This review can’t begin without the kind of disclosure that reveals even more than I know to reveal.  Kitchen Confidential annoyed me when I read it.  I was grudging.  The guy could write—this fucking hack cook.  Annoying.  He could really write.  Not only was I jealous, but I also saw it as a danger.  This guy was so compelling, so romantic in his portrayal of cooks, I worried for all the young cooks about to move into this world. There couldn’t possibly be a worse role model for young chefs than the author of Kitchen Confidential, and yet the hordes were following this piper gleefully and indiscriminately (would they too like to be selling their old paperbacks at 95th and Broadway in winter for heroin money?).  Also his book was more successful by far than Read On »

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I’m thrilled to announce that Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, has now been published at an enormously friendly price, in pocket-friendly flexibility. That wickedly smart television personality, author and speaker, food guru Alton Brown, chose the book as one his Top 5 cookbooks, period: “This is a refreshing, illuminating and perhaps even revolutionary look at the relations that make food work,” he writes in The Wall Street Journal.  (Brown has a new book out next month, Good Eats: The Middle Years.) My favorite review was in Slate, in which Jennifer Reese asserts that Ratio is a “fascinating and pompous new book.”  Who the hell is Jennifer Reese?! NPR reporter Guy Raz read Reese’s skeptical but ultimately won-over verdict and did this piece for All Things Considered. If you’re new to Read On »

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I’m finishing up answering copy-edit queries on the new book, my beliefs on the core techniques of cooking due out next fall from Chronicle, and also going over some last minute testing with the good folks at cookskorner.com. One of the recipes being tested is a Moroccan-style braised lamb shank using lemon confit and the blend of spices known as ras el hanout.  The testers asked, for those who weren’t able to find it in their town, should I include a recipe for it. The book is already running long and I’m not an expert on the subject, so I thought why not include a link to it rather than my own version?  Yes, but how do I know the online version I find will be any less spurious than mine? Go to an expert.  Read On »

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More than a year ago, the editor of Parade magazine was abruptly fired from his job, a job he cared deeply about and a job he worked very hard at, sometimes at the expense of his wife and three kids. Lee Kravitz and I went to the same high school, not ten years apart; when I was there, he’d taken a job in the alumni department but, an apprentice writer himself, he occasionally joined our weekly, after-hours writing seminars.  Years later, an editor in New York, he met his wife, by chance the literary agent who had years earlier agreed to represent me and subsequently agented all my books.  They had kids, both were successful in business, had a home in Manhattan and a home in the country…and then he was fired. At first adrift, Read On »

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Ten days in Italy with Brian Polcyn and Nic Heckett for a salume tour of northern and central Italy—primarily Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria and Emilia-Romagna. Damn, Italy is beautiful.  There’s a reason Tuscany in particular is so romanticized.  Its rolling, forested hills and little towns perched on hillsides are breathtaking, particularly, I assure you, if you live in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. I’m buried in work after being gone, so I will note a few highlights but of course keep the salume revelations for the book—there was one huge transformative one.  The book, a follow-up to Charcuterie and the reason for the trip, is due to the publisher September 1.  Yikes. The top photo was what our nightly table tended to look like in the beginning, salume tasting and notes.  What a pleasure it was to travel Read On »

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