What's on your Book Shelf?

Discussion in 'Cookbook Reviews' started by wesgraham, Dec 25, 2015.

  1. wesgraham


    Likes Received:
    Culinary Student
    Hey guys,

    I realize I'm starting to gain a collection of cookbooks. Being a new culinary student, I keep getting cool cook books as gifts. Most are more home cook recipes but anyways, show of what you got guys!

    Plus I'm always looking for recommendations on books.
  2. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

    Likes Received:
    I Just Like Food
    There have been a number of threads like this before so some searching might help you fill out what you're looking for.  I'll build you a list of books that were the right thing at the right time in my cooking progress. 

    The books that have had the greatest impact on my cooking:

    The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines: Greek, Roman and Chinese  by Jeff Smith. This was my first cookbook and focused on two cuisines of interest to me at the time, Chinese and Greek. Out of print, but inexpensive at used book stores. 

    How to Grill by Steve Raichlen  A book of deep knowledge and technique presented simply and completely. Plenty of photos, (repettive even for the set up of the grill, but having it in each recipe is handy for beginners).

    Paul Kirk's Championship Barbecue Sauces This book was about the right information at the right time. I read it just as I was beginning to comprehend barbecue rubs of my own. And this book magnified it. Probably not a GREAT book as some of the others on this list, but it was just right for me at that time. 

    The Best Recipe A good book of basic cooking that explains why they do it that way. There have been some updated versions since I bought my copy. It's certainly bigger now than it was then. 

    Peace, Love and Barbecue by Mike MIlls expands on the ideas of barbecue. When I read this for the first time, it presented ideas that were just a bit beyond the mainstream of my experience with barbecue. It taught me to think bigger and wider about barbecue.

    Classical Southern Cooking by Damon Lee Fowler  is the best book of southern cooking I've encountered.  His many other books on Southern food are similarly good, but this is the best. 

    My Grandmother's Chinese Kitchen by Eileen Yin Fei Lo and Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen by Grace Young. I mention these together because they are the same idea and structure, but different. My Grandmother's Kitchen is about Eileen growing up in China and learning to appreciate food, and then coming to America. Wisdom is about Grace growing up in America and learning to appreciate food of her heritage in America. These two actually are interesting reading just from the stories they tell and how they parallel and diverge. They mention some of the same dishes, and celebrations but reflect differing regions and practices. They're very interesting to read together or at least back to back. 

    Breath of a Wok by Grace Young

    Eileen Yin Fei Lo has written a lot of Chinese cookbooks. I have a lot of them. I like them all. Kenneth Lo has also written a lot of Chinese cookbooks. Most of these are out of print but inexpensive in the used market and well worth seeking out. 

    Fast Food My Way and More Fast Food My Way. The videos of this cooking series by Jacques Pepin are genius. The books are good for getting the details of the dishes, but the  videos show how to run your kitchen to bring a meal together at once. The books sort of miss the structure of the menu and the timing of letting this dish simmer while I prep this next bit. Good food but the operation of kitchen displayed in the videos was great. 
  3. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

    Likes Received:
    Professional Chef
    This is both a hard and an easy question to answer.  Some books should be on every chef's shelf while many others will depend on what kind of cuisines you want to explore.  A couple that I feel are required reading are:

    On Food & Cooking by Harold McGhee

    The Joy Of Cooking (watch what edition though-some are much better than others)

    Sauces by James Peterson

    Culinary Artistry by Andrew Dorenburg and Karen Page

    In addition any number of classic books on French Cuisine will teach you a lot even if you aren't into French food that much.  You should also have at least 1 book on bread making and another couple on baking.

    As Phatch said, there are a number of "cookbook recommendation" threads here that you should definitely read as there are many great books listed.  But a lot will depend on what interests you and how well rounded or how focused you want to be.

    Also, make sure to pick up some the chef biographies that are out there, especially ones on the greats of our industry throughout history.  They may not include recipes but can really give you a great insight into the mind of a cook/chef.
  4. mrdecoy1


    Likes Received:
    I Just Like Food
    Everything by Michael Ruhlman Ratio and Twenty for sure.

    "The Cook's Book" a compendium by multiple famous chefs. Great book!!!

    Everything by James Peterson

    "On Food And Cooking" Harold McGhee

    Jacques Pepin New Complete Techniques

    Anything by Raymond Blanc

    Julia Child MAOFC 

    Those alone will keep you busy for a long time. Anything ethnic just find out which authors teach the most authentic, for instance Mexican is pretty much Rick Bayless and Dianna Kennedy. 
  5. chicagoterry


    Likes Received:
    Home Cook
    Oh...don't get me started. I've been both cooking and working in bookstores for 30 years!

    From a home cook:


    On Food and Cooking--McGee

    The Flavor Bible--Page



    Joy of Cooking-most people hate the 1997 revision. I'm less disappointed in it but previous editions and the 75th Anniversary eds are a better bet. General but shockingly comprehensive.

    Cook's Illustrated Cookbook--painstaking recipe writing

    Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (or New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone) by Deborah Madison

    Simple Food I--Alice Waters

    --Technique Driven:

    James Peterson--just about anything

    Madelyn Kamman--The New Making of a Cook

    La Varenne Practique--Ann Willen

    Jacques Pepin--His older technique book is great, I understand, but his Essential Pepin comes with a searchable DVD

    Roasting by Molly Stevens

    Braising by Molly Stevens


    --Chinese--Grace Young, Barbara Tropp

    --Middle Eastern/Mediterranean/North African:

    Claudia Roden's New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

    Jerusalem--Yotam Ottolenghi 

    Anything by Paula Wolfert 

    Zahav by Michael Solomonov


    Rick Bayless

    Diana Kennedy

    --Other Latin American:

    Cocina Latina by Maricel Presilla

    The South American Table by Maria Kijac

    Peru: The Cookbook by Acurio


    People like Lydia Bastananich a lot but I am a diehard Marcella Hazan fan. Older. Not as lushly produced. Not glossy. The real deal presented over the course of a number of cookbooks.

    --Greek--Anything by Diane Kochilas (also--see her website.)

    --Russian/former Soviet Union countries:

    Please to the Table by Anya von Bremzen

    Mamushka by Hercules (also covers Ukraine)


    Joan Nathan--many Jewish-American cookbooks

    Olive Trees and Honey by Marks--Jewish-vegetarian cooking from across the diaspora

    --Japanese--Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Tsuji


    Madhur Jaffrey, Yamuna Devi,

    How to Cook Indian--Kapoor


    I like James Peterson's New French Food

    Richard Olney's Simple French Food is a classic

    Patricia Wells--many over a long career.

    There are many people here on CT who have much more expertise here than I when it comes to classic French cooking.

    Yeast Breads--Peter Reinhart--Breadbaker's Apprentice or Crust and Crumb

    Cake--Rose Levy Barenbaum--The Cake Bible

    Pastry-Pies, etc--Bernard Clayton or Rose Levy Barenbaum

    French Pastry is beyond my expertise or, even, my will. That is what bakeries are for.

    General Desserts-- Dorie Greenspan, David Lebovitz, Alice Medrich. Old school but still good--Maida Heatter

    Ice Cream--David Lebovitz--The Perfect Scoop

    Korean--I've got a few but none I'm crazy about. However, Koreatown: A Cookbook is about to make me break my "NO NEW COOKBOOKS" moratorium

    Thai--I still use an old book from the 80's called The Original Thai Cookbook by Brennan. No frills but  the 1st one in the States that didn't dumb down ingredients. I think it's out of print.

    American Southern--skip Paula Deen and look for Edna Lewis, Sean Brock--I'm sure there are others. It's not my favorite cuisine.  Edward Lee's Smoke and Pickles cookbook is an amazing mashup from a Brooklyn Born, Korean-American who now cooks in the south. Teaches you how to hack an indoor, stovetop smoker.

    Fermentation--Sandor Katz's Art of Fermentation is the bible.

    Pickling-Joy of Picking (Zedrich) and Asian Pickles by Solomon--both good

    casinada likes this.
  6. cerise

    cerise Banned

    Likes Received:
    I don't think it's been mentioned before, but one that's on my list is. Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2016
    Niftynorm and casinada like this.
  7. just jim

    just jim

    Likes Received:
    Professional Chef
    One mention of Culinary Artistry, one of The Flavor Bible.

    Just my opinion, but if you have one you don't need the other.

    Personally I like C.A.

    T.F.B. is more shiny and pretty, more appealing to the masses.

    Food for 50 is a good book for a jumping off point for large batch cookery if you find yourself in a banquet of buffet setting.

    I have a similar book, Large quantity Recipes. Love it.

    Eat Me by Ken Shopsin. (follow this up with the documentary I Like Killing Flies. You won't regret it.
  8. sal paradise

    sal paradise

    Likes Received:
    Former Chef
    Mastering the art of French cooking is one my all time favs.
  9. panini


    Likes Received:
    A  Chef will usually have a large bookshelf of cookbooks. If it's a good Chef who's spent some time in kitchens you should find a couple of Hunter S. Thompson books mixed in.
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2016
  10. luke daigle

    luke daigle

    Likes Received:
    Line Cook
    On Cooking and the Professional Chef are must haves. I think the Professional Chef updates every five years so there should be a new one this upcoming fall. One of my favorite recipe books is Bobby Flays Bar Americain and Mesa Grill Cookbook. Sauces by James Peterson is a pretty extensive and all encompassing book. I also like to collect the annual collections of Food and Wine Magazine.
  11. rpooley


    Likes Received:
    Home Cook
    Here's my tops:

    Mastering the Art of French Cooking (I and II)

    Jacques Pepin Essentials

    La Varenne Pratique - Ann Willen

    American Baker - Jim Dodge

    Sauces - James Peterson

    Cook's Illustrated (more for unique tips/methods than whole recipes)

    Artisan Breads Every Day  - Peter Reinhart

    Baking Chez Moi - Dorie Greenspan

    The Complete Guide - Escoffier 
  12. ihmispelko


    Likes Received:
    Home Cook
    The only cook book I've read cover to cover is "Le Cordon Bleu's Complete Cooking Techniques" that I got as a present from an aunt when I was younger. I'm not expert on cookbooks but I really appreciated this one, made me much more confident in trying all kinds of new dishes.

    Other than that I only have a couple random ones I got for christmas etc. that I occasionally flip through them for inspiration but they're nothing special. I'll look into some of the more educational sounding ones mentioned in this thread.
  13. SFSkies


    Likes Received:
    Avid Home Cook
    Chicagoterry has provided a comprehensive and diverse list, with additions from other respondents.

    I have given away most of my cookbooks, keeping only the most useful or unusual, some of which have already been mentioned.

    I highly recommend the following for cuisines that have pretty much disappeared except for refugees from Middle Eastern countries who are now part of Jewish diaspora.

    Stella’s Sephardic Table by Stella Cohen
    Aromas of Aleppo by Poopa Dweck