6 book recommendations from Dominique Ansel
Dominique Ansel is the New York City–based, James Beard Award–winning pastry chef best known as the inventor of the cronut. His new cookbook is Everyone Can Bake: Simple Recipes to Master and Mix.
The Escoffier Cookbook by Auguste Escoffier (1907).
A classic, and one of my favorite French cookbooks. I still have the copy given to me as a gift more than 20 years ago, when I was a young cook in France. Reading it is like taking a step back in history, with old-school fine-dining recipes and techniques that you just don't see anymore. My favorite sections are the ones about entremets, crêpes, and sweet omelets.
Natura by Albert Adrià (2008).
Albert is one of the world's most talented and creative pastry chefs, and this book was a game changer, with beautiful dessert recipes inspired by nature. The first I turned to was a quenelle of ice cream that had been transformed into a hummingbird, with two meringue wings and a caramel-dipped hazelnut head and beak.
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp (2003).
I'm always fascinated by people in different creative fields. In this book, choreographer Twyla Tharp talks about how creativity is a muscle that needs to be trained, and how the mind and the body are co-workers that work in balance. Her methods and lessons have value for everyone in every field.
An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield (2013).
Chris is a Canadian astronaut who has served as commander of the International Space Station. His book brings you into a different world and guides you through that superstrict mentality of practice, discipline, and "thinking like an astronaut" — that is, being hyperprepared for anything.
Modernist Cuisine by Nathan Myhrvold et al. (2011).
Producing this encyclopedia of cooking was an unbelievable endeavor. The authors wrote six volumes to break down the science behind what we chefs do every day, and their book will go down in history as something that changed the way we look at food and at modern techniques, from sous vide machines to centrifuges. It's also a guide to how to push the boundaries of what food can be.
David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell (2013).
An engaging account of how disadvantages in life can transform into advantages that push a person to achieve greatness, this book foregrounds real people's stories, showing how, against all odds, the little guy can make it.
This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, try the magazine for a month here.