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Relæ: A Book of Ideas Hardcover – November 11, 2014
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“On a tiny street in Copenhagen, Relæ is casually overturning every convention of fine dining. With its naked oak tables, bistro-style service, and humble index of ingredients (you’re more likely to eat cod skin than caviar), nothing about the setting speaks of exclusivity. And yet the restaurant is unmistakably among the finest in the world. Christian Puglisi is meticulous in his technique, rigorous in his thinking, and—even more impressive—humble in his delivery. The result is exactly what you see here: food that is artful, challenging, understated. This cookbook, like its namesake, is a delicious revolution.”
–Dan Barber, chef of Blue Hill and author of The Third Plate
“With this book, Christian Puglisi demonstrates why he’s one of the most influential contemporary chefs in the world. Since Relæ’s inception, we’ve seen his ideas and aesthetics emulated in kitchens from New York to the very north of Sweden. Now we have the definitive document of his accomplishments, a book that shares his modern, daring, and singular concepts. An instant classic—and, dare I say, a masterpiece.”
—René Redzepi, chef of Noma and author of René Redzepi: A Work in Progress
Copenhagen chef Christian Puglisi turns the cookbook form inside out with his first cookbook. Named after his restaurant, Relae is more a series of philosophical essays than a standard cookbook (although it does have recipes). If you've got a restaurant aficionado on your list, this is the glossy chef book they'll want this year.
About the Author
CHRISTIAN F. PUGLISI is the chef and owner of Relæ, which holds a Michelin star and was ranked one of the top 100 restaurants in the world by Restaurant magazine. Relæ and its sister restaurant, Manfreds, are both located in Copenhagen, Denmark. Puglisi has worked in the kitchens at elBulli, Noma, Røgeriet, and more, and is a contributor to the Danish newspaper Politiken. The Wall Street Journal selected him as one of the top ten chefs in the world under thirty.
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Top Customer Reviews
It starts with some general essays about his philosophy and restaurant history, then there are 175 pages of essays on everything from how he uses different textures, to meats, water (benefit of filtered water vs. tap for example), influences, land, ways he manipulates things, and it goes on and on. Every topic gets a page write up. Then he puts the recipes and page numbers at the bottom that deal with the topic (idea) he is referring to.
Then he gets to the dishes. He write a page or so on every dish, explaining its process, influence, and whatever else is applicable. I think an experienced cook could cook from the essays he writes on each dish (kinda like the l'Astrance cookbook). There are about 70 dishes.
After all of this, he then gives you detailed recipes for every dish he just wrote about. All 70 or so with weight measurements and very specific details. Every recipe also comes with a thumbnail of the dish so you can also remember what it looks like without needing to flip back and forth.
This book is probably set up better than almost any other book I have. So much information, laid out so clearly (the ideas section even has those half moons cut outs on the sides of the pages to help you flip to a section, like a big dictionary would have to help you find the letter you are looking for). This book is over 400 pages and every page is packed. Very little extra photographs of stuff for the sake of looking artsy.
Ability to cook from it? Sourcing some ingredients may be a challenge, but I'm willing to give that a pass as the amount of inspiration and knowledge in the book is enough to directly affect my cooking of any dish almost immediately (once I take the time to really sit down and read it/take notes). The Thermomix is used a lot, but every time I've seen it used so far it is just used as a blender (purees, etc., no heating element, but I'm sure that occurs in places).
I don't see any reason not to buy this. I never bought the NOMA cookbook as I don't see how much it would give back to me aside from plating inspirations (which I can Google image if I need to), but this book, while also from Copenhagen and dealing with some more local (but not nearly as locally centered as NOMA) ingredients, gives so much back to the reader that it truly isn't something I would be comfortable listing as a negative.
A lot of the discussions of subjects such as proportion, acidity, Thai food, etc., are two pages in length and every essay is followed with a list of recipes and page numbers to make his point.The last 70 pages are recipes; the first 368 pages are discussions of the concepts that go into the recipes, the restaurant, and a world of knowledge about ingredients and combinations and Christian Puglisi's point of view.
This is not for someone who wants to cook like the local diner or chain restaurant. This as far from Betty Crocker as it gets. A simply fantastic book with a beautiful cover and pictures within.
If you're looking for a book with simple recipes, this isn't the book for you. Heck, even if you are looking for recipes, this book might not be for you. But when you approach this book as a chef's toolkit rather than a cookbook in the traditional sense, you'll find so much value from every page. I use this book for inspiration: how can we manipulate the simplest ingredients to form something amazing? I typically will find an ingredient in my pantry, search the appendix of this book for examples of its use and/or Puglisi's thoughts on the ingredient, and get experimenting.
This book explains the 'why' as much as the 'what', so it equips you to be creative even after you've put the book down. If that sounds like what you're looking for, then don't hesitate. Plus, it's a beautiful coffee table book.