Five Extravagant Cookbooks for a Scrumptious Spending Spree
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If you're an aspiring chef, restauranteur, or just enjoy a well made meal, you're also very likely a proud owner of a cookbook. The price and quality of cookbooks vary a great deal, and in this day and age, the "Food" section of your local bookshop probably takes up half the ground floor. It's often difficult to discern whether a new cookbook will be worth its weight in gold, but very occasionally a well-bound edition of so-and-so's latest will catch your eye, and you won't really mind spending $30 on a new copy.
This list is for those who really, really won't mind spending the extra dollar for a truly outstanding cookbook.
The NoMad Cookbook
Chef Daniel Humm and his business partner Will Guidara are the proprietors of two of New York's most pioneering restaurants: Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad. Their team is known not only for its perfectly executed, innovative cooking, but also for creating extraordinary, genre-defying dining experiences. The stunningly photographed The NoMad Cookbook features recipes from the renowned restaurants, and according to reviews, is not for the amateur chef.
The highlight of the seemingly traditional cookbook is the hidden compartment at the back, containing a smaller cocktail recipe book. The result is a wonderfully unexpected collection of both sweet and savory food and cocktail recipes, with the lush photography by Francesco Tonelli and impeccable style for which the authors are known.
The NoMad Cookbook is priced at a somewhat reasonable $46.54, and is well worth the spend.
Les Diners De Gala
At the age of 6, Salvador Dali claimed that he wanted to be a chef. In 1973, at 69, he finally published his first and only cookbook, Les Diners de Gala. Perhaps better suited to your coffee table than to your kitchen, the surrealist cookbook pairs 136 recipes over 12 chapters, with elaborate illustrations of the banquets he and Gala – his wife, to whom the book was dedicated – notoriously held for large parties. The couple's recipes and ingredients are ostentatious, to say the least, and one even calls for a live peacock.
Dali included a cautionary disclaimer at the outset:
We would like to state clearly that, beginning with the very first recipes, Les Diners de Gala, with its precepts and its illustrations, is uniquely devoted to the pleasures of Taste. Don’t look for dietetic formulas here.
We intend to ignore those charts and tables in which chemistry takes the place of gastronomy. If you are a disciple of one of those calorie-counters who turn the joys of eating into a form of punishment, close this book at once; it is too lively, too aggressive, and far too impertinent for you.
If that curbs your appetite, the reprint of Les Diners de Gala can be yours for a mere $87.81.
The Big Fat Duck Cookbook
The Big Fat Duck Cookbook is chef Heston Blumenthal's love letter to his restaurant, The Fat Duck, in Berkshire. Fat Duck holds three Michelin stars and has been acclaimed as one of the 50 best restaurants in the world for the past 11 years. The Big Fat Duck Cookbook is split into three parts:
Part I, History: Blumenthal's background and the story behind how The Fat Duck came to be. Part one also includes an essay from Blumenthal about what he thinks food should be, and what a chef's responsibility is in forwarding cuisine.
Part II, Recipes: Recipes from Blumenthal's restaurant released for the first time ever to the public. Though don't expect to be able to follow these as a novice; the self-taught award-winning chef warns his readers that the recipes remain very "cheffy".
Part III, Science: The science, technology, and skill that make the dishes work. Various food scientists and taste experts contribute to this section.
The stunningly written, designed, and bound cookbook is sold for a mere $128.45, or less than half the cost of the set menu at The Fat Duck!
Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking
With Modernist Cuisine, it's tempting to let the pictures speak for themselves. In perhaps the most intricate and stunning execution in the short history of cookbooks, Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet's six-volume encyclopedia of contemporary cooking covers everything you need to know as a chef, from common sense to chemistry and beyond. Each chapter features stunning photography of recipes in action, with overlaid diagrams and calculations that illustrate the physics of poaching an egg, releasing the flavor from an orange peel, or preventing your pan from overheating.
Praised by the Wall Street Journal as “the most astonishing cookbook of our time,” the 2,438-page encyclopedic cookbook can be yours for just $588.63 – otherwise known as one month's rent, a round trip ticket to Italy, or a newly renovated bathroom. And none of those things look nearly as good on a coffee table.
elBulli 2005-2011 is not for the light-hearted. A whopping 18 kilos, the seven volume collection has been hailed as one of the greatest testaments to food ever written. elBulli restaurant in Catalonia was widely regarded as the world's best restaurant until its closure in 2011. Having held three Michelin stars from 1997 to 2011, the restaurant was regularly voted 'Best Restaurant in the World' by a panel of 500 industry professionals. Head chef Ferran Adrià was often referred to as "the Picasso of culinary arts" and elBulli 2005 – 2011 is as much an object of beauty as it is a chronicle of Ferran’s transformation from admired chef to true genius.
With a price as heavy as the collection itself, elBulli 2005-2011 currently sells at the same price as Modernist Cuisine, $588.63. A steal, when one considers that the restuarant of the same name will never open its renowned doors again.