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The Recipes Behind the Restaurants

Some favorite cookbooks from some favorite local eateries

Reviewed by Claudia Alarcón, May 20, 2011, Food

Uchi: The Cookbook

by Tyson Cole and Jessica Dupuy
University of Texas Press, 276 pp., $39.95

I fell in love with Tyson Cole's cuisine just months after Uchi opened. I've been a devoted customer since, and I have followed the making of this cookbook with great interest. Turns out it has exceeded every expectation. Thanks to Jessica Dupuy, who guided and polished the text while allowing Cole's voice to come through, reading the book is like talking to Cole in person. Dupuy truly brings the Uchi and Uchiko experience to life in these pages, and just like the food at both restaurants, the book is visually stunning, with impressive images by local photographer Rebecca Fondren.

The book starts with a retrospective account of Cole's cooking background, influences, and philosophy, leading up to the birth and evolution of his restaurants. Next is a chapter on components, known as yakumi in Japanese, which is what truly defines his culinary style. Rather than using traditional yakumi, which are specific for each cut of fish, he steps outside the box with components of his own creation: bacon candy, fish sauce gelée, uni butter, and jasmine water sorbet, to name a few, which the restaurants use to construct their dishes. Cole explains them in such a way that it actually seems possible to replicate them at home with help from certain special kitchen equipment, like a vacuum sealer or dehydrator. The next chapters feature daily specials, menu items, and dessert recipes. While some are clearly complicated, others are quite approachable, and sharing them shows me that Cole and his staff have nothing to hide. Named one of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs in 2005, Cole won a James Beard Award for Best New Chef in the Southwest just last week. He has succeeded because he's never taken himself too seriously, truly loves what he does, and has always given credit to the rest of his team, especially Executive Chef Paul Qui and pastry chef Philip Speer. I look forward to playing with this book, attempting some favorites, and maybe creating my own dishes based on the inspiration it provides.

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