New Orleans celebrity chef, John Besh, has a stunning new book which celebrates the dishes and lessons he learned early in his career. Twenty years ago, already an established chef, Besh realized that he didn’t know as much as he wanted to. So the newlywed Besh and his wife traveled and cooked through Europe in the early 90s, working with wonderful mentor chefs from Germany and France.
For those of us also fortunate enough to realize that we don’t know enough about cooking, either, Besh shares the lessons and dishes he learned along the way. Its 140 recipes cover everything from soup to desserts, including numerous “serious” recipes viewed as emblematic of fine, traditional European cooking, with rustic touches throughout. While many recipes aren’t exactly simple, they are straightforward, and all look truly delicious. Note that some ingredients could be difficult to get in America (wild boar?), but there are plenty of recipes which are both quick and easy to buy and make, like the Concord Grape Clafoutis.
The book itself is large, beautiful, and lavishly photographed, and in full-color throughout. The page layouts are clever and lovely. The index and table of contents are exceptionally clear and detailed, and the various writings about Besh’s original journey, alongside his contemporary musings about those lessons, are interesting and well-written, as a personal history, travelogue, and well-informed commentary on foods prepared and presented with honesty and integrity. The book was produced and edited by the founding editor of Saveur magazine, and if you enjoy that, you’ll love Cooking from the Heart — a beautiful addition to any coffee table and kitchen.