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eG Books-in-Depth: "Spoon"

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#1 Anna N

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Posted 10 June 2004 - 06:44 PM

Today we're initiating a series called eG Books-in-Depth, and Steven Shaw (aka “Fat Guy”) is taking the first crack at it.

We developed the eG Books-in-Depth concept in order to bring the eGullet mechanism to bear on the problem of cookbook reviews. A single author, testing a few recipes, and writing in a few hundred words, can only tell us so much. Here, we hope to introduce books and live with them for awhile, together. I will be acting as the editor of the series, and will be pairing in-depth-reviewers with books of greater-than-average depth and breadth (let me know if you wish to volunteer).

The idea is to have the in-depth-reviewer start with an overview of the book, and then over a period of weeks, months, and maybe even years report back to us on thoughts, developments, tested recipes, and conclusions. We encourage others to chime in with questions, with their own observations and tests to the extent they may have purchased the book, and more, although we may moderate these threads a little more tightly than usual in order to keep them closely on-topic. I hope you'll enjoy this new feature.

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#2 Fat Guy

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Posted 10 June 2004 - 06:45 PM

Thanks for launching this feature, Anna, which I think is so right for eGullet. We've already, of course, had some of the definitive food-book discussions, especially with regard to Adria's book, about which it seems nobody (well, nobody we like!) writes an article without reference to the related discussion on eGullet.

I want to touch on a book that I think is in a similar vein – a book that stands out and is more than a cookbook. I see a lot of books. If the United Parcel Service maintains an enemies list – and I'm certain it does, because every UPS man somehow knows to hate me – I'm definitely on it. Several times a week, I receive cartons of books from the big publishing houses. Many of them send me review copies in triplicate, addressed to me at Fat-Guy.com, eGullet.com, and Elle magazine. Sometimes Elle sends books over that were delivered to me at the magazine's offices (in which I have never set foot). And ever since Carolyn Tillie attended some big food conference in California and offered eGullet as her media credentials, I've been getting packages meant for her.

I handle the logistics as follows:

Most of the books are awful, so I put them in a pile near the door. When people come over to my house, I offer them a book from the pile.

Some of the books are pretty good, so I designate those for specific people and deliver them in due course. I'm holding The Lavender Cookbook for a pastry chef friend right now, and my extra copy of Peterson is going to some friends in Connecticut.

Of the better books, I set aside a dozen or so every couple of months and ship them off (again, no doubt infuriating the employees of UPS) to Margaret McArthur and she uses them as prizes for the eGullet writing competitions.

And once in awhile, I keep a book.

Alain Ducasse is definitely not on the UPS enemies list. He doesn't use UPS. When he sends you a book, at least if you live in one of the cities where he has a restaurant, a guy in a suit shows up with it. It's delivered in a Ducasse-imprinted shopping bag.

Although, I'm not sure he could use UPS anyway. His new Spoon Cook Book is so bizarrely huge – it is the single most imposing cookbook I've seen in my life, a foot wide, about 15 inches long and a couple of inches thick, printed on 460 pages of paper that could survive a Vermont winter – I'm not sure it would fit within the UPS guidelines.

Nor does Ducasse utilize a normal publisher. The only publisher indicated is a mysterious “Editions D'Alain Ducasse.”

Ducasse also seems utterly unconcerned with selling the book. I have no idea what you'd even need to do if you wanted to buy it. I've never seen it in a bookstore, though it has been out since March. It's not on Amazon.com or bn.com or, as far as I can tell, on Jessica's Biscuit's eCookBooks.com site or even Alain Ducasse's site. I didn't notice it in Kitchen Arts & Letters last time I was in there – and I would have noticed it – though I'm sure they could get you a copy. Or perhaps Amazon.fr would ship it to you.

That is, if there are any copies to get. The book was printed in a limited edition of 5,000. My copy is number 4,652.*

Not that it's priced to move, at 150 Euros (around US $180).

I've not seen the book reviewed. Nor have I noticed a single mention on eGullet.

So what exactly is this thing?

Surely, Ducasse is in part responding to Ferran Adria's El Bulli 1998-2002, with which it shares many characteristics both aesthetically (imposing physical presence; photography with a fine-art feel to it) and substantively (the drive to catalog and document a cuisine). In pure Celebrity Death Match terms, the Spoon book has a more imposing footprint, breaks the 10-pound barrier (the El Bulli book is just shy), and exhibits equal if not better production values. And pricewise, only by this peculiar comparative standard, the Spoon book is cheap.

There are now, as far as I know, seven Spoon restaurants in the Ducasse empire, in both expected (Paris, London) and unexpected (Carthage, Mauritius) locations. Having never been to a Spoon – and I can't say it had ever been much of a priority – I don't know first hand what kind of cuisine is really served at the restaurants. But if this book represents that cuisine, a trip to Spoon suddenly feels necessary.

The basic concept at Spoon at first seems incompatible with the form of a cookbook. A cookbook is, after all, a collection of recipes for finished plates. At a Spoon restaurant, the customer to a great extent assembles the plate. The menu is based on a concept that Ducasse calls “1, 2, 3,” wherein you pick a main ingredient, a sauce/condiment, and a garnish. The cooks then assemble that for you into a plated dish. The level of focus of the recipes in the Spoon book, then, tends to be on the components. There is a whole section, for example, on condiments – 75 of them in all, I believe, including several of Ducasse's signature “marmalades”, which are multiple-textured essences of a product that are in my opinion one of the strongest suits of the cuisine at his higher-end restaurants. The book has also taken the liberty of pairing dishes in more elaborate combinations than the pure Spoon restaurant concept would seem to allow. My understanding is that this has also in part occurred at the restaurants, but I will need some first-person experience before I can go further on that point. Perhaps as this thread develops, I'll make it to a Spoon restaurant and have more to say from that perspective.

It will take me months, perhaps years, to process this book. My initial impressions are that it represents a cuisine hovering somewhere between the anything-goes of culinary post-modernism and the agriculturally-based traditional cuisine of the late 20th-Century French culinary masters. There is also an aspect of “fusion” to many of the presentations. This seems to track the aesthetic, as I understand it, of the restaurants: an emphasis on modernity (from Spoon's press materials: “Induction, steam, vacuum-pack, spit-roasting, wok, plancha, grill, in cocotte … Not only the most modern but also the most traditional methods of preparation, cooking and storage are to be found in SPOON's open-plan kitchen designed by Soremath. In addition to the optimum working conditions, they enable one to respect the fare thanks to short cooking times and preparations made 'at the moment'”) and internationalism (“SPOON proposes a bilingual (English/French) menu sprinkled with American, Asian or Latin influences; vegetarians will be delighted with some of the dishes. Moreover, some recipes from the United Kingdom have pride of place. New tastes are born out of encounters between techniques and ingredients from distant lands. Each person can create hitherto unknown combinations thanks to the choice of condiments and garnishes. At the end of the feast, classic American desserts have inspired Frédéric Robert to conjure up some original creations.”).

As Ducasse puts it in his introduction (and I have it on good authority that he actually writes), referring to the Spoon concept:

Our sincere desire was to address the new generation’s expectations. In fact, the recipe for our culinary ambitions was simple: freedom, modernity and openness to the world… while maintaining respect for each product and cultural identities. Now, as I look at this book, I realize that we were so caught up in the heat of the moment that we didn’t see our child grow up. Today, I rediscover the mature child – and I must say that I’m proud. What this book reveals is clear: the cuisine that we have created is neither artificial nor merely a “concept”, as some publicists would say. It is a living cuisine with its own identity and personality that is not linked to any specific region or geography. But neither is it the sum or combination of several regions. Like a child, this cuisine does not belong to its parents or anyone else… perhaps it belongs only to those who prepare or eat it.


Ducasse's comments are more comprehensible when read in light of his position at the top of an academic pyramid of chefs in what is essentially a Ducasse school. Spoon is like one of the academic departments within that school, which also has departments devoted to the kind of haute cuisine served at Ducasse's luxury restaurants, the more traditional bistro cuisines of some of his other ventures, and national cuisines like Italian in which Ducasse dabbles. Indeed there are textbooks for each department, so many of them I can't keep track. I believe this is the second cookbook from the Spoon department, or perhaps the third. On the Alain-Ducasse.com site, there is a list of what Ducasse has turned out thus far:

La riviera d'Alain Ducasse

Méditerranées, Cuisine de l'essentiel

Les recettes de la Riviera

L'atelier d'Alain Ducasse

Flavors of France

Alain Ducasse: Tradition - Evolution

La bonne cuisine de Françoise Bernard et Alain Ducasse

Rencontres Savoureuses

La Provence de Ducasse

Harvesting Excellence

Spoon Food and Wine

Le Grand Livre de Cuisine

Le Grand Livre de Cuisine, Desserts et Pâtisserie


The Spoon Cook Book isn't even on that list – Spoon Food and Wine is a different book altogether, from 2003 – and I could swear I've seen a book called just Spoon that's a year or two older. So, who knows how long the real list is? I'd be impressed with anyone who could even read all these books, no less write them. Or, as is more likely the case with Ducasse, write some parts but mostly supervise their creation. Nonetheless, when thinking about the comparison to Adria and his big El Bulli book – which is clearly the more groundbreaking volume – the sheer volume and breadth of Ducasse's oeuvre are noteworthy.

The book is a collaborative effort of Ducasse and several of his Spoon chefs-de-cuisine, key players in the Ducasse organization, and specialists brought in to do the design work: Christophe Moret, who worked at Louis XV in Monaco, was the opening chef of the first Spoon in Paris, and is now the new chef at Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athenee; Massimo Luvara, also a Louis XV alumnus and the Chef at Spoon Mauritius; David Bellin, who has worked at Louix XV and Plaza Athenee, and is the chef at Spoon Tokyo; Frederic Robert, Ducasse's worldwide head of pastry, whom he met through Alain Chapel; Christian Laval, the dining room manager at Spoon Paris (and formerly of Louis XV and Plaza Athenee); Frédéric Vardon, another Chapel connection, who supervises all the Spoons; Thomas Duval, the fashion photographer; and Philippe David, the book's art director. There is also a preface by Anthony Rowley and an introduction by Patrick Jouin.

At first glance, the recipes strike me as technically precise. And they appear to be workable, assuming you have access to a tremendously diverse palette of ingredients and kitchen tools. Weight measures are used. Every recipe is in both French and English, with both metric and imperial measures.

But I don't think, any more than the El Bulli book, that this is a book meant to be cooked from. It is really a book of ideas and, moreover, a sort of culinary art book. I think it may most of all be intended to demonstrate to other chefs what Ducasse's team is doing within a particular contemporary genre. I can certainly see looking to this book, over and over, for high-level inspiration regarding ingredients, combinations, and techniques of preparation and presentation.

The photographs are brilliant, with the core theme being translucence. In the white-background photos, there are many thin slices of food that are almost fully translucent, and the thicker pieces develop illuminated edges. Whatever the technical means used to achieve this, it is a tremendously effective method of getting us to consider the inner nature of each product. Although it is not one of the better photos in the book, and this is not the best rendering of it, the cover shot illustrates the basic visual approach:

Posted Image

Other photos are taken with a black background, which gives incredible dimensionality. The compositions are sometimes representative of a finished plate, sometimes focused on ingredients, and sometimes seemingly abstract.

The two most interesting sections of the book to me right now are the pastry section and the section on condiments. But I'm not going to talk in detail about the recipes and what they represent yet. I'll need much more time to develop opinions – I will post several follow-up reports. If any of the other 5,000 owners of this book happen to be on eGullet, I hope we will hear additional perspectives.

Suffice it to say, for now, I will be keeping this book. I just have to find a place to put it.

~~~

* On account of the especially rare nature of this book, if you are in the New York area and are willing to put in some hard time in the kitchen with the Spoon Cook Book for the purposes of contributing opinions to this discussion, and if you promise to be extremely careful with it, I will lend it to you. Contact me via Personal Messenger or e-mail if you would like to arrange that. Thanks.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#3 Louisa Chu

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Posted 11 June 2004 - 03:27 PM

Surely this Spoon book is NOT in response to the El Bulli books. It's been in the works for years. If there has to be an Ali-Frazier - and I'm NOT saying there should be - it might be better to match Les Grandes Livres against the El Bulli volumes.

And Les Editions d'Alain Ducasse is M. Ducasse's own publishing house in Paris.

And this book was mentioned on the France board.

The Spoon website's missing Tokyo - so there are at least eight worldwide. BUT they're all VERY different - in terms of setting, service, and cuisine - each reflects - and sometimes deflects - local cuisine. Paris is more Asian than Tokyo - and Hong Kong is more French than Gstaad - etc.

And M. Bellin left Spoon Tokyo to take over at Spoon Paris when M. Moret took over at the Plaza when my chef, Jean-François Piège, took over at the Crillon. Got it?? :biggrin: I don't know who's the new chef in Tokyo.

I'll be very interested to see how home cooks do with this book. While Les Grandes Livres and Los Libros get me hyperventilating with mise en place panic, I think these recipes might actually be accessible.

#4 Carolyn Tillie

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Posted 11 June 2004 - 03:48 PM

And ever since Carolyn Tillie attended some big food conference in California and offered eGullet as her media credentials, I've been getting packages meant for her.

First off, I think this is a fabulous idea and I hope it eventually warrants its own header and section. I hope you will consider doing this with a book that more of us might be able to acquire.

Secondly, are you getting anything really juicy addressed to me that you wanna share???? You could always send some of those duplicate books in my direction!!! I could especially use an El Bulli... :raz:

#5 Fat Guy

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Posted 11 June 2004 - 06:54 PM

Nobody is saying Ducasse's team whipped up the book in the short time since Adria published his. But Adria's impending book was no secret, and I can't help but wonder if the technical details of the book's enormity were influenced by the Adria book's production -- for that, there would have been plenty of time. The Grand Livres, for their part, are minuscule by comparison. They are not reminiscent of the Adria book. This one is.

I couldn't find any mentions of the book on the France board -- I only found a reference to the older Spoon book on the Cooking board -- but I'd like to read whatever was said about it. Perhaps somebody could provide a link.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#6 Anna N

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Posted 11 June 2004 - 08:05 PM

...First off, I think this is a fabulous idea and I hope it eventually warrants its own header and section.  I hope you will consider doing this with a book that more of us might be able to acquire....

Yes, Carolyn, we will be treating other books in a similar fashion and many of them will be very accessible to all. But you know Fat Guy - he always has to be FIRST! :raz:
Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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My 2004 eG Blog

#7 Jinmyo

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Posted 12 June 2004 - 04:21 AM

We encourage others to chime in with questions, with their own observations and tests to the extent they may have purchased the book, and more, although we may moderate these threads a little more tightly than usual in order to keep them closely on-topic. I hope you'll enjoy this new feature.

Uh...

Um...

Hm...

So, Steve, uh...

How about scanning in a few pages so we can at least talk about those?
"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

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Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

#8 Fat Guy

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Posted 12 June 2004 - 05:48 AM

I'm working on permission. Most cookbook publishers are willing to hand over three recipes or some other reasonably representative sample of the work. The request has to go through the Ducasse Groupe in France, though, so it could be awhile before I get a response.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#9 twodogs

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Posted 12 June 2004 - 04:06 PM

recieved my copy #4669 out of 5000, signed from kaal. also now have a hernia.
looking forward to an in depth look at the book.
will take time.

cheers
h. alexander talbot
chef and author
Levittown, PA
ideasinfood

#10 tan319

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Posted 13 June 2004 - 10:49 AM

If anyone could supply any info as to where I could purchase this, I would be most appreciative.
My curiousity is piqued.
Also figured out that I'm not poor enough yet... :laugh:
2317/5000

#11 Fat Guy

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Posted 13 June 2004 - 02:14 PM

Tan, I would try one of three things: 1) call Alain Ducasse at the Essex House and see if they can sell you a copy 212-265-7300; or 2) see if you can get it from Amazon.fr (it's on the site; I don't know how the mechanics of ordering and shipping would work); or 3) ask if Kitchen Arts & Letters can get it for you -- though I'd warn you that KA&L is likely to include a hefty markup.

Here's the link on Amazon.fr:

http://www.amazon.fr...ASIN/2848440031

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#12 artisanbaker

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Posted 13 June 2004 - 02:38 PM

i'm on the gourmand books mailing list and recieved an email some weeks back about this. they may still have it.

i must say that all of the editions ad books are remarkably inspiring.

#13 tan319

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Posted 13 June 2004 - 07:57 PM

Oh, well...
I tried to cheat.
I went to amazon.com/canada, to see if I could order it there, letting my US bucks buy big in one of the last remaining places possible to do that.
They have the 1st two Spoon books there, not the behemoth FG is writing about.
Pity!
I'l call ADNY tomorrow, thanks for the number, Steve.
PS
Those pastry recipes better be good... :angry:
:laugh: :laugh: :laugh:

Edited by tan319, 13 June 2004 - 07:57 PM.

2317/5000

#14 munchcake

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Posted 14 June 2004 - 01:05 AM

I found it two weeks ago at The Cookbook Store, in the Yorkville section of Toronto.

The Cookbook Store
850 Yonge St.
Toronto, ON M4W 2H1
416.920.2665

Not sure if they have a website, but they had about 4 copies on display.

lauren

#15 tan319

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Posted 14 June 2004 - 06:02 PM

I found it two weeks ago at The Cookbook Store, in the Yorkville section of Toronto.

The Cookbook Store
850 Yonge St.
Toronto, ON M4W 2H1
416.920.2665

Not sure if they have a website, but they had about 4 copies on display.

lauren

Are you sure it's the 10 pound, big Spoon cook book?
I was just on the website and couldn't find it there.
2317/5000

#16 paulbrussel

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Posted 15 June 2004 - 04:06 AM

I couldn't find any mentions of the book on the France board -- I only found a reference to the older Spoon book on the Cooking board -- but I'd like to read whatever was said about it. Perhaps somebody could provide a link.

On 26/4 I posted this question on the French board: "Last week I saw a new, very big format and bilingual edition of Spoon (French and English).
It is a numbered edition of 5000 copies and costs about 150 €.

Since I already have the previous, normal format edition (in French, but it has been translated in several languages) of Spoon, could any one tell me whether there is much of a difference between this edition and the previous one?

In other words: whether it is worthwhile to spend 150 € on this new edition? ".

From your very interesting review, I still cannot judge whether this book does differ a lot from the previous, normal edition of Spoon Food and Wine.

#17 Jonathan Day

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Posted 15 June 2004 - 05:51 AM

Damn you, Shaw. I tried to restrain myself, but I seem to have ordered this from Amazon. EUR142.50 with free shipping within France. Too bad we can't attach an eGullet affinity code to non-US Amazon purchases.
Jonathan Day
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#18 Fat Guy

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Posted 15 June 2004 - 06:28 AM

Paul, I was under the impression that Spoon Cook Book is not an edition of Spoon Food & Wine but is, rather, a different book that has some recipe overlap. Spoon Food & Wine is a 216 page book photographed by Hartmut Kiefer. I'll see if I can get hold of a copy in order to evaluate the extent of repetition, if any, and I'll report back.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#19 Steve Klc

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Posted 15 June 2004 - 06:46 AM

"Surely, Ducasse is in part responding to Ferran Adria's El Bulli 1998-2002, with which it shares many characteristics both aesthetically (imposing physical presence; photography with a fine-art feel to it) and substantively (the drive to catalog and document a cuisine)"

Take one look at this book and this is undeniably true Steve, thanks for getting this out in the open for mainstream readers to consider: first Adria and now Ducasse in new ways aim to raise the media bar, raising awareness when it comes to culinary inspiration and consideration of their ideas and of themselves--basically what it means to do what they do and how we should think of their food (and food in general.) I'd throw the interesting, pretty transluscently photographed but recipe-less Gagnaire picture book into this elite mix but ultimately as "statement media" it's a lightweight or bantamweight in terms of effort and commitment when compared to Ducasse or Adria.

Ducasse and Adria have flip-flopped between one and one-A as far as "most significant and influential chef" for many years now amongst those in the know--depending on who you talked to of course--this comes as some kind of surprise to you Louisa? These two have undeniably been Ali-Frazier at the top of the professional chef and food media pyramids globally with different attributes, philosophies, media personas, defining characteristics, agendas, etc. It's just too naive to think that these two heavyweights (and their trusted teams) weren't painstakingly and acutely aware of the role publication, photography, design, the cataloging of dishes, etc. kept playing in each other's rise to the top--and each reacted and planned accordingly. As we dig into this new Ducasse edition it will be interesting to track over time just how influential it ends up being in the real world--versus how influential the Adria 1998-2002 release ends up being. There's no doubt which made the bigger statement and impact initially, the Adria 1998-2002 was a crunching body blow of a release to all supposedly elite and creative chefs worldwide, so it all depends whether you view this race as a sprint or you're in it for the distance. But the question remains: will these two remain one and one-A in terms of influence or significance or will eventually one of these guys move into first, and the other slip into second?

"But I don't think, any more than the El Bulli book, that this is a book meant to be cooked from. It is really a book of ideas and, moreover, a sort of culinary art book. I think it may most of all be intended to demonstrate to other chefs what Ducasse's team is doing within a particular contemporary genre. I can certainly see looking to this book, over and over, for high-level inspiration regarding ingredients, combinations, and techniques of preparation and presentation"

I think, Steve, with this you've captured what it means for a chef to be "influential"--and frankly I'm glad to see another contender (in English) on the scene. I look forward to you and others returning to this often.
Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant
Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

#20 twodogs

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Posted 15 June 2004 - 07:50 AM

just thoughts for food, but veyrat also has a hefty tomb in print though it is divided into three books rather than one mamoth.

cheers
h. alexander talbot
chef and author
Levittown, PA
ideasinfood

#21 paulbrussel

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Posted 15 June 2004 - 08:33 AM

just thoughts for food, but veyrat also has a hefty tomb in print though it is divided into three books rather than one mamoth.

cheers

But the three tomes in one cassette of Marc Veyrat are quite different: one only is a real cook book, the other is more a sort of culinary autobiography, and the third is a book on herbs.

#22 paulbrussel

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Posted 15 June 2004 - 08:36 AM

Paul, I was under the impression that Spoon Cook Book is not an edition of Spoon Food & Wine but is, rather, a different book that has some recipe overlap. Spoon Food & Wine is a 216 page book photographed by Hartmut Kiefer. I'll see if I can get hold of a copy in order to evaluate the extent of repetition, if any, and I'll report back.

It seemed very parallel to me, if not with a big overlap. The old Spoon, so to speak, is just in one language only and not bilingual, and the font is much smaller. But I thought I recognized a lot of photographs and recipes from the old Spoon book.

#23 Fat Guy

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Posted 15 June 2004 - 08:42 AM

I don't think there is any duplication of photographs at all. The photos in the Spoon Food & Wine book are by Hartmut Kiefer, who did the Pierre Herme dessert book. The photos in Spoon Cook Book are by Thomas Duval, the fashion photographer. I'll investigate how much recipe overlap there is. It may take me awhile to acquire the additional books I'll need in order to make these comparisons, but we're planning on a long-lived thread here. I'll report back when I have clearer answers.

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Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#24 munchcake

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Posted 15 June 2004 - 09:37 AM

[quote name='tan319' date='Jun 14 2004, 09:02 PM']lauren [/QUOTE]
Are you sure it's the 10 pound, big Spoon cook book?
I was just on the website and couldn't find it there.[/QUOTE]

I'm positive. It was definitely ten pounds and had the same cover. I'd suggest just giving them a call. Maybe they only sell it in-store?

#25 Fat Guy

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Posted 15 June 2004 - 10:56 AM

So today I decided to read through the whole section on condiments and choose one of the simpler recipes, from which I would derive a shopping list perhaps to be filled this weekend . . . and eventually I would prepare the condiment -- just the condiment, mind you, and not any sort of actual dish -- and report back to you.

This turned out to be not as easy as I had hoped. Here is a completely typical recipe from the condiments section, for Tomato Rougaille. It appeared only to have 8 ingredients, and relatively short instructions, and it also looked tasty. Great. So let's make our shopping list.

Vine Tomatoes: 2 -- Okay, no problem. Check.

Garlic: 1 clove -- Hey that's easy! Check.

Bird Pepper: 1 -- Huh? Okay, I guess this requires a consultation with the ingredients guide at the back of the book. Is there an entry on the Bird Pepper? Yes. But it seems to be only in French. No, wait a second, after the guide in French the whole thing is repeated in English. So, Bird Pepper: "Also known as the 'Pili-Pili', 'Piri-Piri', 'Zozlo Pepper', or 'Pequin'. The red or green varieties of bird pepper are particularly strong." Okay, I guess I can find that at a store, somewhere in New York. And from the photo it's clear they're calling for a red one. Check.

Tomato Concasse: 1 tbsp (see p. 434) -- Uh oh. This means that in order to make the recipe, I need to make a whole 'nother recipe and fold it in. Okay, I will look at page 434 later and see if the Tomato Concasse is within my abilities. It's not as though there are very many choices of recipes that don't contain one or more dependencies on other recipes in the book, and after all that's how real restaurant cooking works, so I'll deal with it.

Lemon Essence: 1.8 oz (see p. 437) -- Oh shit, another dependency. Okay, I'll look at it later.

Tomato Syrup: 4 tbsp (see p. 436) -- Come on, man. What do you want from my life? And really, most of the recipes are like this.

Tabasco: 2 dashes -- Holy marmalade! I actually have this ingredient in my home! And once the Tabasco people get wind of the fact that Alain Ducasse cooks with Tabasco . . . well, I can already see the ad in Food Arts.

Salt and Pepper -- Also something I can handle.

Okay, let's go to pages 434, 437, and 436 and see what we're up against with the Tomato Concasse, Lemon Essence, and Tomato Syrup.

The Tomato Concasse will be labor intensive but doable. It's tomatoes, olive oil, white onion, garlic, bouquet garni, powdered sugar, salt, and pepper. The technique is not complex, involving mostly peeling, seeding, and simmering.

The Lemon Essence is also mostly a matter of mise en place: peeling, simmering, straining, etc. I can do that. Although, it's starting to look as though I will need an entire afternoon to make this one condiment.

The Tomato Syrup is going to be a bit of a pain. There are a number of steps that will require some care, for example the deglazing of the sheet pan with tomato liquid after the tomatoes are roasted. But, again, I can do it.

So I'll report back when I've actually made the recipe. But I hope this at least gives you an idea of the average level of complexity and refinement of just the condiments in your friendly neighborhood Spoon Cook Book.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#26 Anna N

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Posted 15 June 2004 - 01:34 PM

Whew! I am exhausted just reading your post! But, that's what living with a book entails! :biggrin: Thanks for the commitment.
Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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#27 Steve Klc

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Posted 16 June 2004 - 05:00 AM

But that's the difference between trying to present professional cooking at an elite level--so you might actually come to grips with it--and churning out a celebrity chef pretend book written in that all-too-familiar, have to be made more accessible, dumbed-down home cooking style--here you're exposed to the real sometimes complicated, sometimes involved, deal. And what mastery or mystery is involved? Really just an exotic pepper which you never realized is readily available locally or via mail order, and base components like a "lemon essence" and "tomato syrup" which would be made regularly in his professional kitchen and probably used and blended in various sauces and dishes--but give credit to Ducasse and his team for giving all cooks--home and pro--a window into just how he develops depth of flavor and layers complexity in his dishes. Hopefully the book will include instructions for storage and a note about shelf-life before flavor deteriorates. We already have a surfeit of quick/easy/simple/repetitive "recipes that work" with generic components like lemon zest and diced tomato--we don't need another one from Ducasse--unless, of course, that's how he actually does it in one of his dishes.

The question will be Steve, after you do all this, how much of the depth, the layering, the complexity, can you taste? And has it made you appreciate Ducasse the professional even more?
Steve Klc

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#28 Fat Guy

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Posted 16 June 2004 - 05:17 AM

My appreciation grows with every page. Immersing myself in the printed material adds another dimension to my respect for what Ducasse offers to contemporary gastronomy as well as his place in the history of it. It also helps me to understand the prices at his restaurants: by the time I make some of this stuff I'm sure I'll be begging just to pay a few Euros for a plate of it prepared by a Ducasse-trained cook.

As you mention, the syrups and essences are part of a toolkit. There's definitely a reason the syrups and essences are on pages 434, 437, and 436: they are at the back of the book in a section of basic (albeit not exactly simple) flavor components that Ducasse integrates into scores of recipes throughout the book and presumably the Spoon empire. These are the building blocks of this cuisine -- not stocks and reductions of stock, which show up only here and there.

The reason the recipes seem so daunting to me as a home cook -- even setting aside some of the advanced technique -- is that the home just isn't organized around production. Were I a restaurant, I would make every one of the base elements from the back of the book on a rotating schedule so I always had a pan of each in the walk-in and a 1/6-pan of them on my station. Then I'd be ready to make all the condiments with some efficiency. Then, armed with the 75 condiments in the entry-level Spoon repertoire plus about $150 thousand worth of sous vide and other equipment, I'd be ready to cook the actual dishes.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#29 tan319

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Posted 16 June 2004 - 11:23 AM

Fat Guy, you're funny!!!
Just wanted to pass this on, forgive me if you're already familiar with the technique.
To do that concasse, if the recipe doesn't call for the seeds and if the tomatoes aren't blanched first, just slice the bottom of the tomato off at the core end.
Then, from the top, with the tomato on your cutting board, cut the tomato flesh off in quarters, with a nice sharp knife, leaving the middle behind with all the seeds and waterey stuff.
If you have to blanch and peel them, do that and then do the same procedure.
Mise is a pain in the ass but this kind of stuff can go in a hurry if you do all of the tops first, etc.
like the army
:laugh:
2317/5000

#30 tan319

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Posted 16 June 2004 - 11:41 AM

Oh, forgot to mention, ADNY gave me a price of $220, $240 all in.
Amazon.com/fr with the currency conversion figured in it would be around $178 + shipping.
Gotta figure out what my best deal would be... :hmmm:
2317/5000





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