on November 7, 2003
I'll let others provide the raves. Just like every 'how-to' book ever written, this book was written in segments. And, unlike most of those other how-to books, it shows. It all starts during the story boarding process of writing a book (outlining what you will write about). The heading structure is decided upon for the topics, and a well-thought-out book of this nature should have identical topics for every chapter. It is in this planning stage where inconsistencies are discovered and corrected and the writers and editor work together to fix them. This wasn't done well for this book. For example, for some reason Andrew has his own section in the preface where he writes in the first person about his experiences, Karen does not have her own section. The other two sections in the preface are written as the collective, "we."
Notably missing from this book are the cuisines of: Greece, Middle East, Germany, and the Caribbean.
As a book is being written, new and unforeseen topics appear. The writers and editor decide whether this unforeseen topic is out of scope for the book, or, if it is not, the topic is to be included for all chapters. Considerations in the yes/no decision include schedule, resources, and funding. If these three components cannot be properly executed for the entire book, the topic should be abandoned. For this book, each cuisine is on its own as if it had its own budget; good information that is included in one, is excluded in the rest. This is just poor design and layout. Here are some inconsistencies:
Page 47 has a table showing the menu for a formal Japanese dinner. It lists 12 courses and the order in which they should be served. This is not included for the Chinese, French, Indian, Italian, Mexican, Moroccan, Spanish, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisines. Something of this nature is invaluable to all cuisines for anyone wishing to put together an ethnic dinner. For example, readers will have to look elsewhere to find that a traditional sequence for a formal French dinner is: Cold app or soup, Soup, Hot app (always fish/shellfish), Intermezzo (sorbet), Main course, Salad, Cheese, Dessert (entremets).
Page 50 shows the seasons for obtaining Japanese ingredients when they are at their peak. It greatly expands upon their entry for Japanese cuisine in the book, Culinary Artistry (by the same authors). This is great information. Again, this is not available for the other cuisines.
I know that their contacts are different for each cuisine. However, if one contact has useful information about a specific cuisine (menu list or seasonal ingredient) and that is to be included, a light bulb should appear over the heads of the writers and editor and they should make this valuable topic available for all the cuisines by going back to their contacts and doing the necessary research.
All the other cuisines have regions section titled, "The Culinary Map of <insert country>". Italy does not and this is one country that definitely has regional cuisine.
Page 166 shows the regional sections of France reduced to a table. None of the other cuisines have a table. Ideally, as one who prefers to find necessary information quickly and easily, all sections should have a discussion of the regions followed by a table.
There is no information regarding cheese.
Page 222 has a great table on pairing teas with food. This is excellent information. But, this is yet another book by Andrew and Karen where they shy away from pairing wine with food. In the French section, there are only four non-informative paragraphs under a heading, How Wine Builds Character. Daniel Boulud is quoted as saying, "French dishes are designed to be paired with wine." Yet, there is no information explaining how. You'll need to look elsewhere.
It's not that difficult and wine/food matching can be summarized in a few pages. For example, an introduction to a home cook wanting to match food and wine can be to break both down into the basics of contrast and complements, and go from there.
Acid's contrast is salt; its complement is sweet
Bitter's contrast is sweet; its complement is also sweet
Sweet's contrast is bitter' its complement is salt
Salt's contrast is acid; its complement is sweet
Tannin's contrast is fat; its complement is sweet
After knowing this, a few examples can show a cook how to decide to contrast or complement a food to wine. An example to contrast is learning that the richness in game, such as duck, is diminished with fruit (Duck à l'Orange). Earthy wines are also contrasted with fruit if only because the earthy wine doesn't contain the fruit it should. Add fruit to the dish to enhance the fruit flavor that is supposed to be in the wine. Tips like this are simple and easy to follow and don't require 100s of pages found in books devoted to the topic. There's no reason not to include them in this series.
They can also list the flavor profiles of a particular grape, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, which is known to possess: blackberry, black raspberry, black currant (cassis), bell pepper, eucalyptus, mint, black olive, green olive, earth, mushroom, chocolate, cocoa, molasses, smoke, plum, cedar, tobacco, licorice, graphite (pencil box)...
Page 281 has a small table explaining characteristics of seven fresh chilies. Page 282 has a small table explaining characteristics of seven dried chilies. What's missing is a link to the two explaining that dried_chile_x comes from fresh_chile_y. For example, how many readers won't know that a chipotle pepper is a dried, smoked jalapeno? Or that a poblano chile is renamed ancho when it is dried? This is useful information.
These inconsistencies can be fixed when the planning stage is correctly executed. There seems to be such a rush to get these books out for this franchise, that I'm always left looking elsewhere to get the complete picture.
Other books you will need to look at to reference this missing parts include: The Restaurant Lover's Companion by Steve Ettlinger with Melanie Falick and Ethnic Cuisine by Elizabeth Rozin. Both of these books are consistent from one cuisine to the next and have a feeling of completeness with them.
on March 25, 2004
THE NEW AMERICAN CHEF has a simple premise: Interview some of America's pre-eminent experts on 10 different cuisines (Japanese, Italian, Spanish, French, Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese, Moroccan), and share their knowledge and insights with readers through honing them down into 35 fascinating pages per cuisine. The result? Readers are able to take an educational and delicious tour around the world through the histories, cultures and cuisines of 10 nations. This is a great book to read, and an even better book from which to cook, as it features dozens of recipes perfected by some of the country's best chefs and cookbook authors including Mario Batali, Rick Bayless, Daniel Boulud, Penelope Casas, Susan Feniger, Lynne Rossetto Kasper, Zarela Martinez, Mary Sue Milliken, Julie Sahni, Piero Selvaggio, Nina Simonds, Masa Takayama, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Paula Wolfert, Su-Mei Yu, and many more. This single volume can take the place of 10 tomes on your cookbook shelf. However, if you're looking for even more great reading about each of these cuisines, Nach Waxman (legendary owner of New York's infamous Kitchen Arts & Letters bookshop) provides his recommendations for further exploration at the end of each chapter. THE NEW AMERICAN CHEF is the perfect gift for the food lovers in your life (even yourself!).
on February 8, 2004
"The New American Chef" is a brilliant concept, brilliantly executed by award-winning authors Dornenburg and Page: Take some of the brightest minds in the culinary world today and have them provide a shorthand approach to the cuisines in which they are expert. The result is a Who's Who of Cooking sharing fascinating insights into the flavors, techniques and "gestalt" of 10 different cuisines: Rick Bayless and Zarela Martinez on Mexican cuisine, Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Mario Batali on Italian cuisine, Paula Wolfert and Rafih Benjelloun on Moroccan cuisine, and dozens of other experts on seven other cuisines (Japanese, Spanish, French, Chinese, Indian, Thai, and Vietnamese). The authors' approach to singling out and articulating the essence of each cuisine is also a breakthrough contribution to understanding both the differences and the similarities among various cuisines. I'd never previously thought about the similarities between, for example, Japanese and Spanish cuisines, or French and Chinese cuisines - an insight that has the power to change one's approach to cooking. With my copies of the International Time-Life series gathering dust on my bookshelf, I'm delighted to have this captivating new single-volume reference to turn to for insight, inspiration, and incisive modern recipes.
on December 14, 2003
A global primer, organized by country, this book features some of the country's most renowned chefs discoursing on technique and ingredients and offering some of their signature recipes, like Daniel Boulud's Short Ribs Braised in Red Wine, and Barbara Tropp's Steamed whole Fish with Seared Scallions, and Julie Sahni's Shrimp Madras-Style.
The 10 countries featured are Japan, Italy, Spain, France, China, India, Mexico, Thailand, Vietnam, and Morocco. Each chapter begins with the basics: principles of the cuisine, major ingredients and pantry staples, tools and cooking techniques. Numerous voices contribute opinions and recipes throughout (recipes are headed with chef's name), and occasionally there is even a bit of conflict. Mario Batali, for instance, uses only imported Italian tomatoes while Lynne Rossetto Kasper finds the imports "disappointing."
There are 100 recipes, but the real savor here is the opinionated, enthusiastic teaching. Black and white photos showcase the personalities at work. This is a staple of the cookbook shelf, for cooks of all levels.
on December 12, 2003
The best books are written with a crystal-clear purpose in mind, and Beard Award-winning writers Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page (BECOMING A CHEF, CHEF'S NIGHT OUT) have really honed in on a crucial subject for THE NEW AMERICAN CHEF.
Their analysis of the current culinary situation hits the nail on the head. "Whereas a young professional cook may have had the opportunity in years past to develop a solid grounding in classic technique (most frequently French) before branching off into multiethnic experimentation, today the same cook has to work from day one with an extraordinarily wide variety of ingredients and techniques," they write. "The widespread availability of international ingredients has outpaced our ability to assimilate them into our daily cooking. This represents both a major opportunity and a major challenge for the New American chef."
Few full service restaurant operators or, especially, restaurant critics would argue against Dornenburg's and Page's thesis.
This book is designed to fill the ever-widening information gap. And while it seems like an impossibly large topic to cover, this clever duo devised a format that distills the essentials of 10 influential cuisines (Chinese, French, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Moroccan, Spanish, Thai, Vietnamese) into digestible lessons for the reader.
Each chapter begins with a lengthy profile of a particular country's cuisine, with key fundamentals spelled out via interviews with respected chefs and cookbook authors. Then come recipes (one hundred in all for the book) that enables the reader to tackle the lessons just learned. Dozens of celebrity chefs dot the roster of contributors.
"We've narrowed down the gist of what you need to know about each cuisine in order to retain its spirit in your cooking," Dornenburg and Page say. "In thirty pages per cuisine, we can make you feel like you have just taken an immersion course in that cuisine and our experts will enable you to better reproduce its food and its spirit in your kitchen."
What a godsend. This book will be of value to just about anyone who works in the back of the house or write a menu cooked there.
- RESTAURANT HOSPITALITY (December 2003)
on November 16, 2003
"The New American Chef has a refined and sophisticated style. There is a huge melting pot of techniques which draw on many cultures and regions, redefining old classics and creating new classics as well. Excellent reading!" -Todd English, chef-owner, Olives and Figs
"Like the great chefs they write about, Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page bring to their work infectious enthusiasm, endless curiosity, and expansive knowledge. The breadth and depth of their passion makes this book at once a vivid education in the great cuisines of the world and a continuous treat to peruse."
-Tony Schwartz, New York Times bestselling co-author of The Power of Full Engagement
"Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page seek out - and offer - some of the best advice on pairing food and wines we've seen. Readers should expect imaginative and unexpected match-ups: Sherry and Cava for main courses; Pinot Noirs for tandoori. The New American Chef is relaxed, fun, and to the point." -Sam Perkins, executive editor, Wine Enthusiast
"Drawing on a distinguished circle of America's leading culinary experts, The New American Chef is the first book to distill their wisdom to guide readers to cook more intuitively. This book provides the essence of each of ten influential cuisines which will help you hone your gut instinct and guide you through the challenges of cooking with ingredients and techniques from around the world." -Laura Day, New York Times bestselling author of Practical Intuition and The Circle
on November 11, 2003
Featuring: Mario Batali, Rick Bayless, Daniel Boulud, Penelope Casas, Susan Feniger, Lynne Rossetto Kasper, Zarela Martinez, Mary Sue Milliken, Julie Sahni, Piero Selvaggio, Nina Simonds, Masa Takayama, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Paula Wolfert, Su-Mei Yu and dozens more!
"[The books of] Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page...are the best place to experience the cult of The New American Chef."
THE NEW YORKER
"This glorious work literally sings with the excitement of what is our own culinary make-up: diversity, passion, exuberance, intrigue and spice."
CHARLIE TROTTER, chef-owner, Charlie Trotter's
"Learning to think like the 'dream team' of culinary authorities featured in this brilliant book will inspire and guide you to juggle global ingredients and techniques so you can cook, and create, like a maestro."
MICHAEL GELB, New York Times bestselling author of How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci
"A groundbreaking work filled with expert teaching and an abundance of mouthwatering recipes."
MICHAEL ROMANO, chef-partner, Union Square Cafe
"Dornenburg and Page collaborate successfully once more....[a] thorough...guide to the values, tastes and methods that form each cuisine."
"An invaluable reference."
PATRICK O'CONNELL, chef-owner, The Inn at Little Washington
"Preparing good food is an act of love, which comes through on every page of THE NEW AMERICAN CHEF."
DR. ROBERT MULLER, Retired Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Prize nominee
on November 9, 2003
I would consider myself a cook who knows just enough to make himself dangerous in the kitchen, but definitely come up against my learning wall, i.e. I know what lemongrass is but not always where and how to use it. This book is giving me the grounding and general knowledge that I need to make my cooking stronger every night.
Not being one to be inspired following a recipe, I want to learn the rules so I can make the food I want to cook. (The exception being the case of Daniel Boulud, who is described as the Zen Master of Braising. I was happy to find his recipe for braised shortribs, I will follow that one!) I also want whatever I'm cooking to taste like the dish I had at the restauranat that made me want to try to make it at home in the first place. This book teaches that. For example, I didn't know chicken stock in Mexican cooking was lighter than in French cooking.
I am finding this book great night table reading because the chapters tell stories. This is not simply a "how to" book, it is a "here's why" book. Like their previous books, this one is like sitting at the table with the chefs and talking over a meal.
The special sections are eclectic but they are always helpful and interesting. In the chapter on Spain, there is a section on Sherry. (At first I laughed because I fell into "bad Sherry experiences" by drinking cream Sherry when I was younger.) THeir advice on what kind of Sherry to drink with what kind of Spanish dishes is helpful and encouraging me to want to try Sherry again. There is a section on "two chefs journey to your table" which is about how two top Vietnamese chefs made it to America and started cooking. This was both inspiring and touching and gave me the sort of behind the scenes information I always look forwad to in these authors books.
I found plenty of good advice in this book and would recommend it to anyone who wants to save themselves the time of having to read 10 cookbooks yet wants to know the tips on how to get it right when cooking the food of these 10 countries. This is the first book I can think of that reflects the way I eat at home, one night making an Italian dish and another night making Mexican food. It's nice to finally have this information all in one place!
on November 8, 2003
Unlike the first reviewer of this book, I had no preconceived notions of what The New American Chef "should" or "shouldn't" be. When I recently picked it up, what I found was a surprisingly fresh and insightful look at the subject of international flavors and techniques and how they are influencing today's (and tomorrow's) idea of American cuisine. This is a tribute to the authors' increasingly well-known reputation for going places no other food writers have gone before (and readers of Culinary Artistry won't have to ask what I mean by that!). By their own admission (on p. xiv), the authors' goal "was not to take a comprehensive, encyclopedic approach to these 10 cuisines...Rather, to share some of the underlying tenets each one has to offer." I've never read another cookbook that took on this challenge, and certainly none has so insightfully.
In The New American Chef, the authors manage to "deconstruct" the underlying essence of each of the 10 cuisines they profile. In other words, what makes Japanese cuisine unique? To the authors, it is the cuisine's extraordinary emphasis on seasonality. What makes Italian cuisine unique? The Italian sensibility when selecting ingredients. And so on through Spanish, French, Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese and Moroccan cuisines. Then each chapter underscores that central lesson by providing insights and guidelines and recipes from some of the world's best-respected experts on each of those cuisines (e.g. Mario Batali and Lynne Rossetto Kasper on Italian; Daniel Boulud, Alain Ducasse, and Hubert Keller on French, etc.). The chapters are not cookie-cutter in structure, obviously, because each chapter focuses on a different aspect of cuisine. So there may not be an emphasis in "the order of a menu" in every single chapter, but that is clearly because it is not an important aspect of certain cuisines (for example, Asian cuisines which are served family-style, rather than as a series of courses). Instead, they take about 30 or 40 pages per cuisine to focus in on what makes it unique, and what lessons the reader can take away from that cuisine to apply in their own kitchens, no matter what they're cooking. And I've already taken away useful lessons on working with spices (the focus of the chapter on India) and with chilies (the focus of the chapter on Mexico).
This book is not perfect. The reproduction of the black & white photos in my copy of the book appeared uneven. And some fascinating topics are touched on so briefly that I would have hoped to read much more about them. But I agree with Union Square Cafe chef Michael Romano's comment on the book's back cover that this is truly a "groundbreaking" book for its unique emphasis on distilling the insights and lessons of an incredible array of leading experts. And I'm consoling my frustrated desire to read more about certain subjects with the incredible suggestions for further reading on each of the 10 cuisines provided at the end of every chapter, which in itself may be worth the price of the book.
I highly recommend this book for the intelligent reader who wants to gain either a broad-brush overview of the principles underlying these 10 particular cuisines, or leading experts' astute insights into how to make your own cooking even more flavorful and technically expert through applying these ideas in your own (professional or home) kitchen.
on June 7, 2004
I have been trying to buy a copy of this book on Amazon ever since hearing the authors speak at the Cascadia Culinary Arts conference here in Washington on May 22 (they were incredible) but it's been "out of stock" for weeks. VERY frustrating. I wish that I had bought a copy at the conference, but I didn't want to carry it around at the time. If I knew how hard it would be to find a copy, I would have! I spent two hours reading a friend's copy of "The New American Chef" and found it fascinating. The authors joked that it's the "Cliff Notes" of 10 different cuisines, but it's so much more. I love the idea of their "culinary compass" that they wrote about in the beginning of the book that maps out the way chefs cook today, and whether their focus is on experimentation or authenticity. It was obvious from their talk and from what I saw of this book that they think about food differently from other writers. I want my own copy!