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Nothing Like a Home Cooked Meal

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Thank-you for joining us, Karen and Andrew. I've enjoyed your work over the years, and have often used Dining Out as a reference on criticism in general, since the observations made by those you interviewed for that book are as valid in other fields as they are in regards to the food industry.

There are, however, a large number of us who are not part of the food industry, never have been, never will be, and due to our lack of professional-level skills everyone is probably grateful for our decision to stay out. I realize that your writings have been about professional chefs, and not about the home chef. All the same, I've been wondering about what changes you may have observed in home cooking since Becoming a Chef was first published? And how do these changes (if any) in turn affect the professional chef?

We'll not discriminate great from small.

No, we'll serve anyone - meaning anyone -

And to anyone at all!

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Thanks for your kind comments, and your question. It's funny -- you're right that we have long considered our primary audience for our books to be professional chefs. However, we were just as surprised as anyone else when our publisher did some marketing research on who was actually buying our books (based on a bind-in postcard that appeared in the back of the first edition of BECOMING A CHEF and CULINARY ARTISTRY) -- and they learned that buyers of those books were in fact equally divided between chef wannabes and passionate enthusiasts such as yourself who were simply interested in the subject!

That helps to answer your question about how home cooks (and other food and restaurant enthusiasts, which is how Karen really sees herself -- she probably cooks less than anyone else in the world who knows as much about food as she does!) and how they've changed in the past decade or two: They tend to know more about food than ever! Hubert Keller of Fleur de Lys in San Francisco has commented to us how tough it is these days to stay one step ahead of the customer in order to be able to delight and dazzle them as a chef -- customers tend to be reading, watching cooking shows, taking cooking classes, visiting the Greenmarkets, traveling, etc. so much that sometimes his customers will be the ones telling him about a new ingredient or technique they've seen or read about or heard about!

With customers' knowledge on the rise, the pressure on chefs to innovate is greater than ever -- to provide the best ingredients, the newest techniques, the most innovative flavor combinations.

Coupled with the unprecedented availability of ingredients from around the world, innovation hasn't always been a good thing. (Just witness all the so-called "fusion" efforts condemned as "confusion"!) The ingredients' availability in markets and on grocery store shelves has managed to outpace our knowledge of how to work with all of them effectively.

Enter THE NEW AMERICAN CHEF: We interviewed a few dozen of the smartest and most insightful culinary experts on the planet on each of 10 popular cuisines that are influencing the way we cook and eat in America today. We wanted to help inform cooks who might be intimidated to pick up one of Rick Bayless's or Alain Ducasse's or Lynne Rossetto Kasper's treatises on Mexican, French or Italian cooking to learn from those experts themselves: What is the gist of Mexican, French or Italian cooking? If you're just starting out cooking one of these cuisines, or trying to work with ingredients that are indigenous to any of them, what MUST you know?

THE NEW AMERICAN CHEF never pretends to be a comprehensive exploration of any of the 10 featured cuisines (which also include Japanese, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Moroccan). Rather, we just hope to interest some of those home cooks and/or chefs to master some of the basics before they make some big mistakes (e.g. such as glopping melted cheese and sour cream on some poor defenseless enchilada and calling it "Mexican" food). Too, we especially hope to interest people who are just starting their explorations of exotic cuisines to fall in love with them as we have, and spur them on to WANT to pick up the great tomes of Bayless, Ducasse, and Kasper -- not to mention Batali, Sahni, Simonds, Vongerichten, Wolfert and the literally dozens of other culinary experts featured in the book's pages.

Mastering the ingredients and techniques of other cuisines is a challenge that is shared by professional cooks and home cooks alike in the new Millennium -- and we hope that THE NEW AMERICAN CHEF is able to play even a small role in helping readers get their arms around what could otherwise be a daunting topic!

Best wishes,

Andrew & Karen

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