Off the Menu: Staff Meals From America's Top Restaurants
The best cookbook gift ideas for 2011
Reviewed by Rachel Feit, Fri., Dec. 9, 2011
Off the Menu: Staff Meals From America's Top Restaurantsby Marissa Guggiana (Welcome Books, 288 pp., $40)
Do you ever wonder what top chefs prepare for friends, family, and other colleagues when they're not working? What do chefs eat when they're not on the job, and what are their guilty pleasures? Marissa Guggiana answers those questions in her entertaining Off the Menu. She spent six weeks touring the country, visiting kitchens, and talking to chefs about the meals behind the meals. The fruit of that labor is an insider's look at some of America's best kitchens and the chefs that lead them.
Off the Menu is part cookbook, part biographical profile. It takes as its starting point the staff meal. Many establishments prepare a meal for staff before formal service begins. Like a family meal, it's one of the few times that both front and back of the house come together in an informal way. These meals are served family-style and typically offer foods that are less fussy than the individually sculpted dishes offered on the menu. At Blackbird in Chicago for instance, a favorite staff meal is chicken-fried duck legs with waffles and coleslaw. In Austin's La Condesa, fish and chips with paprika potatoes are on the informal menu, while the staff at California's Stellina wax nostalgic over pork chile verde and crème fraîche coffee cake. Hungry yet? Recipes and photos accompany each of the 50 or so off-the-menu meals described within.
With each chapter, Guggiana offers a humanistic glimpse of the chefs behind the meals with a short Q&A that tackles topics ranging from culinary inspirations to favorite guilty-pleasure treats. This highly amusing, well-photographed volume is bound to please starry-eyed foodies craving an insider's scoop on kitchens across the country.
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