Filled with breathtaking photography, these books reflect the ambitious, evocative work of world-famous chef-philosophers.  Read more >

By Aleksandra Crapanzano
Updated May 23, 2017

Filled with breathtaking photography, these books reflect the ambitious, evocative work of world-famous chef-philosophers.

A Work in Progress by René Redzepi

Held together by a thick rubber band, the new book from visionary Nordic chef René Redzepi is actually made up of three volumes: Journal, Recipes and Snap Shots. Taken together, the trio forms an intimate look at what Redzepi does, how he does it and what it means to him to do it. His Journal, written in classic diary form, tracks the angst of an artist's highs and lows. One moment, a late frost threatens to destroy the wild plants Redzepi forages for dinner—and perhaps the chef's very sanity. The next, he's in raptures as his team of chefs come together in force to tackle the question of how to serve cod sperm. Fish semen is one of many esoteric ingredients Redzepi is fond of—others include reindeer tongue, woodruff powder, hay ash, ground elder and black ants. What fun to delve into this landscape of Nordic ingredients and ideas. You just might find yourself dreaming about eating hay and ants for dinner and spruce parfait for dessert.

Coi: Stories and Recipes by Daniel Patterson

Coi is not a book for the kitchen counter, where it's sure to be splattered and stained. This book belongs in safekeeping. A celebration of this San Francisco chef's imagination, it is at once polished and raw, with spare, evocative photographs of the Pacific Ocean on one page and of rough planks of gray wood on another. And then there are the images of Patterson's art-like dishes—each seems to hover against the white background. There are recipes as well, but they are not for amateurs. Few readers will take 12 months to preserve Japanese cherry blossoms in order to make Patterson's buttermilk panna cotta. But one can imagine having the time; one can imagine being someone with a garden of cherry trees and the meditative mind that finds time irrelevant. The fun is in the fantasy. A few years ago, the media looked at the proliferation of food photography online and dubbed it food porn. This book is more of a food romance, as it's altogether more poetic and nuanced.

"Anyone can feed you; few can make you feel," writes David Kinch early in Manresa. He has certainly done just that in his Los Gatos, California, restaurant, and this book, his first. He writes vividly, for example, about "the salinity" of nearby Santa Cruz since many of his dishes, such as A Winter Tidal Pool (oysters, abalone, pickled kelp, kombu and shiitake), take their cue from the sea. But it is his tribute to Alain Passard, the Arpège Farm Egg, that is most winning. Layering soft-boiled egg, ginger, sherry cream and maple syrup inside a shell, it is a euphoric flavor combination, and it also happens to be one of the few recipes within reach for the home cook. The precise temperatures required and the difficulty in locating rishiri kombu will quickly dissuade most cooks from attempting Fire-Roasted Eggplant with Dried Tuna and Black Tea. A far easier option would be to fly to Los Gatos, but that in no way diminishes the satisfaction to be found in reading Kinch's "edible reflection."