Throughout my career, I have always valued cookbooks as a means of learning, but also as a genuine fan of food. Here are a few that I have found particularly meaningful over the years.
I lucked out and found a copy of this book, one of the last in the fantastic Robert Laffont Series "Les Recettes Originales de", at a used bookstore in Sparks, Nevada for $4. Until 2013, this cookbook was Bernard Pacaud's only cookbook, and long out of print. I am an open admirer of Bernard Pacaud's cooking, and I still believe him to be the best chef walking the face of the earth today. His cuisine is quite classical, yet decidedly his own. Incredibly precise, sparse cooking; it makes me nervous even thinking about executing such a cuisine because there is absolutely nothing to hide behind. Mastering simplicity is brought to it's culinary pinnacle at L'Ambroisie. Intentionally shunning media attention, he has been quietly perfecting his craft, and holding 3 michelin stars, for over 20 years. A great chef, and a great book if you can find it.
L'Atelier of Joel Robuchon, Patricia Wells
The book that gives the name to his current restaurant empire, L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon is still a tough find in English, though French copies aren't too hard to come by. Written by Patricia Wells at the end of Robuchon's reign of power from the mid 80's to mid 90's, it offers a rather intimate perspective into the kitchens of Jamin and the short lived Restaurant Joel Robuchon. There are plenty of intense black and white shots of life in the kitchen at Jamin, notorious for being France's roughest kitchen at the time. Through whatever severe means Robuchon ran his operations, the food is undeniably remarkable. His best dishes still feels current and undated, un aged by time, which is less kind to the food of his proteges which are also featured in the book.
Great Chefs of France by Anthony Blake and Quentin Crewe
I have had a French language copy of this book for 6 years, and only recently through a Marco Pierre White interview learned that there is an English language version. Published in 1979, at the tail end of the Nouvelle Cuisine Era, the book presents a detailed and penetrating look into the lives of France's most promenent chefs of the time, which I consider to be cooking's greatest leap in modern history. The book is quite detailed, including personal interviews, cooking shots, menu copies, kitchen layouts; no small feat. The authors were able to gain access to some of the era's more media shy types, such as Charles Barrier and Alain Chapel, which adds more value to the book's impact.
Life is A Menu by Michel Roux Sr.
Published at the turn of the millenium, Michel Roux's autobiography proves to be a well written, enjoyable narrative. On a day off from work at Le Gavroche in London while perusing a used book store in SoHo, I came across a copy to the book, which happened to be a signed copy. A fitting read as I labored in the very kitchen that 30 years prior changed Britian's culinary history forever.