Two Takes on Passatelli

My ever-generous big sister, Andrea, sent me two cookbooks for my birthday. One was a simple and useful book on tacos and Mexican snacks; the other, a coffee table volume of the most complicated Italian cooking on earth called “Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef.”

Mossimo Bottura

Mossimo Bottura

I love cookbooks from the art press, Phaidon, of which the latter is one. They are beautifully designed, with full page spreads of food you would never cook, as they tend to honor the world’s most daring chefs. Such is the case with “Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef.” The subject is Modena chef Massimo Bottura and his acclaimed restaurant, Osteria Francescana, which inevitably lands in the Top 5 of the world’s best restaurant lists, though never seems able to unseat previous #1 El Bulli and current #1 Noma (both subjects of multiple Phaidon titles). More

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Antojitos, by Way of France

I was up in the street the other day chatting with Max Waterman, son of our neighbors Chris and Glennis. Max is a food-loving chap — he spent time working on a graduate degree in London, where he hosted dinners and sussed out the best street foods, watering holes and gastronomic destinations.

Watermen and their margaritas

Watermen and their margaritas

He was now on summer break from Berkeley and his further educational pursuits, Chris and Glennis would be temporarily relocating to New Orleans soon, and it would be one of our last opportunities to get together. I suggested margaritas at our house. For food, I would serve a handful of antojitos — the Mexican equivalent of tapas: small bites and street foods. More

Hara Hachi Bunme

“When the crew at el Bulli sees a tree, it is only a tree. The Japanese, however, see more than just a tree. A very small part of that vision is what we try to incorporate at el Bulli. It is not science, but Japanese cuisine that has had the most influence on el Bulli…”
— Ferran Adria

I write a lot about the Japanese. And I cook a lot of Japanese food. The Japanese aesthetic in regard to food is in many ways the strongest influence in my own cooking, whether I’m doing Japanese or something else. But especially when I’m being creative and coming up with my own dishes, free of regional influences. It is then that the lessons of the Japanese are most obvious in my food. More

In the Presence of Greatness

Cookbooks are the new coffee table art book. And among the many stunning culinary tomes out there, none are more conversation-stopping than the beautiful books of Phaidon.

Phaidon books on the coffee table

I currently have four Phaidon titles on my coffee table. The newest is “Noma,” featuring the culinary art of Denmark’s renowned René Redzepi of the restaurant Noma — frequently named best restaurant in the world, and sure to solidify that position with the closing of Spain’s famous el Bulli. More

Your Continuing Cooking Education

The coffee table at our house

I have a Master’s degree in creative writing. But I’ve always said, the way I learned the most was by reading the great writers. Same with cooking.

I didn’t go to school for cooking. Most chefs didn’t. (Nor did William Faulkner or Virginia Woolf have Master’s degrees in writing.) I cooked in restaurants when I was a younger man. But I learned the most by reading, observing, studying what the great chefs were doing and doing that too, and by trial and error. More

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