"Famous at home".

This past week, I began putting together a preview of the fall and winter cookbooks I'm looking forward to--you'll see it soon in this space.  As I was paging through press releases and stacks of advance copies and catalogue lists, I couldn't help noticing something.  Here's a short list of what I noticed.  I'm pretty sure you'll see the same thing I did:

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What do these five titles have in common?  Easy, right?  They're all by restaurant chefs, famous to lesser or greater degrees.  The thing is, they're all guys--though I'm not going to make an issue of that--and every one of them is cooking "at home".  (Well, except for Ferran Adrià.  "Family Meal," here, is meant in the restaurant sense--meals cooked for and by staff.  Still, it's billed as "home cooking".)  

I'm not sure I've ever seen such a profusion of "famous at home" titles in one season.  I can only speculate as to what's behind this phenomenon--the economy, probably, because what's the economy not to blame for?  Maybe chefs are realizing that if you can't afford to eat out, maybe you can still afford to bring a taste of the good life at home, in a cookbook.  Or maybe publishers see more diners longing to be cooks.  Maybe, once you've maxed out the number of restaurants you can open and restaurant tie-ins you can publish, the next logical step is to go back home, have a family, and write an "at home" book.

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Regardless, it's interesting to see and it'll be even more interesting to find out if, at home, these famous chefs really cook like you and me. Does Jean-Georges always forget he used up the hoisin sauce last time? Does Heston Blumenthal reach for a heat-resistant rubber spatula 9 times out of 10 even though he has dozens of more appropriate cooking implements?

Strangely, I find I don't really use most of my "famous at home" books by executive chefs.   I don't cook "at home" with Thomas Keller or Alfred Portale or Charlie Trotter (well, Charlie Trotter's "at home" book isn't EYB-indexed, so he has an excuse).  It's not that the recipes are hard, exactly; they're just a little fussier than I like.  The one "famous at home" book I do use is Jamie Oliver's Jamie At Home.  I'm very fond of that book--it's even earned a place in the cramped kitchen cabinet, which only fits my favorite 50 or so books.

What "famous at home" books do you have?  And, more importantly, which ones do you actually use?

1 Comment

  • John Whitehead  on  9/23/2011 at 5:56 PM

    Raymond Blanc's at home book is Foolproof French Cookery which includes recipes from the all-important Mama Blanc. I use it all the time, particularly for the wonderful pommes dauphinoises. Please index asap. Thanks.

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