So, I friggin’ love reading.
Oh yeah… And you pick up some great knowledge, ideas, and inspiration too- as long as you read the good stuff. Get your hands on bad writing, and it’s still a plus- now you know how to identify a crap book.
Plus it keeps you off the emotional vamp-fest on Facebook.
The BHB’s Book List
– Kitchen Confidential, The Nasty Bits, and Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain
– The Joy of Cooking by Marion Rombauer, et al.
– The Elements of Cooking by Michael Ruhlman
– Professional Baking by Wayne Glissan
– Advanced Bread and Pastry by Michael Suas
– How Baking Works: Exploring the Fundamentals of Baking Science by Paula I. Figoni
– Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson
– your favorite holy text
– your favorite fiction
– your favorite poetry
Recently, I’ve been making a point of looking up and reading as many food-related books and biographies as I can- not only to get inspiration and ideas, but insight into the workings of minds that have very much shaped the industry I’ve chosen and the world I have thrown myself into. Some of the works I’ve read/am reading so far are classics that should perhaps be on the reading list of any culinary student. The others, maybe not so much. Here then are the texts I am currently on about- particularly the ones I’ll talk about at length if you catch me a couple beers in and have an hour to kill.
What The BHB Is Reading Now
This is a text written by a Buddhist Zen Master named Dogen. I have covered it previously in this entry, but in a nutshell, Dogen describes the responsibilities and desired attributes of the head cook at a Zen monastery- not a menial servants position like in Europe at the time, but a position to be filled by an older, enlightened, and philosophically adept monk. For those who can’t believe spiritual awakening can come from nominally menial work, this is for you.
Brillat-Savarin was, by every definition, the host with the most. A politician, violinist, lawyer, gourmand, aristocrat- NEVER a cook, chef, or baker in his life. Yet, this book, published a few months before his death and comprised of his meditations on food, eating, pleasure, science, society, and nature, remains one of the bibles of the hospitality industry. From this man who lived at the turn of the 19th Century, we get the maxim, “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.” Read this for the 200-year-old recipes at the end, if not for the goofy anecdotes, tongue-in-cheek humor at the societal circles he moved in, and the casual insights into behavior at the table.
Carême may well have been the first celebrity chef, but Marco Pierre White was the first rock-star chef. A chef proprietor at 24, the first Brit and youngest chef to ever win 3 Michelin Stars, famously given to outrageous behavior, rage and anger in the kitchen, and an absolute obsession with cooking, this book is his autobiography. It offers not only insights into the development of his food philosophy and career arc, but anecdotes of the lunatic madness that gave rise to Mario Batali, Heston Blumenthal, and many other now-household names that White called “employees,” and who called him at one time or another “mentor.” Read it for the wisdom. Read it for the madness and name-drops. Read it for the sex and foul language. Whatever you like- just read it.