As chefs achieve celebrity status, more and more people are interested in their personal stories: lessons they’ve learned throughout their career, how they’ve successfully built their restaurants, and even the obstacles they’ve had to overcome. Here, we list our favorite books by Chicago’s best chefs, some provide recipes, and all provide a glimpse into their personal lives outside the kitchen.
Life, on the Line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat
Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas
In this memoir by Grant Achatz (written with Alinea and Next Restaurant business partner Nick Kokonas), the celebrated chef chronicles the high and low points of his life and career, from his childhood in Marine City, Michigan, his early culinary years at Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry, the opening of Chicago’s Alinea and his diagnosis and battle with tongue cancer. It’s chock-full of anecdotes both funny (particularly about Keller and the other chefs Achatz has worked with), and dramatic (Achatz lost his sense of taste while undergoing chemotherapy).
Girl in the Kitchen: How a Top Chef Cooks, Thinks, Shops, Eats & Drinks
Available October 5
Though not a memoir, Top Chef winner (and chef and owner of acclaimed Girl & the Goat restaurant) Stephanie Izard’s new book offers a peek into her personality, sharing insights on where she gets inspiration, how she shops and how she pairs food and drinks, and offering lessons and advice for the budding cook. With gorgeous photographs, and great recipes. “Girl in the Kitchen” is a must-read for any Izard fan – and who isn’t?
Scars of a Chef: The Searing Story of a Top Chef Marked Forever by the Grit and Grace of Life in the Kitchen
Rick Tramonto, the man behind the acclaimed Trio and Tru restaurants in Chicago, chronicles the best and the worst of his life journey in this moving memoir. Tramonto hardly holds anything back, sharing stories of learning disabilities, a troubled childhood, drug addiction and business and personal failures. It’s an honest look at the ups, downs (and eventually, up again) of a creative, passionate individual. For those who would rather receive food lessons from the world-renowned chef, every chapter in the book ends with a mouth-watering recipe related in theme to the subject of that chapter.
Rick & Lanie’s Excellent Kitchen Adventures: Chef-Dad, Teenage Daughter, Recipes, and Stories
Rick Bayless, Lanie Bayless
Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
In this book, chef Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago, swaps cooking techniques and travel experiences with his teenage daughter, Lanie. It’s a fun, unique look at the at-home life of the celebrated chef, how his family influences (and inspires) his cooking and how sharing a meal can be one of the most powerful catalysts for understanding between parents and children. The book also offers more than 100 easy-to-make recipes for international and American favorites.
Lessons in Excellence from Charlie Trotter
Charlie Trotter, Paul Clarke
Ten Speed Press
What exactly makes a restaurants successful? In this book, Paul Clarke helpfully details the strategies that are instrumental to the success of Charlie Trotter, one of the country’s top chefs, and his restaurant. Clarke gets a behind-the-kitchen (and the desk) peek at how the chef’s uncompromising commitment to excellence is evident in all facets of his business, from customer service to employee management, marketing to public service. This is a must-read for the aspiring restaurateur and food professional.