The French Laundry Cookbook

by Thomas Keller, with Susan Heller, Michael Ruhlman, et. al.

This book is inspirational to me in ways I can’t even fully describe.  It is not just a cookbook, but the story of a restaurant.  The way Thomas Keller, recognized by many as currently the most influential chef in the United States (if not the western world) humbly describes the ideas behind his recipes, and the logic behind his techniques speaks to both the cook and architect in me in a very primal way.  His flavor combinations are familiar, but assembled in surprising ways that result in dishes that are both evocative and sublime – terms often used to describe works of fine art or design.

The recipes are very detailed – some taking up two full pages – and necessarily so.  This is not casual cooking.  Each step is precisely described as to the correct way to achieve flawless results.  Keller goes to great extent to explain some of the science behind why each technique is necessary and must be done in a certain manner – a detail I appreciate greatly.  The dishes always contain multiple components which require preparation of their own, and while there are beautiful photographs of the finished dishes, there are no step-by-step photographs or diagrams.  Still, Carol Blymire, a home cook in Maryland, was so inspired by the book that she has cooked every recipe, and has written a blog about it called French Laundry at Home.

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