Eight Must-Have Coffee Table Cookbooks
It started as a bit of a laugh between two friends. Tim White and Amanda Schulze had always joked about him owning a bookshop and her a bakery, and meeting outside their stores for a muffin and a coffee. Then in April 2000, they spotted a one-line advertisement on a cookbook shop that was up for sale.
“We thought it was a grand idea!” Tim laughed. “One hour and a very sore credit card later, we owned a bookshop. It was a very happy and natural coincidence that involved the world’s smallest business plan.”
Books For Cooks opened that year in Melbourne’s oldest suburb of Fitzroy with a catalogue of 8,000 titles of new and old books on food, wine and the culinary arts.
By the time they moved across the street from Queen Victoria Market a few months ago, the bookstore had established itself as Australia’s only such retail store. It also boasted a catalogue of 45,000 titles.
“We have ones and twos of most things,” Tim said. “The idea is to focus on diversity of range. If it is unusual then it is the sort of thing we love to have. Half of our customers are from the hospitality industry – chefs, sommeliers and even farmers – and the rest are keen, serious cooks. They all bring their passion and knowledge into the shop.”
When they are not discussing food and wine with their customers, Tim and Amanda are reading, researching and cooking from as many books as possible. So when it came to pulling together a list of the top culinary coffee table books, there was no one better to take on the task than them.
The Art of Pasta by Lucio Galletto with David Dale
“Lucio was a Ligurian architect who came to Australia in pursuit of a girl whom he eventually married. He now has a wonderful three-hatted restaurant in Paddington, Sydney. Lucio is a great supporter of modern Australian artists so when he was asked to write a book on pasta – and his restaurant is famous for its pasta – he chose to collaborate with Luke Sciberras, an Australian water colour artist. The entire book was illustrated and prepared in real time. So Luke was illustrating at the same time the food was being prepared and plated. There are only 200 copies of this book and ours is the collector’s edition that includes a water colour by Luke. It is one of our prized possessions.”
biota by James Viles
“This is a November release. James is an upcoming chef from Bowral, New South Wales, and his food is an organic response to local ingredients. His philosophy revolves around cooking seasonally and locally, but with an extraordinarily refined and focused end. This is not a rustic, farm-plated food but one that showcases detailed textured food. It is a strong, elegant, personal storybook. I think we will be selling many copies of this one.”
Saison: A Year At The French Café by Simon Wright
“The French Café is New Zealand’s leading restaurant with a strong, seasonal-inspired French menu that is pared back and elegant. The book, which was released last year, displays stunning photos of a very achievable menu that uses slightly contemporary cooking techniques. It is a truly beautiful book.”
Origin by Ben Shewry
“Ben is Melburnian and Attica, his restaurant in Ripponlea, is Australia’s highest ranked restaurant in the San Pellegrino Restaurant Of The Year Awards. Ben’s food is a response to where he grew up and lived so he cooks with a lot of native ingredients. Each dish aims to evoke a sense of place and memory. This book is out of print and extremely sought after. And here is an interesting fact – the photos were shot by a landscape photographer, not a food specialist.”
Cornersmith by Alex Elliott-Howery and James Grant
“Alex and James are Sydneysiders who opened a wonderful inner Sydney joint known as Cornersmith. It is a picklery first, a pickling school second and a café third. Cornersmith is the food version of Etsy, and is fresh and vibrant. What Alex and James have done is made the pickling and fermenting of some beautiful, fresh flavours really accessible. It is also a gloriously fun book to leaf through!”
Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young and Maxime Bilet
“This is the book for anyone who is a food geek or food photography buff. It is the first book to investigate the actual technique and science behind cooking. If you are into photography, this book contains about 30 new photography techniques. It includes super high-speed photography that captures in real time what happens when oil is added to liquid in a wok, for example. The technical detail in this book is unsurpassed.”
The French Laundry by Thomas Keller
“A classic of 21st century gastronomy. It is a book that you can cook from forever. Keller is an American who trained in classical French technique. The French Laundry became a huge success in the Napa Valley in 1998, and is still one of the great food destinations in the world. This is truly a beautiful book – a balance of sensibility and achievability with gorgeous, sumptuous photos. If you are prepared to invest a bit of time, you can cook everything in it. Thomas is a very thoughtful writer so this also reads like a storybook.”
Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi
“This was Yotam’s first book and oddly enough, the least well-known. I think this book is perhaps the strongest expression of the dual elements of Yotam’s style. His dishes reflect his artistic and somewhat minimalistic approach to food. At the time it was quite a groundbreaking book and is one of those cookbooks that are beautiful to look at and cook from. Yotam is one of the best new authors over the last five years, and we have cooked probably two-thirds of this book. It is a great collectible, looks really good on your coffee table and will be working really hard in your kitchen.”
What are your favourite coffee table cookbooks? Tell us in the comments section below.
You may also like