Cafe Society

Deck the shelves with boughs of cookbooks: Local chefs sound off on their favorite culinary reads

Ah, Christmas: The season of giving, receiving, in-law spats, road rage, parking-lot clusterfucks, check-out line massacres and cookbooks and food books -- the ones that you hope will end up wrapped under the tree, right alongside the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Over the course of the last year, as part of our weekly Chef and Tell interviews, I've poked and prodded local chefs, asking them to name their favorite restaurants, recite their worst kitchen disasters and pimp their favorite cookbooks, food books, chef memoirs and food essays -- the gift that keeps on giving.

Over the next few weeks, we'll highlight their top picks, starting with these:

The Professional Chef cookbook, by the Culinary Institute of America; $65

Says who: Jennifer Jasinski, Rioja, Bistro Vendome and Euclid Hall In her own words: "The Professional Chef Cookbook from the CIA is a great resource for just about everything, and it's full of recipes that really frickin' work. I think there's something like ten recipes and techniques in there just for soufflés. My cooks recently bought me a new edition, and I still use it all the time. I even ask my new cooks to read through the chapters, just because there's so much in there to learn from."

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison; $40

Says who: Samir Mohammad, The Village Cork In his own words: "I don't need a recipe to tell me how to do my job (unless it's baking), but I am a fan of Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, because it's a book that I can always go back to when I want to rediscover something that I may have put in the back of my mind. It's also a lot more than just a book of recipes; it's educational, and I like learning about new foods."

Lulu's Provençal Table, by Richard Olney; $60

Says who: Matt Selby, Vesta Dipping Grill and Steuben's In his own words: Contrary to what most people think when it comes to my food, my first culinary love is Provençal cooking. The book that I first fell in love with was Lulu's Provençal Table, by Richard Olney. Lulu was the great matriarch of the Peyraud family and responsible for Bandol wine. The book itself is a testament to their family wines and the Provençal dishes that the region is known for. It's a book that I think first made me ingredient-driven and made me focus on technique. Ultimately, I think every chef has a book that is the "nostalgic one," the one that inspires them, the one they go back to for a recharge.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson