In 2020 the number of people cooking at home seems to have reached new heights, as the option of dining out became a fond memory in the wake of COVID-19 this spring. Luckily, many wonderful new cookbooks released in the first half of the year, making the art of the homemade meal easier, and more fun. This year we've also seen the trend of fascinating chef memoirs continue, including Rebel Chef, by one of San Francisco's finest restaurateurs, Dominique Crenn, our top pick for the Best of the Year So Far in Cookbooks, Food, and Wine. Below you'll learn more about Rebel Chef and get a look at a few of the other titles from our list of the top 20.
Rebel Chef by Dominique Crenn
Dominique Crenn's memoir rose to the top this year because it isn't just an account of a woman coming into her own as a chef, opening highly successful restaurants, and her philosophy about food. Yes, it is all of those things, but it's also so much more. Crenn is passionate about her craft, family, sustaining the Earth, and providing opportunity to others. She is fierce and formidable, caring deeply about not only every ingredient of her divinely detailed signature dishes, but everyone who touches it. Like a special meal, reading Rebel Chef is a memorable and gratifying experience.
Falastin: A Cookbook by Sami Tamimi
The executive chef and partner in the highly acclaimed Ottolenghi restaurants, Sami Tamimi introduces readers to the culture and cuisine of Palestine in this gorgeously photographed cookbook. Each of the 120 recipes starts with a brief introduction, which often includes tips on preparing some or all of the dish ahead of time. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that I want to cook every single one of these recipes. Falastin takes home cooks on a delicious journey to Tamimi's homeland, celebrating the culture and the food with a modern approach that draws readers into the kitchen and around the table.
Cheese as self-care. Need I say more? Honestly, unless you're lactose intolerant, who doesn't love a cheese plate? Cheese is my favorite food, and this new book is everything I'd hoped it would be, and more. Author Marissa Mullen first introduces us to her simple Cheese By Number method and how to balance the components on the plate, then turns us loose with 50 platter recipes and her encouragement to be creative. Each recipe lists the ingredients (by number) then a step-by-step photo array for putting the plate together, followed by an illustration of the completed masterpiece. So many ideas, so much fun, this book offers pure happiness for yourself or your friends, on a plate.
Dinner in French: My Recipes by Way of France: A Cookbook by Melissa Clark
For best-selling food writer and cookbook author Melissa Clark, France and French cuisine is near and dear to her heart. In her latest cookbook, Dinner in French, Clark shares her affection for the country and its food with readers. The 150 recipes you'll find here are a beautiful balance of classic dishes, and new twists on old favorites. Clark's style and voice are welcoming, and Dinner in French takes what can be a daunting cuisine and makes it accessible; Clark's Lentil Stew with Garlic Sausage and Goat Cheese recipe from this cookbook has already become a staple at a couple of our editors' houses.
Like many other readers, we loved Bill Buford's last book, Heat, and once again he's given us a funny, self-deprecating, joy ride into cooking, this time in search of what is at the heart of our reverence for French cuisine. Buford isn't a "halfway" kind of guy. He throws himself into this quest to the extent that he takes his family and moves to France, studies at the acclaimed L'Institut Bocuse, and puts in long, rigorous hours working in restaurants, soaking up knowledge. Is Buford obsessed? Absolutely. But once you start reading, Dirt becomes something of a delightful obsession of its own.
A look at some of our editors' picks for the top 20 new books on cooking, food, and wine from the first half of the year.