Take a page from chefs’summer reading lists.
Cracking open a book is one of life’s greatest escapes—something we could all use perhaps more than ever right now. And if you’re seeking inspiration for your summer reading list, look no further than some of the country’s best chefs. From savoring poetry to brushing up on business acumen to revisiting the works of the beloved Anthony Bourdain, these chefs are putting down their knives (even just for a few minutes!) to stick their noses into these fascinating reads this summer.
Miles Thompson: Michael’s Santa Monica, Santa Monica, CA
"This summer I’m revisiting Kitchen Confidential. The last time I read it was in 2002, and it was incredibly inspiring and formative in my ideas as to what it meant to be a young man and cook and what it meant to be a chef. I was a dishwasher at the time, and having made my own similar journey of physical and professional growth, I think that it will be interesting to see how I feel reading those words now. Also, it’s a nice way to remember such an important figure in our industry.
I’m also reading India, a dazzling and all-encompassing account of Indian food from all over the continent. With its deep account of history and pretty photos, I can’t wait to get deeper into this cuisine. I was exposed to real Indian cooking maybe two years ago and it blew my mind how different it was than what I was previously exposed to. I’m hungry to learn even more.”
Mashama Bailey: The Grey, Savannah, GA
Delicious Foods by James Hannaham
“This novel is about a food company called Delicious Foods and their horrible labor practices. It touches on modern day issues—corporate agriculture, drug addiction, immoral labor practices and racial injustice—and is both horrifying and captivating!”
Curtis Stone: Maude and Gwen, Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, CA
Empowering Leadership by Michael Fletcher
“There are so many facets to my business and I am only one person and can’t be in two places at once, so I need strong people with initiative working with me. I strive to build an amazing team and want to give each member the opportunity to reach his or her full potential. Also, I’m a bit of a control freak and need to educate myself about how to better let go. Fletcher’s methods are a solid guide.”
Hugh Acheson: The National, 5 &10, Empire State South, Spiller Park Coffee and Achie’s, Athens and Atlanta, GA
“Rick Bragg is a Southern writer based in Alabama and this is his multi-generational memoir about how food affected everything in his world. Although I just started the book, it is an engaging read about food that is dear to me. I’m also rereading Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism. It seems like a good time to revisit the best critiques of humankind's worst hours. No?”
Nyesha Arrington: Native, Santa Monica, CA
The Third Door by Alex Banayan
"This compelling, must-read book is about finding the common denominator between successful entrepreneurs, essentially paving your own way to success and creating your own door. If the front door is closed and the back door is closed, create your own door!”
Daniel Patterson: Alta Group (Besharam, Dyafa, Kaya, Plum Bar, and Alta Adams), San Francisco and Oakland, CA
Pardon My Heart by Marcus Jackson
“Beautiful, deeply human, inspiring. Poetry —the search for the truth of our hearts— is more important now than ever."
Chris Shepherd: UB Preserv, One/Fifth, The Hay Merchant and Georgia James, Houston, TX
“I’m opening One/Fifth Mediterranean, the third iteration of my annually rotating restaurant, in September, so I’ve been reading as many books about the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East I can find. These are a few I’ve been digging into. Zahav inspired me to open One Fifth Mediterranean. It showed me the beauty of this style of cuisine. Levant blew me away, because it’s so beautiful and informative. I just picked it up and don’t want to put it down. And I don’t know a lot about baking bread, and I’m going to use Breaking Breads as a guide to start learning.
I’m looking for a great modern Greek cookbook, so if any readers have suggestions, I’m all ears!”
José Andrés: ThinkFoodGroup, Washington, D.C.; Miami, FL; Las Vegas, NV; Los Angeles, CA and elsewhere
Pasta, Pane, Vino by Matt Goulding
"If you want to feel part of a very beloved project for Tony Bourdain, get this book and you will find his voice in it. My amigo Matt Goulding has captured what he loved so much about Italy, and why you must go there and eat. I'm reading it now, and you should too!"
Traction by Gino Wickman
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International
Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 by the American Academy of Pediatrics
"I find that the majority of the reading I do these days is for learning purposes! I look for books that help me mentally prepare for the decisions and situations I encounter every day. For example, right now I am reading Traction. It’s about how to organize yourself, your business and commitments so you can focus on growing your business the way you envision it. It has been helpful as my role morphed from being in the restaurants day-in and day-out to focusing more on the development of the business, running two (soon to be three) restaurants, authoring a cookbook, and starting a family (our second child is due in August!). I’m also pulling out the baby books for a refresher! My two go-to’s are The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International and Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 published by the American Academy of Pediatrics."
Jonathan Waxman: Barbuto, Jams, Brezza Cucina and Adele’s, New York, NY; Atlanta, GA; and Nashville, TN
“I’m really loving Walter Issacson’s Leonardo da Vinci. It’s a great snapshot in into da Vinci’s world and the social fabric of those times. California, on the other hand, offers good insight into California that is precise, concise and illuminating. It’s helpful for my new restaurant in L.A.”
Jess Shadbolt: King, New York, NY
A Place For All People by Richard Rogers
"The latest book from the legendary architect Richard Rogers is not only a retrospective of his incredible works over the decades, but a thoughtful consideration of the relationship between architecture, society and people, and the responsibility the architect has to blend these together. His life and curious adventures across the world read like an epic tale and made me laugh and cry and think about the conversations between buildings and people. I bloody loved it and think it should be made into a movie!
Matt McClure: The Hive, Bentonville, AK
The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
“I’ve read all of the books in this series and loved them! The main characters are unique, imperfectly human and clever. It’s not a pretty path but in the end, the righteous wins.”
Shannon Swindle: Craft Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
On Vegetables by Jeremy Fox
"It’s so much more than a cookbook. I love that he highlights some of our favorite farmers in the front pages of the book. And it’s a very personal book, not just a list of recipes."
Richard Blais: Juniper and Ivy and The Crack Shack, San Diego, CA
"Right now I'm reading the original Avengers comics because I'm obsessed with the Avengers and am a total comic book nerd; Complete Swedish because I recently did 23andMe, which confirmed that I'm from Swedish/Norwegian heritage; and I'm always reading Malcolm Gladwell books because they help me rethink things and reset my perspective."
Gabriel Kreuther: Gabriel Kreuther, New York, NY
Dinner with Churchill by Cita Steelier
“The book is about Churchill's love of food and wine. It reveals how important a daily structure around food was for Churchill during World War II. Most notably, the book talks about how, when contemplating making important decisions during the Second World War, Churchill would eat around a table with others and talk through his dilemmas. It’s quite fascinating and a proof that people from different backgrounds can come together over a meal and have a better understanding of each other, reflect on it and then make an educated decision.”