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Food Literature

Can anyone suggest some books about chefs/cooking but not cookbooks? Its tough to find stories about cooking that aren't based around recipes.

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  1. "Spotted Dick, S'il Vous Plait" by Tom Higgins is about a chef starting an English restaurant in Lyons.

    1. I just searched Chowhound using "Food Books" and came up with a lot of listings. This might be a good place for you to start.

      Certainly anything by Anthony Bourdain, M.F.K. Fisher, Margaret Visser, Jeffrey Steingarten, R.W, Apple et al could fill your bill. FOOD POLITICS by Marion Nestle and OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA by Michael Pollen are fascinating reads about how America's food reaches the table. HEAT is by Bill Buford relating his time in Mario Butali's kitchen. DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME is a compilation of chef's kitchen disaster stories.

      I'm a Food Historian and have an extensive library. Don't know if that is what you're seeking or not.

      1. Here are a couple of links to prior threads on this topic to get you started:



        My personal favorite is anything by M.F.K. Fisher.

        1. By far my most dog-eared book is "A Literary Feast: An Anthology" by Lilly Golden. Authors include Hemingway, MFK Fisher, James Joyce, Liebling...

          This link has a description http://www.addall.com/detail/08711359...

          1. Read Elizabeth David
            Try "Once Upon a Town" by Bob Greene about Americans feeding WW2 troops.

            1. I just finished "My Life in France" by Julia Child and Alex Prud'Homme, published posthumously this year and written during the last years of her life. It's a love letter to France and food, pretty much in that order. I recommend it.

              1. I am re-reading Bill Buford's "Heat". It's about Mario Batali and oh so much more. One of the best books I've read this year.

                1. "A Goose in Toulouse" by Mort Rosenblum provides a somewhat discouraging view of the changes in French gastronomy, particularly since the coming of the EU. His second book "Olives" is also outstanding, and I've not quite started his "Chocolate," which I expect to be well-researched and well-written also.

                  Any of Michael Ruhlman's books provide fascinating insights into the training and working lives of chefs, and I've just finished a small book by Daniel Boulud, "Letters to a Young Chef" that has much good advice for home cooks (and non-cooks, for that matter) as well.

                  You might also enjoy Rudolph Chelminski's "The Perfectionist" - a biography of the life and tragic death of Michelin 3-star chef Bernard Loiseau, and the much easier-to-read autobiography of Jacques Pepin entitled "The Apprentice."

                  1. Two fantastic memoirs:

                    The Apprentice: My Life In The Kitchen
                    by Jacques Pepin

                    by Nigel Slater

                    1. I have burned through all three of Michael Ruhlman's "Chef" series books in the last couple of months. "Making of a Chef" is about his experience training at the Culinary Institute of America. "Soul of a Chef" goes back to the CIA for the Cewrtified Master Chef test and then profiles Lola's chef in Cleveland and finally Thomas Keller. "Reach of a Chef" revisits all a decade later and discusses the influence of chefs becoming stars and the Food Network.

                      I really like Ruhlman's style, and found myself chuckling and even bursting into loud laughter as he relates kitchen anecdotes. He sometimes goes into ruminations about whether cooking is a craft or can be art, but always comes back to the fire of the line. Highly recommended!

                      1. You might consider reading LIFE AND DEATH IN HAUTE CUISINE - THE PERFECTIONIST. It discusses the story of Bernard Loiseau.
                        He was a star of French cuisine who set impossibly high standards. He attained 3 star status, ultimately lost one and
                        committed suicide. The book discusses several things, including the difference between French and American culinary attitudes.


                        1. Ruth Reichl's books (Garlic & Sapphires, Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples) are all good reads; Linda Ellerby's Take Big Bites; Marlena DeBlasi's 1000 Days in Venice and 1000 Days in Tuscany are all wonderfully full of cooking and eating stories. Don't forget about Clementine Paddleford, if for nothing more than having a terrific name,

                          1. I've just picked up "The Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine" haven't cracked it yet but it's received good recommendations from people I trust.

                            I second the recommendation for Ruth Reichl's books and also Jeffrey Steingarten.

                            Also, my favorite food-oriented work of FICTION is "Like Water For Chocolate"

                            1. Ditto on

                              The Apprentice: My Life In The Kitchen
                              by Jacques Pepin

                              Except the parts where he is derogatory towards the Quebecois.

                              1. There's actually this book I stumbled upon that should be coming out soon called "The Gospel of Food," by Barry Glassner-(was in Bowling for Columbine). It looked interesting to me- discussing some of the fads and myths surrounding food...I liked his other book "The Culture of Fear," which was not food related, good read nonetheless.

                                1. 'L'Auberge of the Flowering Hearth' by Roy Andre de Groot