Le Livre Blanc
By Anne-Sophie Pic
Jacqui Small, £45
This is a beautiful book that oozes elegance and refinement and reveals the very heart of a truly gifted chef, Anne-Sophie Pic, the only female chef in France with three Michelin stars, at Maison Pic in Valence. It is exactly the kind of book that I love to buy.
I was left in no doubt I was observing not only the work of a quietly self-assured three-star chef at the top of their game but also the master of their craft. Anne-Sophie has been through a tough journey and through tenacity, hard work and dedication, has emerged strong and reinvented the Pic brand.
As is probably obvious from its title, the pure white laser cut sleeve slips off to reveal the pure white book inside. And before you even open it you can feel the quality in your hand. Each page is trimmed in silver and the ribbon page markers inside are made of a lovely grey silk.
The beginning of the book tells the story of Anne-Sophie's remarkable journey to the top and about her incredible family who are part of culinary history.
Unlike most cookbooks, the first half of the book contains images of food and nothing else; there is no wording to clutter the pages. The accompanying recipes are listed at the end of the book, in number order, for reference. Each dish is placed on a white background, which really makes the colours of the food stand out. It is, in fact, how you would see the dishes when served in the restaurant, against a white tablecloth. The resulting visual impact is simple and perfect.
Every single ingredient is showcased to its ultimate best and the precision in the presentation is brilliant. Paring your cooking back to this level and allowing the sheer beauty of the natural product to take centre stage shows complete and utter confidence as a chef.
The recipes are fantastic: I loved Anne-Sophie's choice. The first dish in the book is her Dad's classic sea bass with caviar, which was a lovely touch, I thought. So many of her own recipes are now modern-day Pic classics and will equally stand the test of time for many generations to come as those devised by her father.
Anne-Sophie is not afraid to use lots of different flavours and is clever in the way she balances and harmonises them in her inimitable, delicate style. She puts together flavours like crayfish, tonka bean and voatsiperifery pepper (rare, wild pepper from Madagascar) or beetroot with Blue Mountain coffee. Her palate is incredible and her cooking is intuitive.
It would take a very accomplished home cook or hardcore foodie to attempt these recipes and you'd have to go out of your way to find some of her ingredients. Ultimately this is a book for chefs or a serious collector of chefs' books.
By Clare Smyth, chef-patron Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London
If you like this, you might enjoy these:
• The Art of Cooking with Vegetables, Alain Passard
• Beyond Essence: New Recipes from Le Champignon Sauvage, David Everitt-Matthias
• Mugaritz: A Natural Science of Cooking, Andoni Luis Aduriz