Favorite reference books

Joined Jul 31, 2000
If you had to choose only five books to have as reference to all things culinary in your library what would they be?

We are expanding our resource center/library at school and I have been asked to spearhead this process.

We have about 300 books at this point, including Escoffier and Larousse and the like, so think out of the box. Any thoughts?
Joined Jun 14, 2002
Here are the five books I turn to the most...

1)The New Making of a Cook, Madeline Kumman
2) A Mederretanean Feast..., Clifford A Wright
3)The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking, Barbara Tropp
4) Sauces, James Peterson
5) Fish and Shellfish, James Peterson
Joined Aug 12, 2004
these maybe simpleton favorites

1/ mastering the art of french cooking
julia child/louisette bertholle/ simone beck 40th edition alfred a knoph publishing
the definative french cookbook of the 20th century

2/ The Silver Palate Cookbook workman pub
Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins
the Guide to home entertaining well written great recipe's great insight

3/ Cucina Simpatica
Johanne Killen & George Germon harper Collins pub
The Owners and Chef's of Al Forno this is the finest Italian cookbook written in the english language not the most complete ,but the most authentic

4/ Seafood Expressions
Normand J Leclair Dome publishing
American regional cuisine at it's apex New England seafood straight forward
nothing that doesn't belong and everything that does he has created these dishes with no indulgenses of fusion or nouvelle, just classic american fare
he has written many books all are worthy this is a classic

5/ Kitchen Conversations
Joyce Goldstein Morrow publishing
As much a culinary text book as cookbook gives in sight to paring flavor's good substitutions wine's to have with great food from the world over


Staff member
Joined Oct 7, 2001
"Sauces" by Peterson is a must
"The Cheeser Primer" by Steven Jenkins
"The Physiology of Taste" by Brillant-Savarin
"La Technique" by Pepin
And for American chefs, "An American Feast" by Larry Forgione
Oops, I mean "An American Place"
Please forgive all the spelling errors this morning. I am still trying to wake up abd haven't had my coffee yet.
Joined Jul 23, 2002
Revised, On Food and Cooking. By: Harlod McGee
Living Cuisine. By: Renee Loux Underkoffler
And other "Raw Food" books.
How about a running subscription to Art Culinaire? Wish my school had that when I was there.
Joined Aug 14, 2000
Bread Baker's Apprentice
Artisan Baking...
Professional Baking
Joined Aug 11, 2000
Time Life Series, it's pretty old by now but they are great!!! :bounce:
Joy of Cooking....older versions, think 1973....Becker version.
Le Notre pastries, my copy is dog earred mottled and in serious need of a steaming. :p
In the Sweet Kitchen, it goes into great detail on baking ingrediants.
still vacililating on #5, Silver Palates, Julia Childs (any of um), James Beard because he had a list of substitutes with the recipes....hmmmmm

CC....pictures are good....Anne Willan has a Look and Cook series that has beginning to end of recipe photos. I don't care for the recipes but the photos are good.
Joined May 26, 2001
Another vote for an older version of Joy -- mine is from 1971, and it is excellent for basic information. Also:
Vegetables from Aramanth to Zucchini and Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables by Elizabeth Schneider (Colchie)
The Anatomy of a Dish by Diane Forley (also great for the scientific relationships of vegetables)
American Food: The Gastronomic Story by Evan Jones (history! recipes!!)
The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America
The Oxford Companion to Food
The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil
The Visual Food Encyclopedia, Francois Fortin, editorial director
The World Encyclopedia of Cooking Ingredients by Christine Ingram

Do I have to stop? ;)
Joined May 26, 2001
Please -- if it were only 50, I'd have room to buy more! :rolleyes: :D

But the serious answer is: those are some of the books I turn to the most when I need to check FACTS about food and cooking. And specifically, about American food -- I didn't even list the Asian and British and Australian ones. :rolleyes: Oh, there are many cookbooks I love and refer to when I need ideas for dishes to cook; but these books (in addition to many already mentioned here by others) are the ones that are chockfull of information about ingredients, techniques, history, and so on. And that, to me, is the essence of a reference work.

And so now, of course, :eek: I have to add a few more to my list:
Cooking by Hand by Paul Bertolli -- another great source for information about Italian food
The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil (how presumptuous of me to recommend a wine book to Cape Chef! :p )
Simple Cuisine by Jean-Georges Vongerichten -- where it all starts with juices, flavored oils, broths, and the like.
Joined Jan 31, 2002
Ferran Adria's two El Bulli books would make a handsome and eclectic addition to any library, I expect. At $300+ each, I wish there was a library in my neighborhood that would allow curious culinarians a peek at these tomes.

If your school doesn't have Michel Bras' Essential Cuisine or Pierre Gagnaire's Culinary Artistry, I think it should. I'm not a huge fan of the books, but they are something different. And, having recently been at school myself I know that too few students are aware that there are still chefs in Europe trying to be inventive. Hot Chefs, Hip Cuisine is another book I've seen recently that profiles global chefs.

I've also been recently eyeing the bound collections of Art Culinaire which seem to collect every 15 issues into a single massive book. I haven't sprung for them yet because the title has a "best of..." in it, and I'm worried it might not be complete. It looks to be entire issues, complete with advertising. Does anyone know for sure?

Lastly, there's a resource from Scandinavia published in English in German that I've recently discovered and would have loved to have had in my alma matter's collection titled Culinary Chronicle . Check that out... it's a hefty price tag, but all evidence points to it being pretty darned cool.
Joined Dec 17, 2004
I find myself more and more, reading cookbooks for the pleasure of reading about food, rather than for reference. For example, how Daniel Boulud conceived the notion of "Scallops in Tuxedos."

But when I'm seeking information about a recipe or ingredients, I find myself going back to a couple of books that have served me well: One, I call "The Black Craig." I believe it's "The New New York Times Cookbook," by Craig Claiborne. I gave it the nickname, because it's the only one of his books with a black cover. If a recipe exists for a classic dish, it's there.

The other, which is falling apart from so much use, is "Chez Panisse Cooking," by Paul Bertoli. I had always known about Alice Waters' passion for ingredients, but Paul Bertoli makes it come alive in this book.

And finally, although I cook nearly exclusively Italian food these days, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Julia Child will always be the Grand Dame of French cooking for me.

Best regards,
Skip Lombardi



Staff member
Joined Oct 7, 2001
Another great reference book for American Chefs is "The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink" by John Mariani. No recipes, but it gives the history of many dishes and describes how they were originally made. I found it to be a very enjoyable read, and a great reference book for doing research.
Joined Apr 1, 2005
absolutely include JOY OF COOKING c.1975. a perfect antidote to things
like 'squid with blueberries' and 'goofy things
that might at one time have been food stacked 12
inches high on a square plate' if nothing else, seeing as
you're in charge of turning out future pros.
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