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Redzepi bounces back after a rough year

Boiled stone crab

For three years, René Redzepi's Noma topped the rankings of the world's best restaurants. But 2013 was "an avalanche of disaster," according to Redzepi. Sixty Noma diners contracted norovirus from tainted mussels, Noma lost its number one spot to Spain's El Celler de Can Roca, and the restaurant's investment structure was changed. But instead of being discouraged by these challenges, Redzepi took them as a wake-up call to change.

He told the Wall Street Journal, "I wouldn't want to be without this motivation. I told my whole team I wouldn't want to be without this tremendous and inspiring push. Sometimes you need a bit of anger towards the world." In 2014, Redzepi began an ambitious program to reinvigorate Noma, open a second restaurant in Copenhagen, and open a pop-up Noma in Japan. He created 90 new recipes and is also helping his long-time pastry chef open a Mexican restaurant across town. 

The Wall Street Journal article provides an in-depth exploration of Redzepi's tireless work to return Noma to the number one spot atop the San Pellegrino rankings. Upheaval appears to be a theme for 2014 in top restaurants, as New York's WD-50 is closing at the end of this month, and The Tavern on the Green announced a major shakeup. Food Arts Magazine also called it quits in 2014. It makes you wonder what 2015 will bring.

Photo of Boiled stone crab & seaweeds from Food Arts Magazine by René Redzepi

Gabrielle Hamilton bucks the cookbook trend

Prune cookbookGabrielle Hamilton is celebrating the 15th anniversary of her NYC restaurant Prune. Coinciding with this milestone is a cookbook named after the eatery. Prune goes against the trend of lavishly photographed, semi-autobiographical chef cookbooks aimed at home cooks, as The Washington Post notes in its discussion of Hamilton and the book.

When Hamilton began working on the cookbook, she attempted to write for the home cook. However, "in about 15 seconds flat, I realized I was lying my brains out," she said. "What I know and what I can really tell the truth about is what I've been doing every day for 15 years, which is cooking in a restaurant." So instead of writing to home cooks, she wrote to the audience she knew best: restaurant line cooks.

You won't find detailed headnotes or behind-the-scenes restaurant stories. Hamilton already provided much of that in her memoir Blood, Bones & Butter, so this time the aim was for "the antithesis of the "food porn" that celebrity chefs routinely use to cement their images." That doesn't mean the book is dry or dull, however. Annotations are written in Hamilton's own hand (the book is intended to replicate the restaurant's kitchen binders), and the cookbook is dotted with vivid descriptions of how the food should look, smell and taste.

Even though the book is written primarily to restaurant cooks, home cooks will likely find many of Hamilton's instructions informative. For example, she instructs her cooks to only use special cutting boards usually reserved for pastry: "I have tasted our fruit salad when one of you has carelessly used the all-purpose cutting boards, and no matter how well they were washed and sanitized, there can sometimes be a lingering, remote onion/garlic tinge." Other advice assumes equipment or materials not found in most home kitchens, or is only applicable to a restaurant (like sticking the ham used in a recipe in the oven if a health inspector arrives).

If you have eaten at the restaurant and were wondering if your favorite recipes are included, note that among the book's 250 recipes you will find many of Prune's most requested, including Grilled Head-on Shrimp with Anchovy Butter, Bread Heels and Pan Drippings Salad, and Prune's famous Bloody Mary (with all 10 variations).

Read the entire review, which also includes quotes from Ruth Reichl and a more detailed discussion of what you'll find in the cookbook.

Does the fact that Prune is the "antithesis of food porn" make you more interested in the book?

Jacques Pépin begins filming his last series

Jacques PepinIn an age where nearly every cooking show focuses on conflict and outsized personality, Jacques Pépin stands out. For nearly 25 years, Pépin has starred in low-key, straightforward cooking shows through the public broadcasting station KQED in San Francisco. He says that his latest series, Jacques Pépin: Heart & Soul, will be his last.

While Pépin doesn't rule out doing guest spots on other cooking shows, he says he's won't do another television show with a companion cookbook after Heart & Soul, which is set to air in fall 2015. So why is he ending his very successful run? He admits that one factor is his age.  "I do feel older now," says Pépin, who is approaching his 79th birthday. "The series is work. But the book is even more work."

The old-school method Pépin utilizes in his shows certainly looks like a lot of work: he "goes to the market every day and cooks the dishes in his home kitchen while an assistant jots down notes and measurements that are later typed into recipes. Just writing the cookbook can take two years."

The San Francisco Chronicle's interview with Pépin covers what viewers can expect from his new series, transports us to his beginnings in food in 1949, and provides a "by the numbers" listing of accomplishments (including his 24 cookbooks, many with several editions, and 295 episodes). It also provides insight on what Pépin thinks of modern cooking shows and culinary trends. His take on modernist cuisine? "My grandmother used to say, 'Don't eat anything you don't recognize...But that's what molecular gastronomy is all about. That gets tiring after a while, though. Sometimes you just want a taco and a beer."

Although he may be retiring from television, Pépin will certainly continue to influence both home cooks and professional chefs though his many cooking shows and the previously-mentioned slew of cookbooks. Volumes popular with EYB Members include Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, Essential Pepin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food, Fast Food My Way, and Jacques Pépin's Complete Techniques.

What have you learned from Pépin's cooking programs or cookbooks?

In defense of dessert

Chocolate creme brulee

Restaurant dessert menus have been on the decline for some time. Perhaps we can blame the trend on people cutting back on carbs or the demonizing of sugar. Or perhaps it is a by-product of the growing practice of restaurateurs eliminating pastry chefs and relying on a limited menu of pre-made desserts as a cost-saving measure. Chef Marco Canora is bucking this trend, and in an Esquire article he makes the case for having a pastry chef.

Canora, chef and co-owner of the James Beard Award-nominated Hearth in New York and Terroir wine bars throughout the city, is the author of Salt to Taste and the upcoming A Good Food Day. While noting that fewer than 40 percent of diners opt for dessert and that pastry departments are not revenue-generators for restaurants, he nonetheless thinks having a good dessert menu is important. "It's the beginning and the end that people remember most," he says. "That's why dessert matters. It's the final moment, that last bit of sweet."

Judging by the number of baking and dessert books in the past few Cookbook roundups, some people must still care about the final course, at least at home. How important is the dessert menu to you? Would you order dessert more frequently if the menus were more inticing?

Photo of Chocolate crème caramel from Martha Stewart Living Magazine by Dorie Greenspan


Chef Jason Atherton on cooking at home

Jason Atherton

Jason Atherton's pedigree is impressive: Gordon Ramsay's Maze, El Bulli, his own London restaurants, and outposts in Hong Kong and Singapore. While these establishments feature complex foods, the Michelin-starred chef has a simple philosophy when it comes to cooking at home. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Chef Atherton describes his views on seasonal food, what he considers essential ingredients, and how he uses his favorite cookbooks. 

Not surprisingly from the author of a book called Social Suppers, at home, the social aspects of cooking are important to Atherton. "You have to think about the logical reasons someone wants to go for dinner-it is to spend time with someone," he says. His philosophy is to keep things uncomplicated and not to stress over the food. Even though he is involved with food all day long, he enjoys coming home and cooking for his family. "I don't for a minute think it's a chore to get creative in the kitchen when I come home."

While he is an award-winning chef and cookbook author, sometimes Atherton draws on others for inspiration. "I use cookbooks a lot," he says. "Any chef who says they don't is a liar. When I am struggling for inspiration, reading one sparks off things. The one I use the most is El Celler de Can Roca. It is a beautiful book to read." Read more, including which ingredients he considers essential, at the  WSJ.

Literal chef's plates


Daniel Boulud's new Washington, DC restaurant, DBGB Kitchen and Bar, represents a homecoming of sorts. Boulud worked in DC when he first arrived in the U.S. thirty years ago. When it came time to decorate his new establishment, he enlisted his chef friends for an art project.

Over 100 chefs from across the U.S. to painted small plates in a manner representing famous artists. A wall at Boulud's establishment contains the renderings of culinary luminaries like Alice Waters, Dominique Ansel, April Bloomfield, Thomas Keller, and Grant Achatz. Some of the chefs reveal hidden artistic talent that they hadn't been able to express before.

"Although he commissioned the project himself, Boulud "was in awe of his colleagues' handiwork: "I couldn't believe some of them. They really spent time making sure these plates were going to be commemorative," he says." Continue reading, and see photos of several plates along with commentary from the chefs, at the NY Times website.

Photo by Darcie Boschee

Complete Diana Henry recipe index

Diana Henry

Attention Diana Henry fans - we're excited to announce that we've just completed indexing all of her recipes, 2,851 in total! This includes all of Diana's cookbooks from Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons to A Change of Appetite, every recipe in her Sunday Telegraph columns, every magazine recipe, and recipes found on her website. The Sunday Telegraph recipes are indexed as a blog that can be added to your Bookshelf. (Please note that the Sunday Telegraph only allows you to view 20 articles a month for free. To get more articles you must subscribe; it's £1.99 per month for unlimited web and phone access.)

Diana's cookbooks are popular with EYB members, and it's no wonder. Her first book, Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons, was shortlisted for a Glenfiddich Award for best cookbook. Her sixth book, Food From Plenty, was shortlisted for both the André Simon Award and the Guild of Food Writers Award for Cookbook of the Year. Her seventh book, Salt Sugar Smoke, was shortlisted for the Fortnum & Mason Award and The Guild of Food Writers Award for Cookbook of the Year. Fortnum & Mason named her Food Writer of the Year in 2013 and the Guild of Food Writers have named her Cookery Journalist of the Year twice.

If you're new to Diana's recipes and want to learn more, you can visit the EYB Forum, where several members have been cooking along with Diana Henry recipes. Many recipes also feature notes from those who've tried them. You can also read an excerpt from Diana's blog about the process involved in creating the cookbook - a must read for anyone who loves cookbooks.

Diana joins Mark BittmanRose Levy Beranbaum and Clotilde Dusoulier in having a complete recipe index on EYB.

Behind the scenes with a cookbook editor


Have you ever come across a cookbook that made you think "wow, someone was brave to take a chance on this book"? Then you'll love reading about cookbook editor Rux Martin of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. She specializes in cookbooks, narrative nonfiction on food, and diet books, and has worked with storied authors like Dorie Greenspan, Mollie Katzen, Jacques Pépin, and Ruth Reichl. Martin has edited several best-selling cookbooks including Hello, Cupcake! and Around My French Table  as well as quirky tomes like The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert. Food writer Dianne Jacob provides an enlightening interview with Martin, where she dishes about about the cookbook market and trends, the importance of great photography, and how food blogging has changed the industry.

In addition to discussing trends in cookbooks (one of which is eclectic artwork), Martin provides advice for would-be authors. Prospective authors should realize that "there is a hugely shrinking space at all of the major retailers, that independent booksellers are still going out of business, that more cookbooks are being sold every day, and that in big box stores, they give less and less space to cookbooks." This means fierce competition as publishers fight over shrinking shelf space in bookstores.

When asked about what was new in the realm of recipe writing, Martin responded with an interesting perspective: "The world of the bloggers has perhaps resulted in more borrowing of recipes. In the past they would be considered stolen. You're supposed to be doing genuinely original work, giving full attribution as to how your recipe came into being. If you used a crust from so and so and a filling from so and so and put them together, and you say so, that's honest."

Read the full article to find out more, including how food bloggers have changed the cookbook industry.

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

Groundbreaking women in food and drink

Influential women in foodThe number of women helming food-related companies and otherwise influencing the food industry has been growing steadily over the past few decades. Fortune magazine (in partnership with Food & Wine) takes a fascinating look at top 25 innovative women in food and drink.

While some of the women are well-known, others effect their influence from behind the scenes, like Liz Myslik, Executive VP for Brand Management of Fresca Foods Inc. That company "partners with natural food brands...to help them grow by handling the manufacturing and supply chain side of their businesses."

The list includes women in diverse roles, including women in food technology like Kellee James, CEO of Mercaris, maker of an online trading plaform used by the organic commodities market; and filmmaker Stephanie Soechtig, whose most recent effort is the film Fed Up. Nonprofit founders like Ruth Oniang'o of Rural Outreach Africa and public policy leaders like Margo Wootan, Director of Nutrition Policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, are also recognized.

The beverage industry is well-represented, with many winery owners and the co-founder of popular New Belgium Brewing all making the list. Naturally, several chefs and food television personalities feature prominently in the rankings. EYB members will recognize many of these women, such as Christina Tosi of Milk Bar fame; Kylie Kwong, who helms Sydney restaurant Billy Kwong, Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis, and Nancy Silverton, who recently won a James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Chef.

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