Food & Wine
September 01, 2009

This is the year of the home cook. The lessons from TV chefs, the better-than-ever availability of incredible (often local) ingredients, the thrill of amazing restaurant meals—plus the rotten economy—have converged to inspire talented amateurs to raise their ambitions and try new flavors and techniques in the kitchen. For many, cooking has gone from hobby to obsession: Not only do they make meals, they do so using ingredients they’ve grown, pickled, foraged or butchered themselves. But even those of us who don’t want to cure our own charcuterie are busy experimenting and learning.

To honor all the talent out there, F&W is launching its first-ever contest to find the best home cook in America. We’re looking for the person who can whip up a speedy yet exceptional meal for a bunch of unexpected guests, who is passionate about culinary innovation and whose friends always count on them for cooking advice. For more details, go to

If you’re on your way to becoming a home-cook superstar but aren’t quite one yet, there are lots of ways to sharpen your skills. One of the dreamiest is taking cooking classes abroad. In this issue, we tag along with New York City chef Marco Canora on a trip to his mother’s villa in Tuscany, where he teaches some of his fans how to make dishes like tomatoey seafood stew, summer farro salad and, my favorite, chicken-liver crostini.

Another way to improve one’s skills is to study cookbooks. We were surprised to learn that so many excellent chefs educated themselves this way—like the five in our story “How to Teach Yourself to Cook.” We asked these chefs to name the works that changed their lives and share the recipes the books inspired.

Some of us read cookbooks in bed; others cure pig legs in our basements. Whatever path you take, I hope you have a great time in the kitchen.

Where I’m Coming From

Notes From My Recent Expeditions:

Ajax Tavern
Aspen, CO
I loved Jim Butchart’s genius reinvention of the BLT, with soft-shell crab and house-made mayo.

DBGB Kitchen and Bar
New York City
Daniel Boulud’s beaujolaise sausage with pork, bacon and red wine is an important (and delicious) contribution to the hot dog canon.

New York City
Exquisite ingredients are why Michael White’s pasta dish is so perfect: house-made rigatoni tossed with tiny fresh chickpeas and the most incredible shrimp.

Follow me on Twitter@fwscout.

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