The Sorcerer’s Apprentices is the only reasonably unvarnished account of what it was like to work at el Bulli. Alongside occasional descriptions of the creative process involving Adrià and his key chefs, the book’s main focus is on the life of the unpaid apprentices lucky enough to have been selected to spend a season at the restaurant. The book provides interesting insights into the workings of this very special restaurant and the experiences of the people involved, but I found it long and heavy reading. Opinions of this book are likely to vary greatly.
Books in the category: biography
This is the second feature article about the Great Food series from Penguin Books. This article reviews books by Claudia Roden, Dr A.W. Chase, Alexis Soyer and Colonel Wyvern. Slim paperbacks with pretty covers, the GREAT FOOD series is a hit with many food lovers. We asked our reviewers to have a look at a number of them and give their thoughts.
Colman Andrews paints a sympathetic and informative picture of Ferran Arià, a chef who, through passion, obsession and creative focus, almost accidentally made the culinary earth move.
Reinventing Food is worth reading both for the interested and the unbelievers. Especially for the latter group, frequently sceptical of modernist cuisine because of the media depiction of it being laboratory food lacking soul but oozing “cleverness”, Reinventing Food might shed more light on what really is significant and fascinating and (perhaps) delicious about so many aspects of Adrià’s contribution to the culinary world.
Belinda Jeffery is an Australian author who has published other collections of her recipes and contributes regularly to delicious magazine. She has had a long history working in various media and as a chef and teacher.
The Country Cookbook chronicles her move to the country, the hinterland behind Byron Bay in northern New South Wales and, in her words, is both a celebration of and a thank you for the kinder and simpler life she and her husband have found away from the city.
This book demonstrates what is best about cooking in Australia – access to an amazing range of fresh produce and flavour influences from all over the world.
Reinventing Food charts Adrià’s transition from comparative obscurity to becoming the focus of massive media attention. Full of fresh insights, it will engage not just food-lovers of food, but anyone who enjoys the story of how one young chef changed the gastronomic world, and reinvented food.
It’s 43cm long, 33cm wide, 8cm thick, weighs about five kilograms, has 534 pages, and was one of the most anticipated cookbooks in 2008. From the silver embossed slipcase to the photography and artwork, the writing and the feel of the paper, it would be hard not to notice and admire the Big Fat Duck Cookbook on the shelves of a bookstore.
On initial impressions, perhaps like the restaurant itself, the book appears to be an intimidating creature. Open it and you will be hit by Heston Blumenthal’s passion. Inside is the story of Blumenthal and his restaurant, the recipes and stories behind many of the dishes from the Fat Duck, and a series of essays explaining the science behind the food. Beyond the science, there are journeys into food history, philosophy, personal anecdotes, humour, and the sheer dumb luck that can trigger a great idea. It is a dizzying amount of information in one book. But for those who have read Blumenthal’s previous books, his newspaper columns, or seen his TV show will know that he has a gift for explaining complicated concepts in terms that the layman can understand.
In Kim Sunée’s coming-of-age-memoir, she travels the world and uses food to find herself and the home she never felt she had. Sunée’s narrative is an intensely honest, earnest telling of her story, with a poetic, yet unfussy writing style. Trail of Crumbs details Kim’s life, from early memories of her childhood abandonment in Korea, to her adoption and upbringing in New Orleans, to her travels around the world. Most chapters conclude with a few recipes, appropriate to the setting. The recipes don’t necessarily inspire the reader to jump into the kitchen, but they are a nice touch and complement Kim’s journey in this heart-warming story without a classic happy ending.
Daisy Garnett roasted her first chicken at thirty. It was the first meal she had ever actually cooked, something repeated – and often – throughout the pages of Cooking Lessons. A memoir by a young, emerging cook, Garnett’s recently formed kitchen wisdom is imparted with a refreshing, conversational ease. Her recipes ooze charm and wit. Unleashing this passion during a life-affirming yacht trip across the Atlantic with friends, Garnett is something of a poster girl for the still-growing movement toward reconnection with the simple pleasures of cooking. Here is someone, with the zeal of the newly converted, clearly in love with her subject.
In the public imagination, the leading light of what has commonly been called the Molecular Gastronomy movement is the restaurant elBulli and its head chef, Ferran Adrià. For many years, elBulli has produced large, beautiful volumes of innovative dishes, techniques and the philosophy of their creation, first in Spanish and then, with some delay, in English. Unattainably expensive for many chefs and non-chefs alike, these books have provided one of the few clear insights into what Ferran Adrià and his restaurant is about, minus the breathless enthusiasm of food critics or hyped “weird-shit” descriptions of lesser food writers. At last there is a book that is aimed at the public, perhaps leading to better understanding of what this approach to cooking and eating is about. Sceptics might not make it through to the interesting bits, however, as this book is a vanity work of many pages and photos that only becomes interesting the further you look. In many ways this is little more than a coffee table book, yet fails in that form. It is simultaneously dull, unwieldy, informative and complex. The “potted guide” to elBulli, to use a slightly old fashioned term, just without the brevity!
An attractive book presenting the story of the family of an Australian Vietnamese restaurateur and the Red Lantern restaurant in Sydney. It combines narrative with recipes. The photography is warm. Decorative patterns add a great deal to the appeal of the pages and to the fabric cover. The book is both saddening and frustrating. Despite the visual attraction and the promise of delicious food, Secrets of the Red Lantern presents a bleak narrative and has serious flaws which greatly mar the experience for some readers.
Few Australians have much understanding of the refugee experience or, more to the point, the Australian Vietnamese experience. It is good to see an attempt to recount the situation of people escaping Vietnam to seek a new life, the treatment as refugees in camps and then Australia, and how they have struggled and changed over the last thirty years. Combining this with the theme of food is logical. Many evocative books on food combine personal experience with the web of memory and emotion sustained by food. However, the story of this family involves so much suffering — largely at the hands of the writer’s father — that I found it uncomfortable to read this in what is clearly meant to be a cookbook. By ‘uncomfortable’ I don’t mean confronting; instead, I felt the narrative was out of place in this book.