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Tastiest Reading 

Richmond chefs share favorite cookbooks.

Critics' Pick

click to enlarge Chris Mattera

Ash Daniel

Chris Mattera

Chris Mattera
Sausage-Maker at Sausagecraft

"Pork and Sons" by Stephane Reynaud. A great cook book that discusses each part of my favorite food animal, and is illustrated with beautiful pictures and great pen-and-ink sketches. This one is on or near my desk much of the time.

"River Cottage Meat Book" by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I love his essay on meat and morality, and the recipes are great. Especially the raised meat pie. Delicious, hearty and deeply satisfying to make. 

"Smitten Kitchen Cookbook" by Deb Perelman. This one was a surprise to me. My wife, Liz, has read Deb Perelman's food blog of the same name for a while and got the cookbook as a gift last year. I am usually not huge fan of food blogs, but these recipes are rock-solid, unpretentious, easy and very delicious. I estimate this book is the source of 40 percent of our weeknight meals. 

Dylan Fultineer
Chef at Rappahannock

"Zuni Café" by Judy Rogers is a legendary book that I have used as a bible for many years. It is one of those books that teaches techniques as much as it has amazing recipes. All cooks, home or professional, should own this book.

"The Cooking of Southwest France" by Paula Wolfert has been one of my go-to books for ideas for many years. I know this book front-to-back but still pick it up and find new ideas. It represents a lot of what I like and the style of food I love. All of her books are that way — I own most of them.

 "Cooking" by Handby Paul Bertolli. Again, a book that is extremely educational and teaches techniques, everything from handmade pastas to charcuterie.

Other notables that I have gone to over the years are all of Alice Waters' books, all of David Tanis' books and the "Moro" cookbook. And of course, my wife would want me to say that Thomas Keller's "Ad Hoc at Home" is the greatest book ever for home cooks who know something about cooking, and I agree.

Craig Smith
Chef at Estilo

"The French Laundry" by Thomas Keller. I've read it cover to cover probably six or seven times and I find something new every time. I'll admit right now that I've never attempted to duplicate a recipe in this book, and I likely never will. I think it's because in my mind Keller represents the absolute pinnacle of our profession. His whimsical, seriously unpretentious approach to food, his reverence to the mundane aspects of our art and his respect for those involved in the process from farmer to diner make him unparalleled in our industry. In that sense he becomes sort of godlike so I don't mess with it. I just sort of revel in its culinary awesomeness.

"The Food Bible," Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. So I only discovered this recently but I can't get enough of it. This book literally writes recipes for you. It's page after page of just about every ingredient you can think of and its relationship with other ingredients. An absolutely brilliant compilation; every chef should have one of these in their kitchen.

"Jamie's Italy by Jamie Oliver." I'll take a slagging for this if I must, but I love this book for a multitude of reasons. I moved back to my home country of Scotland in a bit of an effort to sort of rediscover myself and I spent nine months of that time working as a cook at Jamie's Italian in Glasgow's city center. This is not a Michelin-starred restaurant, but it had the absolute highest standards of quality of any place I've ever worked. After being out of the kitchen for a bit, this is the restaurant that really planted my feet. I knew I wanted to cook at a high level for the rest of my life after this experience. So this book serves as a reminder of why I do what I do every day. Bonus is that I've cooked almost all of them and they are all simple but amazing.

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