David Chang has a thing for cookbooks. In our recent interview with him he admitted: "The only person that has a bigger cookbook collection or is a bigger cookbook nerd than myself is Wylie Dufresne."
He also gushed about a cookbook that isn't even out yet, a mammoth collection by Nathan Myhrvold and Chris Young: "It's going to be a massive tome that's going to capture, I guess,
everything progressive that's been cooking. I'm assuming it's going to
be a modern-day Larousse.
I'm really looking froward to it. I don't know how many people know
about it or how many are going to be published but I think it's going
to be about a 1,500-page, volume cookbook that will be the be-all end-all
of cookbooks." Until that eagerly awaited tome lands on bookshelves, Chang was gracious enough to supply us with a desert-island roundup of his favorite cookbooks.
Chang's own debut cookbook, Momofuku, written with Peter Meehan, releases tomorrow.
David Chang's Favorite Cookbooks
White Heat by Marco Pierre White
Why? Because Marco Pierre White is the man. That book is chip on your shoulder cooking at its finest. And it's all about the photos--they were crazy then and they're still crazy today, gritty and glamorous and in your face before everybody and everything was trying to be that way. Marco was the first one to do it and White Heat was how he got the message out.
The Big Fat Duck Cookbook by Heston Blumenthal
Currently I hold it to be the greatest cookbook of all time. It is highly educational but also deeply personal--it highlights the humility and dogged perseverance of Heston's approach to cooking and learning. I'm sure the cheaper soft cover version is great, but the big one is just too insane not to own
Everything ever published by Ferran AdriÃ and Albert AdriÃ
Ferran and Albert AdriÃ changed the whole game with their restaurant, El Bulli, in Roses, Spain. The books they have published are almost as revolutionary as the style of cooking they created and then constantly redefine. Their books document the relentless pursuit of creativity in painstaking detail and spell out exactly what it takes to be the best restaurant in the world. They are just hugely inspiring books.
Essential Cuisine by Michel Bras
Essential Cuisine, his second book, is what the title says it is: essential. If there ever were a question about Bras, and I don't think there ever was, this book would have answered it, as it firmly positioned him somewhere between godfather and God in the pantheon of great chefs. Nobody ever plated food like he did before, and now you see his influence everywhere. He looked at food and cooking and ingredients from a completely different place than anyone else. I wouldn't live without both, but Essential Cuisine is the one that best expresses Michel Bras' naturalism in cooking, an approach to cooking that is as singular as it is significant.
The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller
This book, in conjunction with Kitchen Confidential, changed the lives of a generation of American cooks. There hasn't been, and will probably never be, another restaurant cookbook that distills and clearly presents the philosophy of a chef and a restaurant as well as this book does. It will be in print forever.
Mastering Simplicity by Christian Delouvrier,
The Elements of Taste by Gray Kunz
I group these books together because they're by two grand masters of New York City dining, both of whom helmed Lespinasse at different points in their careers. Those two men launched and influenced the careers and cooking of so many really talented cooks and chefs it would be impossible to count them all and, despite that and their individual accomplishments, I don't think either chef gets the respect he deserves. I keep their books out and in view, like talismans, like memorabilia, in homage to two of the greats.
The Last Course by Claudia Fleming
The Last Course is one of the best pastry books ever written. People forget that Claudia Fleming trained just about every pastry chef for years--that for my generation, it all starts with Claudia. The pastry chef who works for you or works at your favorite restaurant might be two or three generations removed, but all roads in the pastry kitchen lead back to Claudia. Her recipes are classics.
The Whole Beast by Fergus Henderson
This nose-to-tail book shows that cooking doesn't have to be complex to be interesting and that it can be simple without being easy. And it's not just offal cookery for the sake of cooking offal"”there's something deep and resonant and resolutely honest about Fergus's connection to organ meats and off cuts.
Great Chefs of France by Anthony Blake
A killer book from the 1970's, with pictures, menus, and recipes from the restaurants of all the big guys behind nouveau cuisine: Troigrois Brothers, Chapel, Guerard, Verge, Thuilier. It's a history lesson and a cookbook and a cool document of a really important time in French cooking. I was really stoked about how Heston talked about it in The Big Fat Duck Cookbook as one of the most important books in his life--it absolutely is in mine.
The Perfectionist by Rudolph Chelminski
No other book captures the French culinary spirit and the history of it in the same way like this one, which tells the tragic story of Bernard Loiseau.
And that's just the western cookbooks. Or some of them.
Don't even get me started on Japanese cookbooks"¦