Top positive review
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Interesting take on things
on 1 May 2012
Another day, another top chef or celebrity cookbook. OK, maybe that is a little bit unfair but that is the first impression one got after opening this rather arty, heavyweight cookbook, written by British Michelin-starred chef Bruce Poole.
They say first impressions can be misleading and that is the case with this book - it is just a shame that many casual browsers may pass it by because of the first impression. When one picks up the book it gives off impressions that might be off-putting. Is it the design? The artiness? The perceived complexity and audience-level? It is hard to say. Nonetheless if one perseveres one may be rewarded.
The author has clearly written this book with love, the same kind of love that burns when he is in the kitchen preparing his culinary creations. Starting with the life story of the author, one gets a rather good overview of what makes Bruce tick and this follows on with the development of his career up to, and including the creation of the restaurant Chez Bruce.
It is also interesting to read the author's own likes and dislikes when visiting a restaurant and one gets the feel in that he is more down-to-earth, pragmatic and holding less "arty farty" views than many of his contemporaries who tend to put style over substance and assume that their typical customer wants that, instead of perhaps, a damn good feed.
Food you want to eat in other words. And what other food should there be?
When it is time to look at the recipes, many books of this kind tend to shut the author up and then just present the recipes, encouraging a bit of a pick and read mentality. Not so this book as the author keeps giving his views, thoughts and opinions throughout both at the start of each chapter and within every dish. The reader is taken through an entire menu from soups, salads and charcuterie through to desserts and, of course, the key stocks, sauces and sides that can be part and parcel of a service.
Each recipe is clearly explained so that the reader may make their own version with confidence and work on it to "fine tune" as required. The author has also cautioned the reader not to be put off trying the recipes, accepting that there is often a degree of uncertainty or fear from trying to reproduce what a "great chef" has made. Yet the reader often forgets that the chef (and his staff) could have made the dish hundreds of times until a final version was ready and then refined that thousands upon thousands of times afterwards. Sometimes the most apparently simple things can be rather difficult and involved with only practice making perfect, or as near to dammit that it can be.
This is a book that one should really read in detail before even trying to go into the kitchen - if only to immerse oneself in the wide range of knowledge and advice being given. Once you get to the recipes then even looking at the introductions and guidance (ignoring the production instructions) would suffice as you will find that a lot of information complements each other and makes a lot of the "dots" join together.
So, apart from the overall style and first impression making the book less desirable at first glance, the only other things this reviewer would like to change is a fairly common complaint for those with older eyes... Make the actual printed text a bit darker and a bit larger. This can be a heavy book to hold closer to your eyes and if one is in the kitchen, all that bending over to read a slightly out-of-focus, too-light text is not so comfortable to do. Yet the recipes and the guidance given by the author are worth it. Maybe that is part of the "no gain without pain" mantra?