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If you ask me, there's never a bad occasion to buy a new book. Personally, I find I enjoy an influx of books after every birthday or Christmas I experience. Finding myself inundated with gift cards from Target or Barnes & Noble, I take the opportunity to stock up on new books by celebrity chefs I follow. The business of writing about food is incredibly booming right now, which is a blessing and a curse. There are more books being written about food than ever before, but that also means there is more riffraff to sort through. This month, I've come across a collection of fantastic books by celebrity chefs (both old and new) that absolutely belong in your library. So without further ado, I invite you to explore my books of the month!
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
Recommending this book feels incredibly poignant in the wake of Anthony Bourdain's recent suicide. Though most of the world knows Bourdain as the bad boy culinary traveler on his numerous television shows including Parts Unknown and No Reservations, his career outside of the kitchen began with Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. The book, inspired by a 1999 essay Bourdain wrote for The New Yorker entitled "Don't Eat Before Reading This," is filled with swashbuckling tales from Bourdain's 25-year career as a chef at a French restaurant on Park Avenue in Manhattan. The too-crazy-to-be-made-up stories are shockingly confessional, tracing Bourdain's alcohol- and drug-fueled adventures. The book, now 11 years old, is just as relevant as ever, especially after Bourdain's premature passing.
EveryDayCook by Alton Brown
Alton Brown's career has had an incredibly interesting trajectory. His career in TV began before his interest in becoming a chef, and now his résumé includes everything from reality TV host to food blogger to cooking show host to food columnist to live show performer to editor-in-chief for several food related magazines. One of his more recent cookbooks, EveryDayCook, contains just what it says on the tin: recipes for home chefs to cook in their home kitchens any day of the week and some potential kitchen hacks for beginners. The recipes are organized by time of day, such as "Morning," "Coffee Break," and "Afternoon," and Brown's signature science-y wit is peppered throughout.
Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir by Padma Lakshmi
As one of the most notable famous celebrity chefs who aren't actually chefs, Padma Lakshmi often flies under the radar among food bloggers. Acting as a host and a sidekick to Tom Colicchio on his acclaimed Top Chef reality TV series. Her first publication, Love, Loss, and What We Ate, is a memoir tracing her early life in southern India to her first foray in television leading to her now twelve-year tenure on the Emmy Award-winning Top Chef show. The book is more of an autobiography than it is a cookbook, but Lakshmi's recipes appear throughout, offering the reader a chance to taste what Lakshmi tasted at certain iconic points in her life.
Playing With Fire by Michael Symon
Iron Chef and Food Network host Michael Symon is one of the more prominent celebrity chefs on the air today. Symon collected the recipes for Playing With Fire while researching in preparation of opening his restaurant, Mabel's BBQ. Symon took careful note of his favorite barbecue recipes from across the country, including Kansas City-style burnt ends, Memphis-style dry ribs, and Texas-style brisket. Perhaps most interesting of all is Symon's signature "Cleveland-style" barbecue, developed in honor of his hometown. These recipes are well-researched and honor the origins of the great barbecue regions from which they take inspiration, making Playing With Fire one of the best barbecue recipe books by celebrity chefs available today.
Home Cooking by Gordon Ramsay
One of the most famous celebrity chefs of all time, Gordon Ramsay is incredibly prolific, with multiple award winning restaurants, television shows, and cookbooks under his belt. Gordon Ramsay's Home Cooking is perhaps my favorite of all his books. Published to coincide with a British Channel 4 television series under the same name, it features some of Ramsay's most easily-digestible knowledge. More than a simple collection of recipes, Home Cooking includes loads of tips and tricks for the home cook, covering everything from saving money on ingredients to keeping a tidy cooking area.
Momofuku by David Chang and Peter Meehan
This book, written by the unlikely duo of chef David Chang and New York Times restaurant critic Peter Meehan, shares the story of how Chang became the unlikely chairman of his own rising culinary empire. Momofuku is ostensibly part cookbook, and indeed includes specific recipes for Chang's famous Noodle Bar ramen dish—down to every individually-sourced component—as well as Michelin-award winning dishes from the tasting menu at Momofuku Ko, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend you buy this book for the purposes of recreating the dishes that turned Chang into an international culinary superstar. The recipes are so complex and require such skilled use of specialized ingredients and equipment that they better serve to complement the fascinating story of Chang's life from his privileged upbringing in America, to his culinary training in Asia, to the rocky opening of the first Noodle Bar in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme
The original celebrity chef, Julia Child's books and TV shows taught an earlier generation to cook recipes in the french style that Child picked up from her time spent living in France and attending classes at famed french culinary school Le Cordon Bleu. This autobiographical book chronicles Child's time in France with her husband, Paul. My Life in France traces the couple's first arrival in 1948 through their immersion in French food and culture. If you have any interest in the history of celebrity chefs in America, My Life in France is a must-read.
The Chef Next Door by Amanda Freitag
Amanda Freitag is the head chef at the award winning Empire Diner restaurant in New York City. She known to most of the world as a mainstay personality on the Food Network, in particular as a judge on popular reality cooking competition Chopped. Freitag's first cookbook, The Chef Next Door, joins the pantheon of great books by celebrity chefs by including practical but delicious recipes you can make at home. The book features a gorgeous layout and clear instructions, even including the steps you should take in prepping your ingredients before getting into the nitty-gritty of each recipe.
The Food Lab by J. Kenji López-Alt
Some people may not consider J. Kenji López-Alt to be a "celebrity chef." Those people are dead wrong. The culinary scientist and wiz-kid behind some of the best recipes on Serious Eats crafted The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science as the definitive guide to improving all aspects of your home cooking. Never one to shy away from food criticism, Kenji gives his honest, yet unbiased, take on common culinary missteps and misconceptions. Filled to the brim with recipes, techniques, and general advice, The Food Lab is in a league above most books by celebrity chefs. If you don't believe me, just look at the numerous awards it has garnered, including a James Beard Award and an IACP Award.
32 Yolks by Eric Ripert
Acclaimed French chef, darling of restaurant reviewers, multiple Michelin Star owner, and close friend of the late Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert bares all in this poignant but inspiring account of his formative years, from his lonely childhood in southern France to his discovery of his culinary calling and eventual journey to the United States. Ripert has been a part of so many award winning restaurants and best selling cookbooks that he can seem larger-than-life to some. 32 Yolks: From My Mother's Table to Working The Line breaks that facade, revealing the troubled French boy behind the legendary chef.