Jean-Georges Vongerichten Eschews Escoffier, Admires Ali-Bab
Getting a chef to pick a favorite cookbook is like asking a parent to choose her most-loved child. But F&W pressed great cooks around the country to reveal their top picks of all-time.
The Book: Gastronomie Pratique by Ali-Bab (a.k.a. Henri Babinski), 1923
“A scientist and philosopher, Henri Babinski, wrote it more than 100 years ago, and was way ahead of his time,” Vongerichten says. “He gives every technique from making raspberry lemonade to vinaigrettes to soufflés. He even shows you how to make oysters en gelée using natural gelatin—gelatin made from boiled pig’s feet, not gelatin leaves or agar-agar. Everything he did is so technical and precise, it’s amazing. Everyone always cites Escoffier, but Escoffier just codified a cuisine that already existed. This was something new, and much more interesting. It’s hard to find, though; I wish someone would bring it back into print.”