinegar: Vinegar can add flavor - but it also can just add brightening: "Sometimes you want to make a vinegar sauce. We use vinegar as a base for the sauce and we want to be able to taste that vinegar. Other times we'll just add a couple drops of vinegar at the finish to again do the same thing that salt does and bring up that flavor or enhance that flavor."

Temper your food: By tempering, he means "Bringing your food to room temperature before you actually begin to cook it. It helps the food cook evenly, at the right temperature and for the right length of time."

And the recipe he would have all cooks learn to cook? He suggests his roast chicken recipe from the Bouchon cookbook.

Photo of Thomas Keller's Chicken Breasts with Tarragon from Serious Eats

A tribute to the late Judy Rodgers

 Judy Rodgers

For those who may not have heard, Judy Rodgers, who was  the chef-owner of Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, died last night of a long-standing cancer. Zuni Cafe won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant in America in 2003. In 2005, Judy Rodgers was named Outstanding Chef in America, beating out Mario Batali, Tom Colicchio, Alfred Portale and Nobu Matsuhisa.

But probably for most of us her impact was in our own kitchens, and with one cookbook. The Zuni Cafe Cookbook was an iconic book - one of the few restaurant-inspired cookbooks that were written with the home chef in mind. Unlike many in that genre, her recipes were easily followed and maximized flavor. And its popularity is certainly evidenced by the fact that over 1,000 EYB members own the book. 

And it is no exaggeration to say that I have dreamed of Judy Rodgers' roast chicken - the most famous recipe in the book - and thoroughly enjoying that chicken is an experience I have no doubt shared with more than a few EYB members. So her death at 57 has a double impact. First, anyone dying at 57 is way too young and, second, she brought some pleasure into the world - something to be proud of, aspire to, and not that easily achieved.

I would be very proud to leave her type of legacy behind - and it's very sad that her illness and death will prevent any further contributions.  Rest in peace.

 

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