By Jenny Linford
If you're reading this, chances are you're an addict, like me. Nights spent trawling the internet, searching for the next fix. Days spent waiting for a new delivery. Hiding the cost of our compulsion from loved ones. And every day the collection grows and grows. So this isn't so much a review of The Chef's Library, a book about cookbooks, more a dire warning.
Respected food writer Jenny Linford wants to put temptation in your path. Why else would she ask over 70 chefs from around the world, including Thomas Keller, Massimo Bottura and Angela Hartnett, for their favourite cookery volumes? Why put together a handy reference of global, historical and specialist books on food?
However, if you do possess a modicum of self-control, this is the perfect book for anyone who wants to build a culinary reference library. Alongside modern must-haves like Too Many Chiefs Only One Indian by Sat Bains and Noma by Rene Redzepi, readers will also discover enduring works by Elizabeth David, Anna del Conte and Jane Grigson.
But even the most ardent gastronomic bibliophile is sure to discover gaps in their collection. Sean Brock of Husk in Charleston has unearthed The Unrivalled Cook-Book and Housekeepers Guide by Mrs Washington, a book of Southern American cooking from 1886, and Simon Rogan has chosen Herbs, Spices and Flavourings by Tom Stobart from 1970 that combines botany with cooking tips.
The Chef's Library has its shortcomings. Chefs' contributions are limited to a few short quotes and there are a number of duplications. Linford's selection of ‘Influential Cookbooks' not only replicates some of the chefs' own picks, but also includes some eyebrow-raising selections, such as Tom Kerridge's Best Ever Dishes and Social Suppers by Jason Atherton, both great books, but even the authors probably wouldn't claim that they are influential.
The Chef's Library will no doubt fuel a few after-service, sip-and-click online spending sessions, but it will at least be expanding your gastronomic horizons as it depletes your bank balance.
By Andy Lynes
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