The Best Books of 2016 For Chefs and Bartenders

With dozens of new cookbooks, food memoirs and drink books released each year, it can be hard to determine which are worth picking up for yourself or giving as a holiday present to your sous chef, barback and others. The Plate staff sorted through this year's offerings, read them, cooked from them, carried them around and settled on these 13 books, which range from an introduction to the world of Israeli baking to a tiki manual to an explanation of how to better understand carbohydrates, proteins, and other building blocks of food. Wrap them up, hand them to a friend or colleague and watch as they nurture a new passion.

For the baker who has Ottolenghi’d everything in sight

Breaking Breads: A New World of Israeli Baking—Flatbreads, Stuffed Breads, Challahs, Cookies, and the Legendary Chocolate Babka, by Uri Scheft with Raquel Pelzel
We met Uri Scheft of New York City’s Breads Bakery last year while working on our Israeli food issue, and after making his chocolate babka, knew we wanted more from him. This book, written with Raquel Pelzel, gives more reasons to play with dough, especially baked goods like Scheft’s shakshuka focaccia and Jerusalem-style bagels.

For the cook who stares at the spice rack all day

Floyd Cardoz: Flavorwalla: Big Flavor. Bold Spices. A New Way to Cook the Foods You Love, by Floyd Cardoz and Martha Stets
Floyd Cardoz of New York City’s Paowallah is a true spice master. In this book, he introduces readers to spices, blending his Indian heritage with his fine dining French culinary training to help cooks better understand how to get the most flavor from spices, and how to create their own spice blends.

For the barback who wants to understand how the cocktail revival began

A Proper Drink: The Untold Story of How a Band of Bartenders Saved the Civilized Drinking World, by Robert Simonson
The current cocktail renaissance has been so rapid that it can be hard to understand where we’ve been and where we’re going. New York Times cocktail writer Robert Simonson slows it down by offering a detailed look at the major bartenders and bars that contributed to the craft cocktail scene over the past 25 years, as well as some of the now-classic drinks they helped create.

For the would-be artist working in your kitchen

The Adventures of Fat Rice: Recipes from the Chicago Restaurant Inspired by Macau, by Abe Conlon, Adrienne Lo and Hugh Amano
Do we really need to tell you more about this book? Even if you don’t know where Macau is, you’ll love following Abe Conlon, Adrienne Lo and Hugh Amano as they take you on a culinary tour from Macau back to their Chicago restaurant through Dan Goldberg’s beautiful photos and Sarah Becan’s hilarious illustrations.

For the cook pushing for more veg options

V Street: 100 Globe-Hopping Plates on the Cutting Edge of Vegetable Cooking, by Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby
Time for something healthy, but not boring. Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby of Vedge and V Street in Philadelphia scoured street food vendors and ethnic markets from Hong Kong to the Caribbean for inspiration for their new veg-centric cookbook. Snacks, salads, plates, bowls and sweets make up the more than 100 vegan and vegetarian recipes, which include sweet corn ice cream, vegetarian turnip cakes and an Argentine choripan crafted from carrots and black bean puree instead of a traditional hot dog.

For the rum-loving bartender

Smuggler's Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki, by Martin Cate with Rebecca Cate
Smuggler’s Cove is one of the best bars in America, and Martin Cate traces how he went from having a fledgling interest in cocktails to opening his own bar and creating a community of drinkers. Beyond being a fascinating guide to everything that goes into opening a bar, from finding a space to developing a concept, Smuggler’s Cove is an indispensible guide to the rum category, as Cate offers an overview of the styles necessary to create tiki drinks.

For the chef who loves diners at 2 a.m. —and wants to bring that feel into their restaurant

Poole's: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner, by Ashley Christensen with Kaitlyn Goalen
Diners occupy a special place in the restaurant world—though the straightforward food is rarely the reason to visit, they’re homey and welcoming. Poole’s, Ashley Christensen’s Raleigh, N.C. diner, harnesses that community feel while elevating classic Southern dishes like pimento cheese, deviled eggs and ribs, which are served alongside salads, stews and pies. In her book, Christensen pays homage to the chefs who have inspired certain recipes as she shares stories about Poole’s and offers her own take on Southern fare.

For the chef who wants to explore an underrated culinary region

Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes, by Ronni Lundy

Southern food has gotten its due over the past decade, but the food of the Appalachian region, which includes parts of some Southern states, doesn’t get the attention it deserves. In Victuals, Ronni Lundy shines a light on Appalachian food by taking a look at traditional ingredients like salt, beans and corn; featuring the farmers, chefs and others who are making their mark on the cuisine; and showcasing the region’s ingredients and history through 80 recipes.

For the bartender who wants to explore their bitter side

Amaro: The Spirited World of Bittersweet, Herbal Liqueurs, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas, by Brad Thomas Parsons
Amaro has become an increasingly important part of cocktails, and Brad Thomas Parsons dives headfirst into the world of bittersweet liqueurs, from old school Italian amaro to new, U.S.-made versions. He makes sense of the seemingly endless array of bottles by profiling distilleries and amaro bars, as well as providing 100+ recipes to make it easy to see how amaro plays with other ingredients and flavors.

For the fromagier whose cheese cart needs a refresh

The Art of the Cheese Plate, by Tia Keenan

In The Art of the Cheese Plate, Tia Keenan writes, “before a cheese plate even hits the table, anticipatory enthusiasm is so high only gross negligence could make for a bad cheese experience.” She may have a point, but any fromagier will find inspiration from the 37 cheese plate compositions that jump off the page in a mélange of colors, textures, shapes and plates. Try not to salivate over the 100 cheese and 84 recipes for accompaniments that are more pan-roasted plums with Scotch than a cluster of nuts.

For anyone who loves to nerd out in the kitchen

Ingredient: Unveiling the Essential Elements of Food, by Ali Bouzari 

This book is perfect for your colleagues who love to geek out over fermentation, crystallization and more. Food scientist and cofounder of Pilot R+D Ali Bouzari takes a deep dive into the “personality” of eight ingredients, including water, sugars, carbohydrates, lipids and proteins. But you don’t need a food science background to grasp the concepts illustrated through metaphors, cartoons and photos. By the end you’ll understand how cornstarch gels into Turkish delight, why pork skin puffs into chicharrón, and get an “x-ray vision” perspective of the rest of the chemical reactions in the kitchen.

For the cook with insatiable wanderlust 

My Two Souths: Blending the Flavors of India into a Southern Kitchen, by Asha Gomez and Martha Hall Foose
In this book, Atlanta chef Asha Gomez draws the lines between the food of her childhood in a small village in Southern India to what she serves at her three restaurants, bridging the gap between the two cultures.

For the cook and bartender who wants to cook keg-to-kitchen

Food & Beer, by Daniel Burns and Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso

The cold frothy one finally gets a place at the prix fixe table formerly reserved for wine. In Food + Beer, chef Daniel Burns and brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso of Torst and Luksus in New York City explain how beer can lend earthy, sweet, funky, tart, smoky and spicy flavors to dishes and pairings. The conversational and beautifully photographed book is packed with history, beer brewing facts, recipes and stories about everything from how they pulled off beet-infused beer to the perfect pairing for squash broth with chestnut purée (it’s a floral bière-de-miel).

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