Chefs have demanding schedules. They work basically all the time, longer hours than most of us thought humanly possible. Coming home after a day in their shoes, most of us would want to curl up on the couch and do nothing. Not these guys and gals, they are warriors. And some of those great, hard-working chefs have managed to not only live a "normal" life but have also found the time to put pen to paper and share their thoughts. A few of them, it turns out, are as good with their words as they are with their knives -- these chefs can write.
We've gathered together some of our favorite chefs who have surprised us with their prose. While this is a short list -- we're sure there are many more chefs we should be reading -- we wanted everyone to know that they shouldn't just eat at Daniel Patterson's acclaimed restaurant Coi, but they should devour everything he's written too.
Who have we missed? Let us know in the comments below.
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"Some say umami is the fifth flavor, in addition to salty, sweet, sour, and bitter. I say smoke is the sixth. From the sizzling Korean grills of my childhood to the barbecue culture that permeates the South, I have always lived in an environment where food was wrapped in a comforting blanket of smokiness." - Edward Lee, What I Cook Is Who I Am, "Cornbread Nation 7"
Chef of the Louisville favorite, 610 Magnolia, Lee is also a prolific writer. His essay in Cornbread Nation 7 should not be missed and neither should his cookbook, Smoke and Pickles.
"Even when gulping the comparatively fresh New York City air once back on the sidewalk, thinking I might have been poisoned in some way, I knew the space was exactly 'me.' There were ten sturdy burners. Just two ovens. And fewer than thirty seats. I could cook by hand, from stove to table, never let a propane brûlée torch near a piece of food, and if it came down to it, I could just reach over the pass and deliver the food myself. I knew exactly what and how to cook in that kind of space, I knew exactly what kind of fork we should have, I knew right away how the menu should read and how it would look handwritten, and I knew immediately, even, what to call it." -Gabrielle Hamilton, "Blood, Bones & Butter"
Hamilton might be a star chef in NYC, but before she opened her always-packed restaurant Prune she got her MFA in creative writing. Her writing skills are clear to see in her memoir "Blood, Bones & Butter."
"For a twenty-three-year-old straight out of Louisiana, the scene was intimidating, but looking into the dining room at all the strange and different people, and the frenetic, exciting scene, I had a revelation: I loved cooking and I wanted to do it forever." -Donald Lee, Real Cajun, "Cornbread Nation 6"
Owner of Herbsaint and Cochon in New Orleans, Chef Donald Link has somehow found the time to write not one, but two cookbooks along with essays in various other food publications.
"Whenever I brought home American artifacts to share with my mom, she’d shut me down. My parents were not the type to humor their kids; they always kept it too real. It literally took three Thanksgivings as Warren’s neighbor for my mom to finally try the green bean casserole I brought home every year.
She was sitting at the kitchen table just drinking tea so I put the plate down and she picked around the green beans with her chopsticks. With a few swift moves, she transferred the green beans to her bowl and lifted them to her mouth, then stopped. She turned them around in her chopsticks, took a whiff, glanced one more time as if to find flaws, and then bit carefully. I saw her eyes widen like Scratchy getting shocked by Itchy. It was a cartoon within a cartoon, Thanksgiving within Thanksgiving moment as my mom experienced New Orleans in a ceramic bowl with edges adorned by Chinese key." - Eddie Huang, "Fresh Off The Boat"
Not only is Eddie Huang known for his bun shop, BaoHaus, in NYC, but he's also a food personality -- and more importantly, a food writer. He wrote his memoir, Fresh Off the Boat, last year.
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"I loaded my sandwich with grainy mustard and pickled cabbage to cut through the mouthful of animal fat, the toasted bread and caraway drifting on top like a perfume. I still crave that intensity, the balance built on concentration, fat and whiplash acidity, delivered like a gut punch." -Daniel Patterson, We Waited As Long As We Could, "Cornbread Nation 7"
Patterson is the owner of renowned SF restaurant, Coi, and he's also an occasional contributor to New York Times Magazine, Food & Wine Magazine and San Francisco Magazine. Read his words.
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"Feeling the heat or cold conduction to the tip of her tongue is a visceral connection to her personal history. Every time she raises it to her lips to taste for seasoning, she blows a cooling kiss across the spoon and across time." - Martha Foose, Family Pieces, "Cornbread Nation 6"
Owner of the Mockingbird Bakery in Greenwood, cooking teacher AND a writer. What can't she do?
"However, what makes lemon and garlic such a great metaphor for our cooking is the boldness, the zest, the strong, sometimes controversial flavors of our childhood. The flavors and colors that shout at you, that grip you, that make everything else taste bland, pale, ordinary and insipid." - Yotam Ottolenghi, "Ottolenghi"
You might already own one of Ottolenghi's cookbooks -- and if you don't go out and get one now -- but on top of putting together a cookbooks and running his London-based restaurants, he also writes a column for The Guardian -- and we have to say, his way with words has always been delightful.
"I was looking toward a new cuisine, one that goes beyond raising awareness about the provenance of ingredients and -- like all great cuisines -- begins to reflect what the landscape can provide." - Dan Barber, "The Third Plate"
Not only is he responsible for the amazing food at Blue Hill, he's also a huge proponent of the farm to table movement -- and he writes about it quite eloquently.