BEHIND EVERY GREAT CHEF, THERE’S A MOM!

“BEHIND EVERY GREAT CHEF, THERE’S A MOM!” is a cookbook of more than 125 treasured recipes from the mothers of our top chefs—collected and edited by Chris Styler. It was, I thought, another good cook book to post for Mother’s Day, 2011. In it you will find recipes from the mothers of notable chefs and cookbook authors Rose Levy Beranbaum, Mollie Katzen, Nigelia Lawson, Sara Moulton, Jamie Oliver—and many others.

Jasper White writes in the introduction to his chapter, “I’m always surprised when I hear about a chef who DIDN’T grow up with great food.” That simple statement is given weight by the marvelous, diverse, and extremely personal collection of recipes contributed to this book by America’s top chefs, cookbook authors and television personalities.

“The source of these recipes,” we learn in the Introduction to ‘Behind Every Great Chef, There’s a Mom!’ “as was made clear to the contributors, was theirs to decide as long as that source was a woman (or women) whose cooking and personality has inspired them…”

“Along with the recipes, you’ll find stories of extraordinary women, such as Jacques Pepin’s mother, who pedaled a bicycle through France’s war-ravaged countryside to barter with farmers to put food on the table, and women who did the most ordinary things to keep a family nourished, happy, and together…”
A portion of the proceeds from the book will go to the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, which works to improve the lives and defend the rights of refugee and internally displaced women and children worldwide. For more information or to learn how to help refugee women and children worldwide, you can visit http://www.womenscommission.org.

Writes Mary Diaz, executive director of the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, “We are particularly honored to be a beneficiary of this project, for it brings to mind the cooking expertise of women throughout the world who, even when fleeing war or disaster in their home country, bring with them their cooking traditions—the recipes they learned from their mothers and grandmothers—to share with their families and maintain a community in their uprooted lives. Our own country, in turn, has been made richer by the recipes and cooking traditions that refugees and other immigrants have brought here.”
“Give a bunch of chefs a worthy cause,” Chris Styler tell us, “and there they are—tying on an apron, firing up a burner ready to go…” He says he has worked in the food and restaurant business for over 30 years. Trained as a restaurant chef, he has worked in kitchens from Italy to Martha’s Vineyard, from Manhattan to Bogotá. Chris is the author or coauthor of several books including Primi Piatti, Smokin’, The Desperate Housewives Cookbook, Working the Plate, Sylvia’s Soul Food (with Sylvia Woods) Blue Collar Food (with Bill Hodge), Vegetable Love (with Barbara Kafka; winner of a 2005 IACP award), Daisy Cooks! (with Daisy Martinez; IACP finalist), and Rosa’s New Mexican Kitchen (with Roberto Santibañez). In January 1999, he was named editor at large for Food Arts magazine. Two of his articles for Food Arts have won awards from the Association of Food Journalists. During the last 10 years, Chris has served as culinary producer for eight PBS and Food Network television series, including: Daisy Cooks! with Daisy Martinez (premiered 2005 through 2006),Lidia’s Italian Table and Lidia’s Italian American Kitchen (airing from Fall 1998 through Winter 2004); Julia and Jacques: Cooking at Home (Fall 1999); Savor the Southwest (Spring 1999) and America’s Test Kitchen (Spring 2001); and Joanne Weir’s Cooking Class (Winter 2009). Chris started Freelance Food, LLC, in 1999, which specializes in corporate product and recipe development. He lives in the New York metropolitan area and his website is http://www.chrisstyler.com.

All this being said, I just want to add that “Behind Every Great Chef, There’s a Mom!” was previously published under the title “Mom’s Secret Recipe File”.

As for the cookbook itself – it’s the kind you will want to curl up with to read (as cookbook collectors tend to do) “like a novel” – for the book is packed with cookbook author STORIES. Then maybe go back and start checking out the recipes. Or do it the other way around – read the recipes and THEN the stories. Whatever rocks your boat or stirs your wooden spoon. I have to admit, I tend to go through a book checking out the recipes first, going through half a package of yellow post-it note stickers. One of the first recipes to catch my eye was that of Palacinke, my beloved Hungarian crepes—provided by, surprisingly, the First Lady of Italian Cuisine, Lidia Maatticchio Bastianich. Lidia also provides a recipe for Gnocchi, little potato dumplings.

What to look for: Barbara Kafka’s Romanian Eggplant Dip, Jacques Pepin’s Gratin of Eggs or Potato Lace, Jasper White’s Grandmother’s Pecan Pie, The Smith Family’s Twelve Layer Cake (no relation), Chris Styler’s Cream Puffs (oh, yum!), OR his Spinach and Sun-dried Tomato Strata, Mary Ann Esposito’s Mama’s Whiskey Cake, Rozanne Gold’s Hungarian Cabbage and Noodles, Ming Tsai’s Chinese Fire Pot or his Pork and Ginger Pot Stickers…Oh, I could go on and on. Along with more than 125 treasured recipes there are just as many treasured stories.

For mother’s day, maybe give yourself a copy of “Behind Every Great Chef, There’s a Mom”. Published by Hyperion books, this cookbook, with a soft cover, has an easy to read format that adds to its appeal.

Originally published at $12.95 in the U.S. (or $17.95 in Canada), I did a little searching.

“Behind Every Chef, There’s a Mom!” can be purchased new or used from Amazon.com, starting at one cent. It is also available at Alibris.com new or used, starting at 99c. If you want a copy of the book under the original title of “Mom’s Secret Recipe File” that too can be purchased from Amazon.com; they have 48 pre owned copies starting at one cent, and 31 new copies from $4.94.

Happy cooking and Happy cookbook collecting!

–Sandra Lee Smith

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One response to “BEHIND EVERY GREAT CHEF, THERE’S A MOM!

  1. Gerri Anderson

    I, too, believe every Chef starts out w/ a Mom who cooks. My kids learned @ an early age that cookies come out of the oven, not out of a bag. One year my youngest had a ‘business’ going @ school where he’d sell my baking everyday. He came home w/ some real treasures that year!!

    Today my sons R all in their 40’s and one of them calls me every single week for another of my recipes. So my recipes certainly R ‘being handed down’.

    They also fone w/ lots of questions like, “Do U think my Baking Powder which is over a year old cud be ‘dead’ because my Banana/Blueberry Bread didn’t rise”? (He’d actually forgotten to put the BP into the batter!) Or, “Shud I buy the ‘real’ Vanilla rather than the artificial?” When U use such a little each time, why not?

    My kids have all told me they R not interested in my antiques, furniture, crystal, fine china, or Royal Doultons, but @ least they want my recipes!!

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