Cuisine du Temps
by Jacques Reymond
Publisher: New Holland, Country: AU
ISBN: 9781741108606, Edition: First, Year: 2010
Link to publisher’s page or site
This review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.

Overview

Jacques Reymond and his restaurant are institutions in Melbourne, Australia. Over the years, the French-born chef has gradually introduced Asian elements into his cuisine. In some respects, he is the other side of the coin to Sydney’s Tetsuya Wakuda, who gradually fused French methods into his Japanese cuisine.

Cuisine du Temps is a book reflecting on Reymond’s career in the kitchen. Many recipes that people will recognise from his restaurant appear in this book, as do dishes that he learned during his time working in South America and the South Pacific.

It is a very stylish hardcover book. While we get a very good look at the food that has made Reymond’s career, we don’t get very much insight into the man himself. Reymond has often been profiled in the media, but it’s often quite surprising how little he says about himself or what motivates him. He seems happy to let the food speak for itself. As he writes in the introduction, his philosophy is to “use simple and humble ingredients and bring out their natural flavours” and “(to create) a memorable experience for all the customers”. On that basis, the recipes and photography do speak for Reymond, but there’s a part of me that would have liked to read about the man himself.

Full review

Structure of the book

The book opens with a foreword by Australian wine expert James Halliday. Following this is an introduction by Jacques Reymond, and then a table of contents. The recipe chapters are divided into Appetisers, Soups, Seafood, Poultry, Pork, Lamb, Beef and Venison, Pasta, Vegetables, Cheese, Desserts, Ice-creams and Sorbets, Basic Recipes, and In The Kitchen. The book concludes with an index.

The recipes are titled in large black and grey text. Ingredients are listed on the left hand side in red, and the instructions on the right hand side in black. All headings are in larger text. Most recipes come with a photo of the finished dish.

About the author

Jacques Reymond is a French born chef who owns and is executive chef of the award winning restaurant bearing his name. He has previously been involved in a television series that included the release of a book, “Secret Recipes”, which covered home cooking in Australia. This is his first book about his restaurant.

How is this book interesting/special/new/useful?

The one flaw in all restaurant cookbooks is that there is no way that the experience of the chef can be put into words. The nuances of knowing when to adjust a cooking time, understanding when a sauce is ready, or even the basics of getting the seasoning right can only be learned from time behind the stoves. Many high-end French cookbooks try to present as much detail as possible. Cuisine du Temps, however, takes a Japanese approach of presenting the basics of a recipe and assumes that if a reader wants to cook a dish, they will have the knowledge to carry it through. For example, there is a photo for the dish roast quail in pandan leaves that would communicate to anyone that it would require quite a bit of skill to do the dish successfully, and yet the recipe instructions contain just over one hundred and fifty words.

Those who have dined at Jacques Reymond will be pleased to see recipes for stalwart dishes like the gougères and the mushroom broth like a cappuccino. But these mainstays of Reymond’s menu are the last remnants of pure French cooking. The vast majority of his dishes show Asian influences, not only in the ingredients used, but in the stripping back of the manipulation of ingredients in order to let the natural flavours shine through.

The recipe for steak diane has the steak marinated in a mixture that includes hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and shaoxing wine. The side dish has an omelette that is made with mirin, soy sauce, and nuoc mam, which is further garnished with bean shoots, shiitake mushrooms, coriander leaves, birdseye chillis, and ginger. In terms of letting the ingredients shine by doing as little as possible to them, his black mussels scented with coriander is an exercise in simplicity.

I found that the two most interesting recipes in the book came from his work outside of the restaurant. He gives a glance at Brazilian cuisine with his recipe for grilled jumbo green prawns like à la Paulista, where you would expect the flavours to be as bright as the colours. His time in Fiji is represented by the aptly named quick fish curry, which appears to have its roots in Thai cuisine.

To change the focus from the book to the larger world of cookbooks, the end of 2008 was a time where many lavish, high end cookbooks were released. Collectors will have happy memories of working their way through books by the likes of Blumenthal, Adrià, and Achatz. But the global financial crisis hit, and the last two years has seen a shift away from the high end to books about thrift and the comforts of simple cooking. “Cuisine du Temps” might be the first sign that the market is ready to embrace the high end cookbook again.

What problems/flaws are there?

The structure of chapters is slightly annoying. The chapter on pork only has two recipes and the lamb three, so they don’t seem to justify being called chapters. The poultry chapter contains a rabbit recipe.

The recipe index is also frustrating as it lists recipes by title rather than by the main ingredient. For example, someone wanting to look for the peppered watermelon with pumpkin and coconut curry would have to look under the letter P rather than under W for watermelon.

For such an iconic Australian chef, the book doesn’t quite do him justice. There are few words from him, which is frustrating as the things he does say are worth contemplating. Reymond has worked and travelled around the world, so it would have been interesting to read in detail how that has influenced him into becoming the chef he is. Providing a context to the recipes would have lifted the book up a level.

Who might enjoy/use this book most?

People who have dined at Jacques Reymond will find this a very good memento of their visit. In some regards, this book will find its strongest market in Melbourne and Sydney. As fine a chef as Reymond is, I’m not sure that readers outside of Australia will find it of any interest. Anyone who is a confident and experienced cook will be able to do the vast majority of recipes. With the amount of assumed knowledge required, this book is not one for beginners.

This is an original review for The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf.
Main rating: 4. Recommended – good
Visual appeal: Attractive
Suitability as a gift: If the person is really interested
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Cuisine du Temps, Jacques Reymond | 2010 | AU, 3.3 out of 5 based on 3 ratings

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One Comment

  1. Elisa
    Posted 07 Jun 2010 at 00:47 | Permalink

    This was very helpful, I took it right off my wishlist! I knew the recipes might not all be accessible for me (living in Europe I can’t get my hands on all of the produce), but to know that the recipes haven’t been well explained either, that’s something to consider. Thank you.

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