From Michael Ruhlman to Mom: The Favorite Cookbooks of St. Louis Chefs

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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)

Good Meat -- awesome. [Michael Ruhlman's] Ratio -- also awesome. And [the quarterly magazine] Lucky Peach -- not a cookbook, but I love it.

- Mikey Warhover, Modesto (5257 Shaw Avenue; 314-772-8272)

The Flavor Bible or Fergus Henderson's The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating.

- 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.

See Also: - Chef's Choice Profile: Cassy Vires - Chef's Choice Profile: Mikey Warhover - Andrew Ladlie Finds the Beating Heart of the Tiny Kitchen at Sassy JAC's

- 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)

Cooking by Hand by Paul Bertolli is amazing. Right now I'm really big into Sara Jenkins' cookbook, Olives & Oranges.

- 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.

[Jennrich did his culinary school externship at Trio in Chicago under Grant Achatz, now world-renowned for his restaurants Alinea and Next.]

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.

See Also: - Andrew Jennrich of Farmhaus Sees St. Louis on the Precipice of National Recognition - Chef's Choice Profile: Rick Lewis - Chef's Choice Profile: Lynne Truong

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