The Cookbooks To End All Cookbooks

The Cookbooks To End All Cookbooks

Introducing the most beautiful cookbooks of all times : Le Grand Livre de Cuisine d’Alain Ducasse and his little brother Le Grand Livre de Cuisine d’Alain Ducasse – Desserts et Pâtisseries, both generous Christmas gifts from my parents.

Alain Ducasse, for those of you who may not be familiar with the character, is one of the greatest (and probably richest) French chefs of this era. A creative genius, he owns and operates restaurants in New York, Monaco and Paris, and also runs a cooking school. I can’t imagine how busy his life must be, but he reportedly manages to take part in all the decisions – large or small – that concern his business.

And these books you see here, ladies and gentlemen, these books contain The Knowledge. In it, Ducasse shares the recipes he has elaborated and perfected over the 25 years of his career. Targeted at professionals, the first volume has over 700 (yes, seven hundreds) savory recipes, while the second one offers the key to more than 250 desserts and pâtisseries.

The recipes are organized in alphabetical order of starred ingredient, making for the most enchanting inventory. Each recipe is described in fascinatingly intricate and precise detail, sometimes with diagrams even, and generally on two pages. Notes on finishing touches and plating are included, illustrated by splendid pictures. The section on asparagus alone is enough to make you dizzy. And the one on chocolate? You’ve never seen anything like it.

Both books also include a wealth of information at the end, with sections on basic techniques, as well as ingredients, their seasonality and how to select them.

Of course, a lot of these recipes call for sovereign ingredients, truffle shavings and lobster galore, but some of them are breathtakingly simple, and they are all a goldmine of inspiration, lending themselves to inventive – and thrifty – adaptation. Some of them would also require a professional kitchen and a staff of three or four commis, but I find it of the utmost interest to learn how the real guys work, and what it takes to bring three-star restaurant food to life.

This is not, as you might have guessed, the kind of book you flick through, standing in the kitchen, hip resting at the counter, wondering idly what to make for dinner. This is rather a food art book, the kind you cuddle up with on a cold Sunday afternoon, balancing it on your lap, with a hot cup of tea and a stack of your faithful mini page-marker stickies, embarking on an incredible vicarious gastronomic journey, dreaming, exclaiming, and building a rather ravenous appetite.

Just writing about these books makes me all tingly inside, and I encourage you to visit the mini feature presentations on Alain Ducasse’s website. Get a glimpse of these jewels, truly understand my infatuation, and start saving – or lobbying for an english translation! (Which I would just love to take part in, by the way.)

I had planned on saying that these were the last cookbooks I would ever need, it would have been a nice tag line, but, ahem, I’ve already bought two others since, so I guess I can’t really say that.

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  • Argh! Another two cookbooks I have to have. It would be nice if they were really the last once I ever needed… at least for my bank account :-). Have you also contracted the “cookbook buyier” disease ;-)?

  • I thought that becoming fluent in French would be a skill it would be nice to have — now, it is a necessity. These books sound like must-have items.

  • Like you I have a handful of cookbooks that I curl up with — read more for inspiration and technique than for recipes. These sound divine. Translated or not… I’d like to acquire my own copies! Inspiration is its own language!!

  • I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Ducasse when I was on a travel writing assignment. He was so personable, though a bit intense, and a complete genius with food. His restaurants (and hotels) are absolutely stunning, from the decor to the food.

    Now I am so curious about these cookbooks; can they make you cook fabulously just by holding them? Wouldn’t that be the book of all books!

  • Alberto – Yes, I am thinking of founding of Cookbook Addicts Anonymous! Would you be interested in joining? :)

    Jackie – Absolutely! Although the pics alone would be enough to entrance you!

    Donna – Somehow this kind of book is the best! Which are the ones do you like to curl up with?

    Alex – Lucky you! I’d love to meet him, although I wouldn’t know where to begin! What did you guys talk about?

  • Deb

    I’d like to join the Cookbooks Addicts Anonymous please. Last count I had over 225 cookbooks/books related to food and I don’t see the end in sight. My want list has well over 50 books on it now. Do you think I have an addiction? ;-P

  • Je suis arrivée ici à traver le blog Diario de Lisboa ( Je suis Brésilienne, vivant au Québec. Même si je ne suis pas bonne dans la cuisine, j’adore ça. J’aimé ton blog et avec ta permission je vais faire un lien avec ton adresse. J’espère que nous pourrons visiter ton café ou restaurant bientôt ! Ana Lucia

  • Frankenstein

    My favorite cookbook, just to flip through and read, is still Pepin’s La Technique. I have an old hardcover edition, and the book is huge and heavy.

    Despite its age, it’s still a really useful volume…

  • And my Parisian wish list grows longer, and longer…at this rate, my parents are going to have to buy an extra suitcase to bring me back everything I want this year: cookbooks, jam, the entire contents of the E. Dehillerin store….

  • Deb – You are very welcome to join CAA, it sure looks pretty bad! :) Now the first step, and this is in your best interest, really, is to package up all your cookbooks and send them to me! ;)

    Ana Lucia – Merci pour le lien vers le blog Lisboète, je me suis servie de Babelfish pour la traduction! Et je serais bien sûr flattée d’avoir un lien sur le tien! (Malheureusement, j’ai un peu de mal à le comprendre! :)

    Paul – Would you believe that this book has never been published in French? I’ve heard a lot of praises about it, but have never actually leafed through it. You’ve probably seen that Pépin has a nice website ( I like the cute little logo!

    Jenny – Wouldn’t it be more simple (and fun!) for you to just tag along? :) You would bring just one change of clothes in a huge suitcase, and fill it with goodies!

  • erich

    I would love to hunt these books down, a quick search on the internet at the big book chains came up with nothing, I’m sure I’ll find them somewhere.
    On the subject of good cookbooks to curl up with, my favourite right now is the French Laundry:

    I am positive I have become a better cook just by having it in the house.

  • Frankenstein

    That doesn’t entirely surprise me — La Technique was written, after all, to indtroduce an American audience to French technique, and, as eveyone knows, the French are born with a toque in one hand and a chef’s knife in the other…

    Having said that, it is still an interesting book to flip through…

  • ooooohhhh….
    I want…!

    I am trying to learn French anyway–
    but I’d sign the petition for the English version, too!

  • Emily

    WOW they look like fabulous books, but I just looked at the price on his site, OUCH! They’ll go on a future gift wish list!
    This summer friends introuduced us to “Toute la Cusine” de Guy Martin… have you tried Guy? Not the same as Alain, I’m sure, but not bad at all! One of the cookbooks most often stationed in our cookbook stand these days (though it barely fits its so thick)! (uniquement en français)

  • Jenny – New York

    I have thousands of little stickies marking thousands of recipes in my cookbooks – I just started that about 6 months ago. The cookbook sellers and post-it sticky people are making a fortune off of me. Pre-ordered C&Z a week or so ago as I just found your website. Love it!

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