The Best Cookbooks of 2014

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The cookbook Tsunami of 2014 yielded some waves I want to ride. This year’s offerings illustrate how the world of cooking, at home and in pro kitchens has expanded. We have a new culinary vocabulary from which to build dishes and many gifted authors are keen to share.

This weekend on the show I talk to Celia Sack, owner of Omnivore Books in San Francisco. Her favorite books this year include the glossy Heritage by Sean Brock (Husk, McCrady’s) and A New Napa Cuisine from Christopher Kostow, chef at The Restaurant at Meadowood, a three Michelin starred temple to California fine dining in St. Helena. Celia’s under the radar picks were Twelve Recipes by Cal Peternell of Chez Panisse and Seattle restaurateur Renee Erickson‘s A Boat, A Whale and A Walrus. For vegetarians she selected Sally Butcher’s Salmagundi, Pascal Biel’s Salade: Recipes from the Market Table and Karen Page’s The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. And finally, her picks for drinkers included Sherry by Talia Baiocchi and Shrubs by Michael Dietsch.

Below I’ve included my own eclectic list of year end favorites. Leave us a comment and tell us what cookbooks you’d like to give or receive this holiday season.

For the experienced home cook
Prune by Gabrielle Hamilton
From the award-winning author of the memoir Blood, Bones and Butter comes this inside baseball manual taken from the original staff notes the chef wrote for her cooks. If you are already comfortable in the kitchen and want a working chef’s voice in your head this is the book.  She’s a real mentor sharing not just the outline to create a dish, but the instructions to give that dish a soul. I’ve cooked a couple dishes that I would ordinarily never make with great pleasure .

Best general cookbook about a specific flavor
Bitter by Jennifer McLagen
A useful book with unexpected ideas from an author who specializes in subjects that are a bit unloved.

For Bakers
Huckleberry by Zoe Nathan and Laurel Almerinda
If you live in LA you’ve eaten there. What more is there to say? Zoe’s baking style is the embodiment of bold rustic American-European goodness. She’s the grandmother none of us actually had. The book is worth buying for the hilarious “I’m sorry” section in the back.

Beginning Bread Bakers
Josey Baker Bread by Josey Baker
Learn how to bake naturally risen bread from an irreverent, passionate young baker who convinced people to stand in line for excellent toast.

Channeling the cook as traveler
My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz
It’s David which means really good food and recipes that work all threaded through stories to keep you entertained.

Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi
Yotam gives us what we want from him. Plenty More market driven gorgeous plate filling ideas.

Sherry by Talia Baiocchi
The book that taught me the most this year about a subject of which I knew nothing. I now drink Sherry. Who knew?

Simple Fun
Will it Waffle? by Daniel Shumski
Pair this book with that waffle iron you never use and some lazy mornings or afternoons for some simple fun in the kitchen.

Intellectual Food Fun
The Language of Food by Dan Jurafsky
Dan spins stories of food history and geography through the lens of language. Fascinating and easy to read.

Explanation of how and why certain “high end” chefs are cooking and serving food the way they do.
Relae: A Book of Ideas by Christian Puglisi
My favorite of all the big chef books this year, from the chef of three restaurants in Copenhagen. Chef Puglisi presents a series of essays on technique, philosophy, recipes. Good Food Producer Gillian Ferguson and I have had many conversations about the ideas well expressed in this book.