on October 30, 2011
This is actually the first review I have ever written here. I have a literal library of cook books and baking books. I just found this book so inspiring, that I wanted to share my new found love for it. I bought this book not really knowing what I was going to get, but I am so glad I ended up buying it. All the photography is so stunning and the plating is just artful. However, this is not a cook book for the average "Joe." Each dish has a multiple of components that go on each plate and some have components that have to be made in order to use it as an ingredient for another part of the dish. I love that the book is separated by season, and each season has a recipe progression makes you feel like you are sitting down, eating a meal at Eleven Madison Park. That is, you start with recipes from appetizers, entrees, then desserts. Bottom line, if you have some cooking experience, the patience, time, and money (as many of the ingredients are very luxurious), these recipes can definitely done by the home cook. However, if you lack the skills, I would still get the book if only to see the amazing food they make, and mostly to give you inspiration in your own cooking adventure.
on October 31, 2011
I have just finished reading this cookbook. That's right, reading. In the tradition of the stronger narrative and transformative cookbooks like Judy Rodgers' Zuni Cafe Cookbook, Keller's The French Laundry Cookbook, and perhaps Blumenthal's The Fat Duck Cookbook, this book comes along with not just the gorgeous production value of an auspicious coffee table art book and the exactly duplicated recipes of one of the most interesting young chefs cooking today but with two important stories: one is the detailed story of the making of a brilliant chef, and the other is the surprisingly revealing story of growth of the culture of a well run restaurant and it's successful parent company.
I say transformative because just as those cookbooks change, perhaps forever, the way a chef or cook might look at food, this book will leave readers from all of the various tiers of expertise, from the dedicated home cook to the ambitious chef/restauranteur with invaluable ideas for their own cuisines and companies. For the professional not just in the industry, but professionals in any sort of business, there are valuable lessons to be gleaned from the book. As you proceed through the four seasons into which the recipes in the book are divided, you also proceed through a narrative arc that describes, in short essays written under the headings of the restaurant's core values (derived, incidentally, from a statistical analysis of the most common adjectives found in articles describing Miles Davis and his music that the company performed and then made into a poster that hangs in the kitchen, i.e. "collaborative" "vibrant", depicted in the book if you would like to discover them) the story of the restaurant told through time up to the present day detailing various key players in the growth of the restaurant, and the meals and ideas that inspired the way the staff work. For example, based on a suggestion from one waiter, the terms "front of the house" and "back of the house," an ancient division/rivalry in the industry, were dismissed of along with the perceived division, replaced with "dining room" and "kitchen." Also, the company allows its staff to take "ownership" of their respective areas. The evolutionary impact of these and myriad other ideas on the way the restaurant runs, as well as how they were arrived at, forms the core of this narrative arc. No other cookbook, I think, has proved this detailed about how a staff formed goals, strove for them, and achieved them, sometimes meeting failure along the way. The failures are detailed: the original Madison Park restaurant, the failure of the chef to win the James Beard award, even the restaurants failing finances as the recession kicked in. All are told in the shadow of three michelin stars, but even though you know the story has a happy ending you are still surprised by how close failure came, repeatedly.
Then, after you have learned how they got here, they take you through all the events of a service (a la A Day At El Bulli, except here it is A Day At Eleven Madison Park). The foodie voyeur and the professional alike will find such detail tantalizing.
Let me disabuse you of the idea that this book is simply a storybook. It is first and foremost a huge collection of accessible, sensible recipes accompanied by detailed photographs highlighting the unique aesthetic of the presentation. The recipes are spectacular because Daniel Humm's food is spectacular. All of the hits are there, from the incomparable chicken roasted with truffles and leeks, to his series of pork dishes (a haiku, if you will, on the possibilities of the pig), to the granola you get when you leave the restaurant. Recipes are organized into four seasons, with the entirety of the menu from each of the four seasons presented as such, with a large (and worth the price alone) collection of base recipes and sources at the end.
Much noise is made by many every time a "professional" cookbook such as this one comes out, complaining that the book is not "accessible" to the every day cook for reasons of ingredient or technique, but in an important way the authors anticipated this. Most of the recipes are easily accomplished with a knife, some pans, and a stove. So called modernist techniques are there, but sparsely and with suitable 'traditional' alternatives presented right there. Sometimes, the chef even points out the technique isn't even necessary at all, and explains the effect it aims to achieve. For example, while acknowledging and describing how sous vide can be used to, say, seal two skate wings together or to prepare an egg, a suitable and completely acceptable home technique is provided alongside that right in the recipe. Wherever liquid nitrogen or a professional ice cream maker is called for the chef invites the reader to make a granita, freezing the ingredient in a pan and then scraping it with a fork to produce the requisite "snow."
This speaks to a fundamental truth of Mr. Humm's cooking: he uses regular ingredients, avoids entirely anything chemical or difficult to source (well, sort of, truffles and bee's pollen are in there, sometimes copiously) and his goals with LN2 and sous vide are textural- they involve exchanges of heat easily accomplished (and described in detail every time) with an oven or a stove. There are little things that any home cook will be able to impress with: the soups, the sauces, the garnishes. There are also big things the skilled cook will impress with: everything. This book is a manifesto, a thorough and personal statement about a mature cuisine by a chef in his ascendancy. A fertile imagination can take this book, study the music of Daniel Humm, Will Guidara, and Danny Meyer, and begin to improvise on their own. While we can't all be Miles Davis, its glorious to hear him describe what he's thinking while he plays.
on November 1, 2011
This is a cookbook that will be sought after by cooks for generations. As a chef, I have been early awaiting it and it did not disappoint. This book is on par with other recent cookbooks like the Big Fat Duck Cookbook, Quay, and of course the now-becoming-a-classic French Laundry Cookbook. In fact, I would describe this book as very similar to the Quay book. The photography is stunning, the plating is fantastic, and the recipes are well structured.
Like another reviewer suggested, this book is not one for amateur cooks, but either as a "coffee table book" or for more professional cooks. Many recipes are complex, though there are a number that are pretty straightforward (at least from the professional cook's perspective). Many recipes are very inspiring and innovative. This book uses a lot of modern techniques, as well as relying on some of the classic methods.
As might be expected from Danny Meyer, this book offers some restaurant philosophy and some behind-the-scenes sections. These are helpful in both understanding how Eleven Madison Park works, and as a sort of business lesson (as another reviewer pointed out). These are perhaps more the former, simply solving some curiosity but for professionals will give some inspired tips or ideas to try in their own restaurant.
For anyone who loves fine cuisine, this book is a bargain. It is straightforward (it offers tips on how to complete some recipes without certain equipment or ingredients, e.g. liquid nitrogen) and it is beautiful. Strongly recommended.
on July 31, 2014
I own hundreds of books, most from the worlds greatest restaurants. The French laundry, fat duck, el bulli, modernist cuisine, the square, le Bernadin, you name it. This is my all time favorite cookbook. It's beautiful, absolutely perfect t food. Beautiful presentations, chef Daniel is the best!!!
on November 13, 2015
EMP is my favorite restaurant and Daniel Humm one of my favorite chefs. If you're looking to actually cook dishes, this probably isn't the book for you. Unless, of course, you are willing to put in the time and effort to replicate the dishes as best you can. And of course, hunt down the occasional uncommon ingredient. The best part for me was getting a glimpse behind the scenes of what goes on at EMP and the story about how the restaurant became what it is today. There are intimate stories from Will Guidara highlighting the ups and downs of operating a restaurant. To the point where you can't help but cheer them on in the way you would an underdog story.
At the end of the day though, for most people, this would probably make a fantastic addition to your coffee table. The pictures are taken in such great detail and really pop against the snow white background. It really emphasizes the fact that food like this isn't just calories, proteins, vitamins, etc. It's art.