Books for Foodies: The Chefs

As I continue perusing through my bulging bookshelves for Christmas gift suggestions, I can’t leave out the chefs.   Although the fad may have come and gone, there are still some very good chef memoirs out there.  These are some of my favorites.

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain

This may have been the book that started it all—the bad-boy chef persona and the tell-all-behind-the-kitchen-door exposé.  This book started my love affair (which I have spoken of often) with Bourdain.   It’s a good thing I wasn’t in NYC in the 80s and 90s because I would have been a groupie.

Love his photo (on the left) on the original cover.

Since I will forever love Bourdain, I have to further recommend his other works here:

I have not picked up and read any of his fiction (Bone in the Throat and Gone Bamboo) and I haven’t read A Cook’s Tour (from his first television series).   But, since they are written by the master, I would have to recommend them as well.

OK, enough with the gushing.


Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef  by Gabrielle Hamilton

I read this primarily because Bourdain loved it (at least in the introduction to this book).   I loved reading about a young female chef, seeing NYC in the late 80s, and I enjoyed her writing style.   In fact, I need to find this book in the black hole of my library and revisit it.

Her unconventional upbringing may have led to a troubled youth, but Hamilton found her muse in food (and writing, I might add).

She followed up this book with Prune, a cookbook from her restaurant by the same name.  After a quick perusal online, the recipes look quite innovative yet simple and practical.

  • Canned Sardines with Triscuits, Dijon and Cornichons
  • Gouda with Salted Warmed Potatoes
  • Bread Heels with Dipping Sauce
  • Omelette with Parmesan
  • Shaved Celery, Fennel and Radish Salad

That doesn’t mean there’s not the exotic:  Tongue and Octopus with Salsa Verde and Mimosa d’ Eggs and Mackerel Escabeche, Sliced Sweet Capicola, Buttered Rye Crackers and Celery Leaves.

Instead of yielding “servings,” these recipes are recorded as “per order.”   Hamlton’s wit also comes through in a Bourdainian kind of way:  “If the Health Department comes, take the serrano of the carving stand and throw in the oven.”  She cautions to not make things look too “restauranty” yet the accompanying photos are quite stunning.

Either of Hamilton’s works would make a mighty fine gift.


My Life in France  by Julia Child

I did grow up watching Julia on PBS so I was a fan before all the Julie & Julia hubbub.  That being said, it was the Meryl Streep/Amy Adams film that caused me to first pick up My Life in France.  It’s a great companion piece to the film.

Her voice is honest as she struggles through “finding herself.”  Her uniqueness and eccentricities come through as does the love that she and her husband, Paul, found in each other.

If this is not on your favorite foodie’s book shelf, you will be thanked many times over for gifting My Life In Franc this holiday season.

Why not go ahead and do a Julia-bundle and package up this book with a complete set of Mastering the Art of French Cooking or any of her subsequent cookbooks.  (I know I would love that…hint, hint.)


something to food about: Exploring Creativity with Innovative Chefs by Ahmir Questlove ThompsonBen Greenman

So not written by a chef, this work by Questlove is about chefs.  It’s is beyond beautiful; the photography by Kyoko Hamada is beyond creative.  The narrative of the book, in a question/answer type interview format, is beyond insightful. Questlove along with Ben Greenman shows the creative process and lives of ten chefs (Nathan Myhrvold, Daniel Humm, Michael Solomonov, Ludo Lefebvre, Dave Beran, Jess Grifiths, Donald Link, Dominique Crenn, Daniel Patterson and Ryan Roadhouse).

With an introduction by Anthony Bourdain, this book is definitely “somethingtofoodabout.”

LudoBird; La Tour Eiffel by Kyoko Hamada

Food is “ideas married to the senses.” Questlove explains that food combines words, memory, music…a moment in time. This epiphany comes after meeting Jiro Ono and eating at Sukiyabashi Jiro. That singular meal becomes the catalyst for this book and for his exploration into the creative energy of these ten chefs.

Foraging in the back yard by Kyoko Hamada

Be assured that this is not another famous person seeking self-proclaimed foodie status. It is by an individual who wants to share and connect—“sharing in the experience with people is what food, culture, music and art is all about.” Questlove approaches his subjects with reverence and a genuine desire to learn something. His interviews with these famous rock star chefs are not without a bit of humor, sometimes self-deprecating. Many times, however, his questions are even more insightful than the answers that are given.



Who’s your favorite chef-author?

I am linking to December’s Foodies Read.

Christmas is getting closer and closer.  I have a few more posts for this year’s New Mexico theme.  Today’s post is the last bookish one, though.  Here’s what is left:

  • One more New Mexican inspired “gifts from the kitchen”
  • An heirloom family fruitcake recipe

Please stay tuned.

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My Favorite Reads

Eat, Pray, Love
Running with Scissors
SantaLand Diaries
Me Talk Pretty One Day
Angela's Ashes
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
My Life in France
Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen: How One Girl Risked Her Marriage, Her Job, and Her Sanity to Master the Art of Living
Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table
Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table
The Liars' Club
Code Name Verity
The Paris Wife
The Shoemaker's Wife
The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo: A Novel
Brother of the More Famous Jack
Burying the Honeysuckle Girls

Debra's favorite books »