18 Dec Jon Cartu Writes: CHEF PAUL’S KITCHEN: My annual Christmas cookbook wish list
There is no doubt about it, we are down to crunch time. It’s the final week before Christmas and you’re in a panic about what to get the foodies on your list. It might even be too late to take the lazy route and order a kitchen gadget or cookbook online.
Not to worry, though, with one week left you can still resort to offline shopping.
What’s that you ask? Well, it’s where you actually visit a store or small, local business, interacting with their staff, browsing through their selections to find something that is just right for your loved ones. In the haste that comes with modern life this act of actually shopping for ourselves and taking the time to find something special is becoming a lost art.
Not to worry though, I’m back for the eighth year with my list of must-have cookbooks for the foodies and wannabe chefs on your list, and this year has a very local feel to it! So, get off the couch, start the car, head down to the one and only Audrey’s Books downtown, and get your list knocked off in no time. It helps that Audrey’s finds itself away from the crazy crowds of the larger malls. While there, hit up some of the amazing shops found in the core, between 104 and 124 streets. There are so many great local vendors offering their wares that you can be sure to find something truly unique for everyone.
New & Local
I couldn’t possibly talk about great local cookbooks without mentioning Chef Shane Chartrand’s first cookbook release. He wrote the book with the help of Jennifer Cockrall-King, famed for writing Food and The City, as well as Food Artisans of the Okanagan. More than another cookbook, Chef Chartrand shares intimate details of his life, being a foster child, then being adopted by a loving family. He speaks about his connection to food throughout his life. He shares his battle with managing his fears and how his emotions can impact his cooking. The book also dives into his style of cooking, which does a great deal to respect the traditions of his Indigenous roots, while presenting it in a unique and approachable way. I have known Chef Shane for more than 10 years now, having worked alongside him and competed against him. In recent years we have shared a glass of wine and conversation about the current state of Edmonton’s food scene, but this book gives me a much greater perspective for his journey. I am looking forward to exploring it more deeply, and I expect it will become a mainstay of books I draw inspiration from for years to come. I have no doubt you’ll feel the same.
Duchess At Home
What can be said about the talented team at Duchess Bakery that hasn’t already been said? Their baking is a point of pride for the people of Edmonton. Heck, I own a restaurant across the street, and when people ask me where it is, I say, “It’s across the street from Duchess Bakery.” Since saying that nine months ago I have yet to meet anyone to look at me puzzled about where that is. This is Giselle’s second foray into cookbooks, with the first being a smashing success. While I thoroughly enjoyed her first book, what I really enjoy about this second book is the slightly simpler approach, made for the home cook. Making macarons can be blissfully fulfilling, it’s not something that every home cook is going to rattle off with ease on a Sunday afternoon. The recipes in this book seem a little more approachable. Sure, they still require skill, and they are delicious, but they are something that most home cooks could nail down, after a few tries. The instructions are clear and concise, with step-by-step photos to help you with the hard parts. I love that attention to detail and care, because frankly I have a mountain of cookbooks that seldom see the light of day because what sounds nice is hard to translate into something I can easily make.
The Prairie Table
Another great local success story is Karlynn Johnston, AKA The Kitchen Magpie. Her first book, released in the fall of 2016, saw great success and still pays homage to good, simple, and delicious dishes, that are perfect for the dinner table. Her new book, The Prairie Table, is a celebration of prairie life, with classic and contemporary prairie favourites, perfect for family dinners, potluck parties and gatherings of all kinds. While you’re at it, visit her blog, https://www.thekitchenmagpie.com, where she shares great new recipes on the regular. Her mouth-watering creations will be sure to leave you drooling.
Maps, Markets & Matzo Ball Soup
For those of you less fond of spending your days at the stove, but still enamoured with the Edmonton food community, this book is for you. Twyla Campbell spent months working on this passion project, sharing the story of the late Gail Hall, a true pillar of the community for many years. While this isn’t a cookbook in the traditional sense, it is a must-read for those who love the Edmonton food scene, and there is still a generous helping of Gail’s favourite recipes to be found throughout the pages. There are now over 40 bookstores and restaurants carrying copies of the book for sale, with proceeds going to the Chef Gail Fund, supporting a number of food-related initiatives, including healthy eating and training programs for young chefs. We will also be carrying a few copies of the book at my restaurant.
This book had me at first glance. The name itself is great, but the messy plate on the cover spoke to me. I love when food is simple and messy. Chefs spend a great deal of their time making food look “pretty,” but honestly, most of us would rather eat saucy bowls of chicken wings or sticky cinnamon buns. This book reminds us that food should be enjoyable above all else. Again, it’s fun, it’s playful and the recipes are simple enough that most anyone can attempt them at home, but creative and unique enough that they leave us wanting more. Author Julie Van Rosendaal, who calls Calgary home (don’t hold that against her!) loves to share her passion for feeding people and has already written 10 best-selling cookbooks, is a radio host for CBC, and has her own blog.
It’s amazing to see so many incredible local food stories coming to light and I hope that this is just the tip of the iceberg for the Alberta food community because our story is unique and worth telling.
If you can’t find one of these local gems to fall in love with, here’s a list of some of my favourite books that seem to get used over and over again:
State Bird Provisions
The French Laundry
Who’s hungry to do some cooking?