Food Book Fair Authors Share Their Favorite Cookbooks

food book fair

Tom Mylan, Executive Chef and Co-owner of The Meat Hook

Author of The Meat Hook Meat Book

Tell us about your favorite new classic cookbook or food-related book and how it transformed your relationship with food or informed your style of cooking. 

Yikes! That’s a hard one. If pressed, I’d have to go with Cooking By Hand by Paul Bertolli. It was an extremely formative cookbook for me when I was trying to learn to cook well, but simply in the early 2000’s. I loved how it showed you not only how to build flavors during the process of cooking, but also how to make a menu that’s balanced, how to think about wine and food together without being a pretentious asshole and even how to cure meats. Not only was it a formative cookbook for me, it was also a highly influential cookbook among the cooks in the restaurants in New York that I was hanging out or working with. It was almost a bible of sorts: when in doubt see what Paul says about cooking that dish and go from there! Another thing that changed me as a cook and a person was how much good ingredients mattered to his recipes and the care he gave in sourcing and selecting those ingredients. That aspect definitely helped point me in the direction I’m in now. While I have sort of migrated away from that style of food in my at-home cooking, the lessons I learned from that book have really stayed with me. I think all great cookbooks are like that.

Tell us about your favorite modern cookbook and like above, how it transformed your relationship with food or informed your style of cooking.

I guess, Modernist Cuisine at Home by Nathan Myhrvold? I’m not a foam, meat glue, and emulsifier kind of guy, I never want to eat that kind of food, but I love the science. A lot of what we do at the Meat Hook is fairly technical and now that I’m a fairly decent cook and understand enough food science to get me into trouble, I really like peering into the scientific detail and seeing what these guys are making possible. I hate following recipes and I don’t buy or read cookbooks that way anymore. I like to look at the concepts, the ideas and techniques of a recipe so I can get inspiration for my own culinary agendas. Modernist Cuisine is almost all techniques and ideas. Also it’s huge, gratuitous and expensive, which also tickles me. The fact that I spent $700 because I wanted to understand how to make American Cheese from scratch pretty sums up what I love about this book.

Favorite Brooklyn-based restaurant and why.

Hands down, River Styx. It’s a great room with beautiful lighting, the wine list is always interesting and the food is inventive, but inventive in a fun rather than tedious way. I mean, where else can you get a beautifully cooked piece of local fish and the best nachos in Brooklyn at the same table?

Tom will be at the Food Book Fair Panel: Food Book Slam on Saturday, April 26 at 10:30 am

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