by Ian Froeb
Chef's Choice is Gut Check's regular profile and interview, with recipe, of a St. Louis chef. From time to time we'll present several chefs' answers to one of our regular questions. This week: What is your favorite cookbook?
Shopped for a cookbook lately? So many beautiful choices. So many expensive choices.
Sure, it looks like you can't make a bad decision. But how can you know for sure when you haven't cooked a single recipe from any of them?
Who better to ask than an actual chef? We quizzed several top St. Louis toques about their favorite cookbooks. Here's what they told us:
- Cassy Vires, Home Wine Kitchen (7322 Manchester Road, Maplewood; 314-802-7676)
- Mikey Warhover, Modesto (5257 Shaw Avenue; 314-772-8272)
- Andrew Ladlie, Sassy JAC's (1730 South Eighth Street; 314-932-1280)
My go-to cookbook would probably be Betty Crocker because I don't do baking. Other than that I just try to watch what's going on around me. The Internet cookbook! [Laughs] If I run into something I don't understand, I'll research it top to bottom and then play with it.
- Eric Ed Heath, Cleveland-Heath (106 North Main Street, Edwardsville, Illinois; 618-307-4830)
There's a book that came out a year ago called Jerusalem. It's just the most beautiful book I've seen. I love color and food, but I'm on the fence about using a non-functional garnish to give [a dish] that pretty vibrancy. But this book...every bit of the food is supposed to be there, and it's bright and colorful and fresh.
- Brian Moxey, Pastaria (7734 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton; 314-862-6603)
- Steve Komorek, Trattoria Marcella (3600 Watson Road; 314-352-7706)
The In Bocca series. They're a series of Italian cookbooks that came to the United States briefly. There's a cookbook for each region of Italy with historical recipes. It gives you a knowledge of regional Italian food versus what we consider Italian food. Italians are more likely to serve meatballs over mashed potatoes than spaghetti.
See Also: - Chef Eric Heath of Cleveland-Heath Calls Edwardsville "An Awesome Place" - Brian Moxey Journeys from Starry-Eyed Young New York City Cook to Executive Chef of St. Louis' Hottest Restaurant - Chef's Choice Profile: Steve Komorek
- Andrew Jennrich, Farmhaus (3257 Ivanhoe Avenue; 314-647-3800)
The French Laundry. My dad bought me that cookbook when I told him I wanted to be a chef for a living. He didn't know who Thomas Keller was.
There were five cookbooks that sat on the shelf in Grant's office, and obviously he came from the French Laundry. His movitional speeches were, "Man, at the Laundry, Thomas [Keller] would do this, Thomas and this." It was ingrained in your head. I've never seen a cookbook so professional. The way he writes is so inspirational. We've got it sitting up there. [Points to the shelf above the Farmhaus bar]
It's inspirational to go back and look, regardless that you look at its tower-plating style, and you're like, 'Wow! That's so long ago. Nobody plates like that anymore really.' It's a timeless book. I'll look at that book till the end of time.
- Rick Lewis, Quincy Street Bistro (6931 Gravois Avenue; 314-353-1588)
My grandmother's cookbook is my favorite. A hand-me-down before she passed. But the most inspirational was a loaner from Josh Galliano: Michel Bras' Essential Cuisine. He gave it to me to expose me to things I hadn't seen before.
- Lynne Truong, Banh Mi So #1 - Saigon Gourmet (4071 South Grand Boulevard; 314-353-0545)
My mother's mind. She has nothing written down. All of her recipes are from years of repeating the many dishes that she cooked for her nine children, thirty-one grandchildren and sixteen great-grandchildren.