I bought American Flavor pretty much sight unseen. I'd read a couple of reviews online all lauding Andrew Carmellini's follow up to Urban Italian, which I own and like. With the online accolades rolling in, previous established cookbook history and of course Chef Carmellini's chef pedigree, this one seemed like a no brainer. Was it?
If you also have Urban Italian, then the format of American Flavor should be familiar. Chef Carmellini takes you on a journey through his culinary life as told through his stories and adventures. The modern cookbook is more than a collection of recipes. It's a chance for the chef to show the reader how these dishes came to be, what a chef thinks and what makes him tick. American Flavor does this. Chef Carmellini's stories are humourous, plentiful, and provide us with a window into his personality. You almost know him without having met him.
American Flavor is a journey through the United States, through different regions and dishes that immigrants to those regions have brought. What you end up with is Chef Carmellini's spin on a hodgepodge of ethnic cuisines: European, South American, Asian, etc. While I suppose the variety is admirable, it becomes hard to make this a "go to" source for anything unless the recipes are really top notch.
And that, in fact, is where I found the book disappointing. I did give a fair number of the recipes a try, 10 in all, across all chapters save for dessert. Rather than discuss each separately, it'd be easier just to say that they all shared one quality: they were "okay".
Don't get me wrong, they aren't terrible or inedible. They're certainly "serviceable" recipes. But there's nothing in the recipes I tried that had me smacking my lips and wanting more. Given Chef Carmellini's previous book and pedigree, this was what I expected as I know he's capable. I really liked Urban Italian, and I wanted to like American Flavor, too. Unfortunately, it just didn't work out that way, and that's too bad.