Updated: Apr 16, 2021
So you want to become a better chef? That's all fine and wonderful, but you'll need the tools and knowledge before you can go from avid foodie to chef. In my last post, we discussed how you could become a more precise chef using a kitchen scale. But what can you do to get the knowledge to become a better, more experienced chef? How can you become more creative and learn classic cooking techniques?
While The Wooden Spoon Blog is always a good place to start, and I will be adding more posts on becoming a better chef in the future. There are a few cookbooks I recommend. Although there are countless cookbooks I'd recommend to you, I narrowed this list down to five of my most important ones.
You'll find that each cookbook has its purpose in the kitchen. Not all are focused on recipes that you must cook because they contain good food. This collection is focused on aiding you in your journey to becoming a better chef.
So let's jump right into the top five cookbooks every kitchen should have.
1. Escoffier Le Guide Culinare
This is my absolute favorite book, and is only for the most serious cooks and foodies. Auguste Escoffier was truly the father of modern cuisine. A French chef who worked in many of the world's most renowned restaurants changed how we eat, what we eat, and how a kitchen functions. His first book, published in 1903, contained thousands of recipes. And by the time his fourth edition came out in 1921, the book had more than 5,000 recipes for French dishes. This book contains French garnishes, soups, desserts, and everything in between. What I'm particularly enthusiastic about is the wealth of knowledge you can get from making these recipes. There is no room for pictures, and the instructions are simple; you'll learn very quickly all the crucial cooking techniques, and with the simplicity of the instructions, it's very easy to put your own spin on these dishes.
2. The Flavor Bible
One of the most useful books in my kitchen is The Flavor Bible. Having won the 2009 James Beard book award for best book, this is an essential in every kitchen. Within the book, you'll find almost every ingredient and food one could imagine and parings that go with each. For example, if you look up an apple, you'll find that cinnamon and sugar go with it. Of course, the book gets a little more in-depth than cinnamon and sugar with apples, but the point here is, when you are making a recipe and want to add your spin on it, open up The Flavor Bible and experiment with new flavor combinations.
3. Larousse Patisserie and Baking
As an avid baker myself, I believe that traditional techniques should be used every time. Using short cuts can often lead to a disastrous fail later. So, what's the best way to learn these techniques? Well, by baking, of course! One a wrong move or too much of one ingredient, your recipe may turn into something completely different. And so, baking truly lets us learn the traditional and fundamental cooking techniques while instilling culinary discipline, which is why I highly recommend Larousse Patisserie and Baking. This book contains numerous recipes and a detailed step-by-step guide to basic and more skilled bakery items. Can't figure out how to make the perfect cake? Consult this book. You added fruit to your cake, and it keeps sinking to the bottom? Consult this book (hint, keep your cake in the fridge 15 minutes before baking).
4. Le Repertoire De La Cuisine
Ah Le Repertoire De La Cuisine, one of the most challenging books to cook from. If you ask any well-seasoned chef about this book, they should (hopefully) be able to tell you all about it. Again, written by Escoffier in 1914, this book isn't the classic cookbook sitting on your shelf with detailed instructions and pictures. This book is a culinary reference book, meaning that it rarely gives you the amounts of ingredients and never gives detailed steps to be taken. It assumes that you know all the techniques of the day and can cook up a dish with that knowledge. So why do I want you to have this cookbook in your kitchen? I want this book to be your goal as a chef, to be able to look at this book on your mantel and say, "I will continue cooking until I can cook from that book." You won't be able to cook from it straight away, it's very challenging, but as you learn about traditional French techniques and dishes, you'll reference this book for your cooking. In the recipes on this site, I provide a "quick recipe," these are very similar to the recipes you'll find in Le Repertoire.
5. Gordan Ramsey Ultimate Cookery Course
Yes, I had to include at least one Gordan Ramsey book. With currently seven Michelin stars and having held 16 throughout his career, he is one of the most decorated chefs out there. His book, Ultimate Guide to Cookery, contains numerous dishes that aren't all complicated. And that's why I want to include this book. It is a stepping stone, a beginning to get your feet wet in cooking. In addition to his recipes, you'll also find his input on cooking for small groups, crowds, guides to various meats and fish, etc. This book is a must-have if you're beginning to cook and want to learn the basics of cooking.
Alright, so there is our list, five essential cookbooks every kitchen should have, from the best baking and cooking guides to books from the early 1900s and flavor reference books. Buy all five of these, and you'll be well on your way to becoming a better, more creative, and experienced chef.
“The Flying Chef”