In this case, yes looks are everything.


I would be quite remiss if I failed to write about food books that DO include visuals, whether it be sumptuous food photography by the likes of John Sherlock & Quentin Bacon or excellent how-to, step-by-step demos that seem simple but go so much further when art directed well. Here are some of my recent faves:

vijscioppinosmedgrillBest food/cookbook design & typography:
Hands down, anything from the D&M Publishers creative team of art director Peter Cocking, and designers Jessica Sullivan & Naomi MacDougall: Vij’s, Feenie’s, Fresh, The Cannery, Vancouver Cooks & Cioppino’s (2008 Alcuin Book Award winner). They take book design & art direction to a whole different level of art while celebrating local cooking talent. Tasty typesetting and classical page design with exquisite photography. They make it look easy but it’s definitely not. Looking forward to the upcoming Blue Water Café Seafood Cookbook.

morimotoartofjpncookingnobu-nowBest Japanese food photography:
Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking by Masaharu Morimoto
Nobu Now by Nobuyuki Matsuhisa

Both of these guys don’t know the meaning of holding back or lazy plating. Each culinary creation is showcased with up front and personal photography, that you just wanna look at it for a couple of minutes in silence. And then feel sad that you can’t taste it right after. Morimoto’s book also excels in some of the great step-by-step technique photography I’ve seen and even devotes a spread to soy sauce.

mscookingschoolcookwithjamiewstoolstechniquesappetiteBest How To/Food Education:
Martha Stewart’s Cooking School by Martha Stewart & Sarah Carey
Cook with Jamie: My Guide to Making you a Better Cook by Jamie Oliver
Tools & Techniques by Thomas Keller, Williams-Sonoma, Chuck Williams, and Jennifer Newens
Appetite by Nigel Slater (still available in paperback at

Always more to learn about technique, the how and whys, and food education in general by those devoted to sharing their brainpower. All 4 of these books are big heavy reads worth taking the time for (I’ve only finished reading one of them).

thomas-kellerramsay3starchefunder-pressurepied-de-cochonBest books to simultaneously inspire & intimidate:
The French Laundry Cookbook, Bouchon, or Under Pressure by Thomas Keller
– Gordon Ramsay’s Three-Star Chef
Au Pied de Cochon by Martin Picard

You know who these guys are. They’ve all been featured on Food Network at some point or another, my favorite being Martin Picard whose restaurant is featured in the Quebec episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations (you absolutely MUST watch this!). I love how he sent more than 10 different foie gras dishes to Bourdain, giving the directive to staff: “Kill him.” Nice.

mangoscurryleavesbeyondthegreatwallBest books about food & travel:
Their series of large coffee table books from Toronto writers, Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Duguid, authors of Hot Sour Salty Sweet, Mangoes & Curry Leaves and their latest, Beyond the Great Wall. They’ve spent a huge chunk of their lives traveling throughout India, Bangladesh and mainland China exploring villages rarely seen or visited by westerners in the pursuit of authentic flavors and cooking. The travel and food photography in their books are highly sensual and absolutely breathtaking.

I’m sure you have your own favorites that aren’t on this list. Share your own faves and why you love ’em. Sigh. So many great books. So little time. Man, I’m so hungry, I could eat a book.


5 Responses to “In this case, yes looks are everything.”

  1. Posted on February 7th, 2009

    I think Donna Hay owes all her sales and success to her photographer and food stylist.

    Sure her recipes are great fusion fare, but it’s the photography that launched her books and magazines on to my shelves.

  2. Posted on February 7th, 2009

    Wicked post Nancy. Thanks for sharing your favourites with us!

    I own most of those books too and would add Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook to your list. It’s not only a terrific reference book for French cuisine for your kitchen, but equally a good read worthy of your coffee table.

    I always eat French cookbooks with white truffle oil and Asian books with toasted sesame oil. Mmmm…

  3. Posted on February 7th, 2009

    Donna Hay’s books are definitely beautiful. Her first main photographer was Petrina Tinslay, but others have followed her lead since. As for food styling, Donna Hay does it herself (she IS a food stylist…plus chef, author and magazine editor). Why stop at one when you can do it all?!

  4. Posted on February 9th, 2009

    This a great group of books Nancy. If you are feeling up for dessert, after you ‘eat’ one of these books I suggest:

    A Passion For Desserts by Emily Luchetti
    This modern gem contains an amazing recipe for,”Fig Galettes with a Cinnamon Marsala Sabayon”.

    Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme
    Master Pastry Chef, Pierre Herme has been dubbed by Vogue as,”the Picasso of Pastry”. This book is a must have for any chocolate lover.

    Desserts, A Lifelong Passion by Michel Roux
    Chef Roux has spent years perfecting classic french pastries, with recipes that are easy to follow.

  5. Posted on September 13th, 2009

    Have to have The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

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