Our favorite cookbook of 2018 so far may seem like a surprise pick against heavy hitters like Giada De Laurentiis and Mark Bittman, but that's only if you haven't seen Todd Richards' debut cookbook, Soul. The photography is gorgeous, and Richards’ recipes are a unique blend of comfort, elegance, and creativity. Pairing one of my southern favorites—Pimento cheese—with peaches, radish, and avocado, on toast? Brilliant.
In Soul you'll find a recipe for rustic cornbread and a few chapters later, up pops Sea Urchin with Smoked Tomato Broth and West African spices, topped with an okra pod. Richards includes mouthwatering menus with playlists. Delightful anecdotes and drink pairings. I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that Soul has a winning combination of personality, style, and incredibly good food.
I sent Richards some questions about his cookbook, his inspirations, and peach cobbler:
Seira Wilson: Who are some of your influences in the kitchen, and what did you get from them?
Todd Richards: My dad, who taught me how to brine chickens and smoke meats starting at 5 years old, and my mom, who taught me how to understand soul food and also how to bring in the influences of other cultures’ cuisines to form what I cook today. Chef Darryl E. Evans, who taught me that food must not only be exceptionally delicious, but also had to be flawlessly presented.
What’s the most important thing to remember when making something new?
Give yourself enough time to do the dish and prepare it correctly. Also, always use your instincts.
What 3 ingredients would you never be without in your kitchen?
Sea salt, butter, champagne.
What cookbooks are on your shelf?
Bill Kim, Korean BBQ
Paul Kahan, Cheers to the Publican
Edna Lewis, Taste of Country Cooking
Francis Mallmann, Seven Fires
Edna Lewis, Taste of Country Cooking
Toni Tipton-Martin, The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks
Charlie Trotter’s Collection of Cookbooks
Thomas Keller, The French Laundry Cookbook
Michael W. Twitty, The Cooking Gene
Ferran Adria, El Bulli
Anne Quatrano, Summerland: Recipes for Celebrating with Southern Hospitality
Masaharu Morimoto, Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking Book
Sean Brock, Heritage
Pamela Strobel, Matt Lee and Ted Lee (Introduction), Princess Pamela's Soul Food Cookbook: A Mouth-Watering Treasury of Afro-American Recipes
Soul has such a personal feel, as if readers are sitting on the counter while you cook amazing things, was it difficult to put yourself out in the world this way?
It was absolutely not difficult. My parents raised me to understand that food and beverage hospitality is the most sincere form of delicious entertainment.
What is your favorite hand-me-down recipe, and your favorite Todd Richards original?
Hand-me-down recipe: Collard Green Ramen
Todd Richards original: Blueberry Fried Pies
Have you brought a peach cobbler to a church picnic lately? (this refers to a very funny anecdote in the book about peach cobbler being the most thoroughly critiqued of all church picnic foods)
Not recently! But the book has brought me closer together with my great aunt in Chicago, who still, to this day, bakes pies, cobblers and cakes each week for church and other get-togethers.
You have playlists to accompany the menus in Soul – do you always listen to music while you cook?
In the restaurants, not necessarily, because there is a certain rhythm a great kitchen must function within. At home, however, there is always music playing and champagne in my glass.
Looking for more?
- More posts on Cookbooks & Food Writing
- Best Cookbooks of 2018 So Far
- Best Cookbooks of the Month
- 100 Books for a Lifetime of Eating & Drinking
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