We give you four celebri-chef cookbooks that cover the basic food groups - comfort, health, ethnic, creative. Whether you're looking to wow some foodie guests this Thanksgiving or you've got a food-nerd on your holiday gift list. These are the fab-four cookbook solutions for ever dinner party and gift-exchange.
For Hipster Foodies: David Chang's "Momofuku," $40
David Chang is one "lucky peach," as the name of his now-famous and Michelin-starred restaurant chain suggests. At just 32 years old, Chang is the daaaarling of the food world. Critics trip over themselves to come up with adjectives for just how damn tasty Chang's porky noodles and other Asian-Southern creations are. But Chang's also got an air of mystery, he's a prickly sort a la Anthony Bourdain. Also, his recipes are labor-intensive. Something that's great for a restaurant - if you can't make it at home, you'll keep coming back - but not so great for a cookbook.
But you are not buying this cookbook for the recipes, per say, you're buying it to peek into the kitchen. What Chang represents in the cooking world, is a hipster, rules-breaking, tattooed-staff loving, pioneer of locally sourced, down-home, delicious ingredients at reasonable prices. And that last bit is not to be overlooked. That's the revolution he started and it's rippled across Manhattan and beyond. This is the cookbook you buy if you want to read the essay by Chang about how he came up with the idea, and if you want to understand how they make the broth and noodles - but everyone whose eaten at any of his four restaurants knows they'll never be able to recreate the experience at home. This is simply a souvenir saying you've been and you love, and you aspire.
For Health Nuts: Sarma Melngailis' "Living Raw Food," $35
If you're a "raw foodist" you know Sarma Melngailis. She and her New York restaurant, Pure Food and Wine, are on the forefront of the niche raw food movement. She also gained some notoriety when her restaurant was featured in an episode of "Sex and the City." Essentially a raw diet is a vegan diet made up of fresh, non-processed foods that aren't heated over 118 degrees to maintain the health benefits. This involves a lot of kitchen trickery, like making "cheese" from nuts, "milk" from hemp seeds and other crafty work-arounds. So eating raw requires a bit of a commitment - and some ingredients you may not have readily on hand like agave nectar, ramps and pecan oil. But if you're on a health kick, this book is nicely organized into easy recipes and ones off the menu of her restaurant (to work up to), plus nice info about the raw food lifestyle and health and general info about the various obscure ingredients - date sugar, anyone?
For the Everyman: Gordon Ramsay's "Cooking for Friends," $35
You likely know this hot-headed chef from his Fox show "Hell's Kitchen" or from his famous restaurants (mostly in London and New York, but some farther afield), for which he's earned 10 Michelin stars. Then you know he's not the warm, Jamie Oliver, guy-next-door but he ventures into that territory with this cookbook. Here he gives you down-home recipes that are meant for relaxing dinners with friends. Recipes he says he cooks with the help of his kids and wife. Food he cooks for himself and not his customers. The premise is great but the recipes a bit bland. Blame it on his English heritage but his farfalle with bacon, peas and sage, for example, or even the curried cauliflower and Cheddar soup, were lackluster.
For the Artiste: Duff Goldman's "Ace of Cakes: Inside the World of Charm City Cakes," $35
Graffiti artist Duff Goldman apprenticed with some of the best - the pastry chef at French Laundry, for example - before opening his now famous Charm City Cakes in Baltimore. This story-behind-the-legend book walks readers through Goldman's start and the crafty cast of his popular Food Network show, "Ace of Cakes." The unconventional group of bakers, many come from architecture and art backgrounds, pull off some amazing feats in the kitchen. So don't expect recipes, Goldman's creations are beyond the average baker, but if you're fanatic about the show or want some baking inspiration - we're talking cakes shaped like hot dogs, tubs of popcorn, footballs, guitars, houses, dogs, you name it.