The boss plopped “The Chef Says: Quotes, Quips and Words of Wisdom,” on my desk and growled, “Gimme 300 words.”
“Yes, Boss,” I whimpered back.
Having consumed inordinate amounts of those cooking and restaurant-rehab shows larding TV and the Web, plus a gazillion or so words written by chefs, I knew the importance of that response.
So did Grant Achatz of Alinea fame.
Of his stint in Thomas Keller’s kitchen, Achatz wrote in “Life, on the Line,” his 2012 book: “The food was perfect or it was wrong; failure was never an option, and ‘yes, Chef’ was the only proper response to any request.”
It’s Achatz’s sole quote in this collection of pronouncements from 150 folks anointed with the moniker “chef.” And it’s the fourth such volume (preceded by architects, filmmakers and designers) from Princeton Architectural Press.
“The Chef Says” ($14.95) was compiled and edited by Nach Waxman and Matt Sartwell, owners of Kitchen Arts & Letters, a New York bookstore, who have stirred up a bouillabaisse that’s long on utterances of chefs from the East and West coasts. They have stirred in some late greats (Julia Child, James Beard, Edna Lewis, Auguste Escoffier, etc.) and have spiced the whole pot with a couple of really old Greeks (from 180 B.C., 303 B.C.).
Depending on your foodie cred, you might shrug when you read Marco Pierre White’s cuss-peppered quotes. Nod your head in agreement at Alain Ducasse: “Techniques are not the most difficult to teach. The attitudes chefs take are much more important.”
Or laugh at Gray Kunz’s remark: “All of us have, at one time or another, salivated over a picture in a cookbook and, by dint of hard work and following the directions to a T, turned out something just a cut above a braised running shoe.”
A fine gift for someone dreaming of a sweet life in a Michelin-starred kitchen, it’s also perfect for creating party games (Name that chef?). Or finding solace in Simon Hopkinson’s comment the next time inane foodie babble emanates from diners near you: “There is nothing more tedious than an evening spent discussing every dish eaten in minute detail. ‘Oh. Daphne, how did you manage to insert those carrots in your hollowed out zucchini?’”