Is this something new? A chef who cooks, a spouse who writes. ("He tastes, I type." Or should that be "He cooks, she composes"?) Twice this pre-holiday season we've seen this (welcome) phenomenon.
First came chef Andrew Dornenburg and his wife and longtime collaborator, the writer Karen Page. Over they years they've developed a giant culinary database along with an easily understood style of presenting complex information (charts, interviews and such). Starting with Becoming a Chef and Culinary Artistry, both very popular with kitchen pros, they won a prestigious award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals for What to Drink with What You Eat. With this season's The Flavor Bible they've confirmed their position as masters of the gustatory universe. For each conceivable ingredient (caviar, cayenne, celery) they assign a season, a taste, a flavor "weight," a flavor "volume," a function, flavor affinities, and assorted techniques and tips, along with a shopping list of related foods and cuisines.(Caviar: Russian cuisine, Champagne; Cayenne: avoid caviar). Page and Dornenburg quote several dozen top chefs in the course of their 375 page volume; Holly Smith (of Café Juanita) and Jerry Traunfeld (of Poppy) are the two locals. Little, Brown, $35 Website & blog: www.becomingachef.com.
In town today (for KING TV morning show, lunch at Sorrentino, booksigning and dinner at Tavolata) are Andrew Carmellini and his wife, Gwen Hyman. Carmellini (another chef whose opinions grace the Flavor Bible, by the way) won the James-Beard-winning "best New York chef" award after six years as chef de cuisine at Café Boulud and was until May an owner and chef at a Voce. (He and Hyman wrote Urban Italian while waiting for Voce to open; there's a new restaurant project in the works right now. She's a PhD food historian with her own, much more scholarly book, Gentlemanly Appetites ) At any rate, their joint venture, Urban Italian is full of breezy narrative (sometimes even breathless) and about the midwest boy from an Italian family finding his culinary roots in the hills of Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, Umbria and Sicily. Recipes and useful culinary advice aimed at home cooks, not professionals: "Do not stress out. Cooking should be fun....Don't be afraid to taste, touch, smell, feel, and make a mess. That is how you make great food." Step-by-step illustrations for making gnocchi, too. Bloomsbury, $35. Website: www.andrewcarmellini.com.