The Top 5
2013 was a year of personality. Chefs showed off their character and coriander, offered humor and marrow, gave us thrills and dills. Some fazizzled and some drizzled (balsamic), but of the 22 cookbooks reviewed here this year, these 5 sizzled:
1. Andy Ricker “spent the better part of the last twenty years roaming around Thailand, cooking and recooking strange soups, beseeching street vendors for stir-fry tips, and trying to figure out how to reproduce obscure Thai products with American ingredients.” His Pok Pok cookbook is the glorious result.
2. Ivan Orkin waxed and waned between Tokyo and New York and became a ramen noodle genius as a result. He spends a leisurely 35 pages within Ivan Ramen to explore, photograph and dissect every component of this dish.
3. Michael Chiarello, the Napa Valley chef and vintner, thinks big in this over-sized and highly enjoyable harbinger of spring. The 125 recipes in Live Fire are not about traditional barbecue, they’re about taking a variety of heat sources and maxing out their potentials.
4. Cree LeFavour is a serial monogamist. Her first cookbook focused on steak, and her second was all about chicken. Her third time’s a char, an arctic char to be precise, served with eggplant, couscous and mint, and there are 53 other feasts as well, in Fish: 54 Seafood Feasts.
5. Tony Conigliaro has thought long and hard about the “little moments of time” we spend sipping cocktails: the flavors, textures and aromas involved, and the art and science of mixology. As part of a UK collective of bartenders and artists known as The Drink Factory he has invented an entire science fair’s worth of potables and puts them on display here in The Cocktail Lab.
Just missing the cut: Roy Choi's memoir cum cookbook, L.A. Son and Barton Seaver's Where There's Smoke.
In the category of chefs whose restaurants live and die by The New York Times, Paul Liebrandt offered up a moody mid-career autobiography, while his polar opposite, Guy Fieri, did well what he does best.
Disappointments of the year include Jamie Oliver phoning it in while on vacation, and some poorly titled works by otherwise good authors. I'm looking at you Eating Italy and 100 Grilling Recipes You Can’t Live Without.