Coco: 100 Chefs

Coco: 10 World Leading Masters Choose 100 Contemporary Chefs (Phaidon 2009) is a snapshot of the best young chefs in the world, chosen by their peers. This is chefs writing about chefs. It is a stunning collection of creativity, a book to be consulted before a trip abroad or around the US, or simply leafed through for inspiration.

The 100 chefs are listed alphabetically, so the first choice, by Mario Batali is Hugh Acheson, chef of Five & Ten in Athens, GA, among other restaurants. Mario contributed a short essay on why Hugh is outstanding, and the book includes a background paragraph on Hugh, a menu and recipes. There are photographs that show Hugh at work, and even Hugh picking vegetables to underscore his commitment to local agriculture.

The next chef, Inaki Aizpitarte, was chosen by Rene Redzepi, who is the chef of Noma in Copenhagen. Inaki ‘s Le Chateaubriand in Paris is “one of the most modern restaurants in Europe right now”:

Over the last few years a new term has been coined: bistronomy. Inaki is without a doubt at the forefront of this movement. I think that bistronomy sends out a message to more established gourmet restaurants saying that the way guests want to dine today is different from ten years ago…They want to experience something honest and real, without all the pretentiousness that often seems to accompany uber-gastronomy. (p. 15)

The recipes include Fish Custards, Beef with Charred Eggplant, followed by Strawberries, Lemon Verbena, Whipped Cream, and Bittersweeet Paprika Meringue (p. 17) all simple enough to prepare in a home kitchen.

Coco is filled with examples of what chefs themselves, rather then critics or journalists, find really inspiring and the stories behind talent. It is an eclectic collection that captures the energy and creativity of many of the best kitchens in the world today.

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