By Jenny McCoy—Chef Instructor, School of Pastry & Baking Arts
Did you know that each year more than 24,000 cookbooks are published worldwide? Our unyielding appetite for new recipes and cooking techniques has made compiling a single “must-read” book list a daunting task for even the most well-read chef. So instead, I’m sharing a few short lists of game-changing texts—from food science tomes to classic pastry cookbooks—that have broadened my horizons as a culinary professional. First up, let’s take a closer look at the core ingredients so many of us take for granted, from cheese to chocolate.
Cheese: A Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best by Max McCalman
Cheese is more than a delicious snack. Imperative to any chef’s working knowledge of food, cheese can be used in a wide range of recipes. This tome—written by ICE’s resident cheese expert—will help you discover hundreds of cheese varieties to refine your palate and whet your appetite.
The True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe
There has been no shortage of chocolate research at ICE with the opening of our very own bean-to-bar lab in 2015. Part botany, part archeology and part culinary history, this book explores the origins of chocolate some 4,000 years ago. Once you get to know chocolate’s journey through time, you’ll appreciate it even more.
Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes by Mark Bitterman
If there’s one fact all chefs know to be true, it’s that you can’t coax flavor from even the best ingredients without a little salt. Authored by Mark Bitterman, owner of The Meadow gourmet shop, Salted begins with humankind’s first taste and travels through modern day to discuss both the industrialization of salt and the growing popularity of specialty salts. The book’s recipes feature over 80 varieties of salt—and the reference guide exposes you to 150 types in total.
Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes by Jennifer McLagan and Leigh Beisch
While alternative health experts are helping to break down fat’s bad rap, it’s clear that this ingredient suffers from an unfortunate reputation. Read this book, and you’ll gain an understanding of why fat isn’t necessarily bad for you, and why it’s essential to great cooking and baking. With recipes, personal stories from the author and extensive information on how to render, flavor, use and store animal fats, Fat should be a staple on the bookshelf of all chefs and bakers alike.
For more of our favorite cookbooks for aspiring chefs, click here.