Hey guys, I thought it would be cool to keep a log of the most relevant cooking and photography-related books I’ve read over the years that have helped in the kitchen and behind the camera. I bought most of these books second-hand. I still have them all and they litter my house. Most of them travel with me when I move countries and although I rarely open them anymore I feel better knowing they’re there.
I don’t think there’s a more comprehensive document on cooking to date out there. If you’re really serious about food and the science behind it this is the book… well. books, it’s like 5 of them. They’re huge, heavy, and will probably last you a lifetime. I also dare you to cook any of the recipes in them (I haven’t yet… well, made one once). Most require fancy lab equipment but just reading about things like this definitely helped me a lot in understanding food and cooking better.
The Professional Chef.
If you are looking for a great introduction to proper classic cooking techniques, this is the one. This book is massive but there’s no big enough book to hold all the knowledge required to properly cook food. The subject is too vast and continuously evolving but The Professional Chef does a pretty damn good job at touching on key subjects. I have a pretty old edition shown in the link below but there are more up-to-date revisions out there.
This is pretty much where it all began for me. Jacques Pepin’s ode to French cooking. I can’t remember why I got this book but whatever the reason I couldn’t be more grateful. It’s hardcore classic French cooking and provides a wonderful foundation for any cook who’s really serious about the craft. There’s a modernized version out there now if you don’t like black and white pictures!
Noma’s Fermentation Guide.
Goes without saying that the Noma guys know what they’re doing. I mean, they’ve been the best restaurant in the world how many times? And they run that successful food lab and ferment anything imaginable. Trust me. It would be a dream to work there. Anyways, this book documents some of the stuff those guys do there and it’s pretty awesome.
The Art of Fermentation.
If you are into fermentation, I would start here. This is not a recipe book though it has plenty of them. This book is about understanding our environment and our relation to the microorganisms responsible for keeping us healthy. I really loved this book when I read it. Super inspirational.
Cooking for Geeks.
This book couldn’t have been more perfect for me. I’m not the geekiest person but I’m a geek. Maybe I am an uber-geek… you decide but what I know is that this book is amazing. I learned so many things about the science of cooking. This is before I got my hands on Modernist Cuisine and it was so worth it. If you want to stop following recipes like a muppet and get your cooking understanding on, you don’t have to buy Modernist Cuisine. Start here.
One of the best restaurants in the world ran by the “Indiana Jones” of cooking, and if you don’t believe me run a few google searches on the author: Alex Atala. The book is a work of art. Beautiful photography and recipes that sure… us mere mortals won’t be able to cook (or maybe we will….) but I feel better in the kitchen knowing that this book is on my bookshelf.
The Art of French Cooking.
How can this book not be in your collection? I grew up watching her black&white cooking show. Then they made a movie… I don’t know if that did her justice but I do know that her book is an amazing compilation of french cooking techniques and recipes, and why shouldn’t it be? she’s friends with my buddy Jacques Pepin. Check it out and hope you’re ready to go stuff your fridge with beautiful butter.
The French Laundry.
If refined modern french cooking (with an American twist) is your thing then this is the perfect gift to yourself. I love Thomas Keller, where would my roasted chicken be (and pretty much the rest of my cooking) if it weren’t for him. The book is heavy on technique which is awesome.
I don’t know if you’re into baking but I’m a fan. In fact, the earlier years of this blog were mostly baking experimentation and learning. This probably one of the best baking cookbooks I’ve seen. It takes the time to go over the theory and the recipes are all so elegant and beautiful. Heavy on technique but not for the faint of heart.
Thomas Keller does it again! I love this guy. If you’re looking for a friendly wholesome modern-American cookbook with … of course… some of the yummiest pictures out there, this is the one. I felt so food-network-ish when reading it. I went straight to McDonald’s after this. But all jokes aside. One of my most precious cookbooks.
This is where it starts to get really chefy but you know that going in when Grant Achatz is the referrer. Oh yeah, the cooking genius behind my next cookbook. Ask Thomas Keller… I easily digress… Back to this book. Not a sexy book. I mean it looks like it was printed at a prison but it’s not a coffee table book if that’s what you want. This is hardcore haute cuisine stuff.
Of course, I had to go there. I like a challenge and I love good food photography. Well… this is quite possibly one of the greatest examples of the 2 combined. A work of art that sits in my living room watching over every one of my clumsy kitchen moves. To this day I have yet to actually finish any recipe on this book. I don’t own an anti-griddle! … yet. Alinea is not just a fancy cookbook, and allow me to get super cheesy here… it is a journey into how modernist restaurants operate. Phew… hope you’re still there.
Yep, guilty as charged. I love this guy. He’s been a huge inspiration all along and sure he ended up becoming a tv personality and more of a showman, Ramsey’s passion for food is undeniable and neither is his cooking. He’s an amazing chef with a ton of experience and I have learned so much from him as well as seen every Kitchen Nightmares episode under the sun. Go, Amy!
The Preservation Kitchen.
This book was pickled in awesomeness. If you love good ole vinegar pickled stuffs, jams, marmalades, canning, this might the one for you. It’s not a fermentation guide tho but vinegar preservation is a classic staple in American cuisine so if you wanna learn more it this book is pretty helpful. The recipes are incredible.
The Silver Spoon.
A classic would be an understatement. This MASSIVE book has adorned coffee tables for decades and for a reason. It’s a work of art and one if not the best compilation of Italian cuisine. Kinda reminds me of The Joy of Cooking but better (I don’t own the Joy of Cooking btw, nothing against it… just not my thing). So… looking to seriously dive into Italian deliciousness? I would start here.
And back to french cooking wizardry. This is old school stuff but can’t cook if you can’t sauce it up. The word emulsion finally acquires the correct meaning after this read. A massive compilation of not only French but world-round sauces and recipes to go with them. A beautiful book to show off in your living room, just lose the sleeve.
The 4-hour Chef.
This is like … hmm… if you haven’t cooked in your life but you suddenly felt like cooking would soon dominate your life and you needed a quick survival guide this is it. It’s probably the most fun I’ve had reading a book in years. Tim’s energy and wit are undeniable and you might learn a thing or two about totally unrelated-kitchen things. Want to learn how to set up a trap to catch squirrels at the park? this is your book.
The Edible Balcony.
I grow many of the herbs I use in my kitchen at home and this book was essential to learning how to do it. It can be tricky. Herb plants are very fickle and love to die frequently. The edible balcony has plenty of information on most plants you can grow at home to eat. I love this book.
The Flavor Bible.
The title pretty much says it all. It’s like the thesaurus of flavor. If you wanna know how to pair any two ingredients, this book will come super handy. The first two chapters cover the science and spirituality of flavor so well you will want to stop reading and get back in the kitchen to experiment.
Let me wrap this up with this one. Just like our beloved Anthony, this book contains absolutely zero bullshit. One totally honest food-life journey story. A beautiful book showing the true raw passion needed to succeed in the food business and one wonderful document for those cooks out there looking for inspiration and guidance.
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