Back in the day, I would get about 150 cookbooks sent to me each year by publishers and PR people for free. It wasn’t long before I had 600 cookbooks in my house: Stacked up on the floor, cluttering shelves, and in boxes in the basement. And that’s before I gave them away as presents to friends.
One day I called a program that trains high school kids to work in hospitality, and donated 250 books to them. Staff showed up, hauled away the books, and I never heard from the program again.
I still have about 300 cookbooks. Most go unread. If I want to cook something, I look it up on the web. From grilled chicken in corn tortillas to Korean marinated beef, it’s all there. By chefs and students of cuisines.
Once I asked a very famous chef, whose name you’d know in a second if I told you where his first restaurant is, why he and so many other chefs published cookbooks.
Brand promotion is key.
There are the rare cookbooks that are incredibly useful: Anything by Marcella Hazan, Nancy Singleton Hachisu, or Mark Bittman, come to mind.
But the real essentials of cooking well aren’t there for the most part:
A chef took six months to teach his line cooks how to use salt and pepper properly. A chef taught his sous chef how to buy the best ingredients, from chicken to beans. A chef taught his crew how to use four ingredients well.
The great chef Gary Danko said: “If you can learn to cook ten dishes well, a total of ten, in your lifetime, you are really far ahead of the game.”
Not that I’m knocking stuff you get for free.