In my continuing effort to write about cookbooks in my collection, I realized that I have one that is going to take me a long time to discuss. It’s from the Great Chefs series, which remains the best television cooking show ever to air. The book is the "Louisiana New Garde" cookbook, and holy hopping hell, is it a walk down memory lane!
It was published in 1994, and that was just about the time I was starting to dine out with regularity. I remember a lot of the chefs involved and know some of them, so seeing pictures of them taken in the early 1990s is fantastic.
There are also some chefs I don’t recognize and some restaurants I don’t remember. It’s hard to imagine now, but at the time we didn’t have the number of channels for information about restaurants and food that we do these days. When this book came out, I was 25, working downtown, and I would take work to lunch with me. Being productive helped me rationalize eating out as much as I did, even if it was only lunch.
I remember L’Economie and Chef Hubert Sandot. I think it’s the first place I had cous cous. I remember Chez Daniel and Bacco, though I don’t remember the chef whose recipe is in the book in the latter case. I remember Mike’s on the Avenue and Michael Fennelly’s “fusion” cooking, and I remember Gerard Maras, although not from his time at Mr. B’s, where he worked when his episode was shot. I remember him from his restaurant in the CBD, Gerard’s, which was just goddamn great.
I could go on, but you get the point.
The preface (by John Beyer, the producer/director on the TV series); the foreword (by William Rice); and the introduction, “Louisiana Chefs: the New Garde” by Nancy Ross Ryan, are all great, particularly as a look at what folks in the early ’90s thought about the relationship between “classic” Creole/Cajun cuisine and the nouveau cooking that was in full swing by the time the series was shot.
It is a cookbook, of course, and in that area I think it holds up with anything in my collection. There are recipes for dishes that are now standards but that were innovative when they were first created, like Emeril’s andouille cheesecake or Susan Spicer’s grilled shrimp over black bean cakes. Most of the recipes are things that just about anyone could do with ordinary grocery ingredients. There are some that I’d describe more as “weekend projects,” but for the most part, if you can make food in the kitchen from raw ingredients, you’ll get a lot of use from this cookbook.
I heartily recommend this book, but I don’t know how easy it is to find. There’s an Amazon page where you can find used copies at reasonable prices. I also have seen it at used bookstores, and if I see it again, I’m going to buy as many copies as I can to give to friends.
Also, I will give you such a look if you disagree with my opinion about the Great Chefs show being the best cooking show. You do not want to be on the other end of that look, but if you disagree, you can leave a comment – and then just imagine someone giving you a look that makes you uneasy and unsure of your life choices.