America The Great Cookbook
Weldon Owen, 2017
America is full of great chefs cooking and serving great food, but what do they eat at home? What do they cook for friends and family? Which of their recipes would they pass on to the home cook?
Food writer, journalist, and two-time winner of the James Beard Award, Joe Yonan has reached out to chefs across the United States to create a compendium of the favourite meals of 100 chefs, producers, food activists, food writers, and bloggers with proceeds going to the No Kid Hungry campaign which raises money for school meals for needy kids.
This is a heavy tome, and the hardcover version is gorgeously embossed. Each chef is featured in a beautiful two-page photo spread that includes a little map of America to show where they’re located, as well as a brief statement about their work, restaurant and/or recipe selection.
Much care has gone into making this a workable cookbook, with many chefs discussing why they chose the recipes they did, either because it’s a family favourite that they love to cook at home or because it’s a recipe that translates well for the home cook. Recipes pages have a faint grey background pattern that makes the paper appear to be light grey, but this mostly doesn’t interfere with the instructions and ingredients list, which are clear and concise. Recipes include metric measurements so readers outside of the US can also try these dishes.
And there is a fine assortment of offerings here. Yonan does a great job of ensuring no duplication, and similar dishes are different enough (for instance Fried Chicken and Red Velvet Waffles from Marcus Samuelsson and and Nashville Style Hot Chicken from Carla Hall) that they both warrant inclusion.
There is no order to the chefs and recipes — the book is not arranged by type of dish or geographic area, so the reader does have to refer to the index if looking for a specific dish, but this arrangement makes this a fun book to flip through, with each turn of the page offering a new surprise. Yonan also does a great job of covering the whole country and ensuring a fair representation of immigrant cooking and communities. Offerings are a bit sparse from the Midwest, with a concentration of chefs from the coasts, cities such as Chicago, and the southern states, but this is also a great way for readers to discover new places to check out if they’re travelling, or new chefs and food writers to watch for on bookshelves, blogs, or television.
Whether you live in America or not, this book is a keeper, with plenty of usable, great-looking recipes.