Taste is a very strange beast. By nature it is highly personal yet many of its attributes are commonly shared. Finding a taste that truly hits an individual's and a group's tastebuds can be a challenge. Nonsense you may think but it is true.
In this deceptively-slim volume, Michelin-starred chef John Campbell is virtually standing behind you, whispering hints, tips and the benefit of his wisdom of how to cook restaurant-quality dishes at home.
To use a musical analogy, lots of people can play a given instrument relatively well. Yet not so many have that next degree of finesse that shows they have really mastered their art. Just like with cooking, bunging a few spices into the mix and trying to make the finished dish look pretty is not sufficient. Diners are being more and more demanding, whether at a top restaurant or at home. Taste is also formed not just with the tastebuds. Eyes, ears and nose can play their part too. And that is before the quality of the ingredients are considered.
This is quite a clever book, if not titled and cover-pictured slightly ambiguously so that you might have got the impression that it is another "Cook like Heston Blumenthal"-style book with his innovative, mad cap styling. It does not help that Heston wrote an introduction either... Once you get into the book its quality begins to shine. Focussing on a few good things well, rather than a lot of things in a mediocre fashion, the reader is presented with a number of recipes that they can follow at home. Rather than, though, the usual recipe book-style, you get a very clear, step-by-step hands-on guide to making the dish to restaurant standard. Explanatory text within helps show why a certain approach is taken too so once you get bored (?) with the range of selected recipes, the additional knowledge and confidence that you have gathered will help you shine with other dishes.
Making these dishes is just like standing in a hot, sweaty top restaurant kitchen, with the highly-strung top chef close at hand for advice, and yet so near to giving you a boll.... err, constructive, gentle criticism.. Make no mistake, this is a great chance no matter how arduous you might think it is.
The book focusses on typical meal scenarios - starters, mains and desserts as well as breaking out "foundation" basic items for closer scrutiny too. Ending with a very cursory look at the science and methodology behind a good recipe, a guide to composing your own recipes, a glossary and good index, you feel you've had a whistle-stop tour of the entire kitchen.
You won't be the next Heston Blumenthal or John Campbell by only reading this book, yet for its very low price you are getting a privileged front row chance to learn at the elbow of a master, pick up a few hints and tips along the way, refine a bit more your style and develop even further.
So YUM reviewer, is this a tasty little book that will have you wanting more? Yes Chef!