When my friends Patty and Lauren had their baby Audra this year, we had lots of conversations leading up to it about doulas and midwives and anesthesia. None of those things were relevant for my own personal pregnancy, though: over the past three years, I’ve been giving birth to a book.
And today that book is finally here. SECRETS OF THE BEST CHEFS arrives at this very moment and it really does feel like a birth: the build-up, the agony, the ecstasy, and, at the end of it all, a thing that exists that didn’t exist before I created it.
Soon Lizzie and I set off on our journey, traveling to Washington D.C., Chicago, Portland, Seattle, L.A., San Francisco, Athens (Georgia) and Atlanta. You shared many of those adventures here on these pages, like that bacon maple doughnut in Portland and eating with all those food bloggers in California.
Then a new phase of the book kicked in that I didn’t share with you at all, recipe testing the 150+ recipes I’d adapted from the 50 chefs I’d cooked with during those travels. For several months in 2011, that’s all I was doing, cooking and cooking and cooking from the book. Many friends came over to help me through it; Tyla too. Here’s my friend Morgan taking a picture of Ana Jovancicevic’s gibanica:
That’s a fascinating pastry made by dipping filo dough in a decadent mixture of cheeses that you pack into a springform pan and bake until it comes out of the oven golden brown. Here it is close up:
So many recipes became a regular part of my repertoire and I couldn’t tell you about them, like Alice Waters’s olive oil fried eggs with herbs on garlic rubbed toast:
Or Gary Danko’s buckwheat blinis with creme fraiche and smoked salmon, presented here by Diana:
Or Melissa Clark’s duck breast with cherries and balsamic vinegar (which you can make, as per the book, with red seedless grapes to great effect):
These are all dazzling dishes, ones I’m so excited for you to finally make yourselves, along with all the others.
So that was the recipe testing. Then there was the styled food photography, which happened at the home of celebrated photographer Johnny Miller. Here he is in action with brilliant food stylist Leslie Stockton and his assistant, Justin Conly:
This process was so fascinating to me. There was a table full of beautiful props for plating the finished dishes:
These were selected by super talented prop stylist Michelle Wong, who you can see eating one of the cookbook’s balsamic-glazed spareribs here:
The coolest part was watching Leslie make all of this food from the book, proving to me that all of my labors–taking frantic notes with the chefs, transcribing those notes into recipes and then testing those recipes at home–paid off. Here’s the stove doing double duty, a pan full of Angelish Wilson’s fried chicken and another pan full of Christopher Israel’s ricotta dumplings:
Leslie’s most heroic moment came when she was plating Hugue Dufour’s tortilla espanola with chorizo. She flipped it out of the pan (something I don’t recommend in the book because it has a tendency to stick) and one little piece stayed behind:
Through careful surgery (basically laying that piece on with an offset spatula) she made the tortilla look absolutely perfect:
No wonder Leslie’s one of the best in the game.
These pictures, of course, are leaving many people out, most notably Judy Pray, my editor, who saw me through this entire process, from my first sentences (which she slashed through mercilessly with a red pen) to shopping for Medjool dates when we needed them for the photo shoot. Her very clear vision for this book is very much the reason it’s as accomplished as it is; I was all frantic energy and creative ideas, and she was all calm, cool, and collected about what this cookbook should be. I couldn’t be happier with the result.
And so, nice people, the time has come for you to step up and show your support for this labor of love. I really need your help getting the word out. So please, tell your friends, tell your loved ones–Tweet something or Facebook something about the book today–and, most importantly, go buy yourself a copy. I can guarantee you: if you enjoy me and my blog, you’re absolutely going to love this book.
I can’t believe it’s finally here. Welcome to the world, Secrets of the Best Chefs!