If you are considering the purchase of this book it is usually because you are a cook yourself and you already own several cook books, and maybe more than that. I have perused hundreds of cook books, and own several dozen. Like yourself, I enjoy cooking, and I enjoy knowing how to cook. It helps to ground me as a human being. We probably separate our cook books into different classes. There are those books that are written by celebrity chefs, others by acknowledged culinary masters who are not as famous, but this one in my opinion is in a league all its own.
Very simply - this book is EXTRAORDINARY
Master chef Michael Chiarello has chosen to take us on a journey through the creation of Napa Valley's exquisite restaurant BOTTEGA. He has thought through the experience of the cook book as no other chef has taken the time to. What he has done is unique and very much worthy of both admiration and emulation. I sensed it the moment I read a small print dedication to his mother where he promises to work less, and that he misses her, and that she lives in the fabric of his spirit, and everything he touches. These are not just words from his mind, but an outpouring of affection from his heart and soul. It was apparent immediately that the rest of the book would follow suit, and so it does.
There are ten chapters to the book, and they include:
* Make your own
* Tantalizing Snacks
* Before the Meal
* Soups and Salads
* Pastas and Risottos
* Fish and Shell Fish
* Meats and Poultry
* Side dishes
A VISUAL Delight Awaits You
I don't know your needs in a cookbook, but for me, there must be pictures, fantastic pictures, and I would not think of owning a cookbook and using one, that did not show me beautiful pictures of the presentation that I am trying to create. There is simply no way to do this except through exquisite and magnificent pictures. This book is second to none when it comes to presentation of the finished product through a visual presentation. There are more than just pictures of foods in this wonderful book. There are also pictures of the experiences that the author is trying to create within his now world renowned Bottega restaurant. People at beautiful tables, and the staff interacting, how the mood is set and then evolved, Chiarello truly understands that dining out can be theatre, and elegant.
You Too Can Cook Like a MASTER
This point is made over and over again throughout the book. The author believes that you can learn to master these recipes. Does he believe that you will completely duplicate what his fellow master chefs have done for the last 20 years at Bottega - maybe not? At the same time, 90% isn't bad, and certainly you can learn to achieve that. He tells you how. He wants you to try a recipe 3 dozen times without deviating from the recipe itself. Just do what he does, no more and no less. Once you have it down pat, he wants you to duplicate the recipe without looking at the book. You should be able to do it from memory. Once that is achieved, start changing it if you wish, but first master the Bottega way of doing it.
He also tells us and I would never have realized it that most of us only know about a dozen recipes and we cook them over and over again about 75% of the time. He would feel honored if you would just adopt about five of the more than 100 recipes that are presented in this extraordinary book. Let's look at it this way, for about $25 you can own this book and make it your own. It's tough to get any kind of decent meal in a restaurant for that kind of money. Here are just a few of the recipes with the page numbers that I found spectacular when I sampled them in my kitchen. I am sure you will have your own selection but this will give you feel for what's in the book.
* Grilled Rib-Eye Tagliata (141)
* Grilled Swordfish (120)
* Over Roasted Cornish Hens (162)
* Angry Prawns with White Bean Passatina (136)
* Solo Shrimp Pasta (108)
* Grilled Fennel Spiced Lamb Chops (142)
* Braised Lamb Shanks (144)
As Chef Michael Chiarello likes to say, it's not about the fancy tools or the training. It's about PRACTICE, PASSION, and PATIENCE. You too can learn to cook, but to learn from a master, ah that's something, and that is what you will do with this book. I promise you that you will love every minute of it, and every page you read, for this book is a treasure to keep and to learn from in the years ahead, and I thank you for reading this review, and of course Bon Appetit.
Richard C. Stoyeck