While it’s important to learn – and then practice – proper cooking techniques, like blending spices into your dishes, your learning journey should go beyond pots and pans. Reading is an equally important ingredient in your culinary education.
Here are five of the best chef books in the library that will expand your knowledge. They’ll expose you to ideas and techniques from culinary gurus…and they’ll give you a basis for developing your own approach in the kitchen.
Even after you complete your education and start working in the restaurant or hospitality industry, continuing your education will add value to your career.
The Flavor Bible by Andrew Dornenburg & Karen Page
The title should say it all…this is the definitive book for understanding how to cook with true flavor. You’ll read about classic ingredients – their origin and composition – as well as ways to find the best complementary pairings. The book spans the globe, from Germany to West Africa and points in between.
This in-depth resource will be a go-to when you’re studying culinary arts…and looking for inspiration.
On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee
Harold McGee is considered one of America’s premier writers on food chemistry, cooking, and culinary history. This now-famous book, written in 1984, offers scientific insight into cooking, such as how ingredients interact with one another and the importance of accurate temperature.
If you want a better understanding of the science behind cooking – without getting bogged down by technical jargon – this is probably the most accessible and useful chef book you’ll read.
The Tummy Trilogy by Calvin Trillin
Another one of America’s beloved food writers, Calvin Trillin, combines his three most successful books – American Fried; Alice, Let’s Eat; and Third Helpings – for this excellent chef’s resource. The book spans 40 years of culinary knowledge, each chapter exuding passion for simple meals like cheeseburgers and Buffalo wings.
Succinct, engaging and informative, this book demonstrates the simplicity and joy that should exist in the life of every cook and diner.
The Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness, and the Making of a Great Chef by Marco Pierre White
Marco Pierre White knows what it takes to become a truly inspired chef – he was the youngest – and first British chef – to ever win three Michelin stars in 1994. Read about the ups and downs in his culinary career…like when he returned his three stars in 1999.
You’ll enjoy the hilarious stories he shares about famous chefs – including Mario Batali and Gordon Ramsay – but also get a deep understanding of the devotion and commitment it takes to become a successful chef. Wherever your culinary training takes you, this is one of the best chef books you’ll read…his insights will inform your career.
Great Chefs of France by Anthony Blake and Quentin Crewe
Blake and Crewe accomplished something remarkable with their 1978 publication: They managed to gather together ideas from all of France’s three-Michelin-star chefs.
This “day-in-the-life” book follows each chef over the course of a typical day. They share insight into their craft, as well as their thoughts on food. It’s a light but informative read, giving you the chance to learn at the feet of some of the most thoughtful and influential chefs in modern history.
Your study of culinary arts should become a life-long learning journey – taking time to read these five chef books will pave the way for a better understanding of the industry and its potential.
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This article was originally published on August 30, 2016, and has since been updated.