Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food

By Andrew Carmellini and Gwen Hyman

Bloomsbury, USA

Release date: October 28

Reviewed by Heather F.

"Learning to cook isn't just about knife skills and timing and technique, and it's not all about I-am-an-artist thing either. It's about who you are and how you deal with the world: with banging out a meal for six hundred on the fly, for example, or with a crazy restaurateur, or with a pack of starving models, or with three months without a day off. And it's about understanding that cooking is more than just applying heat to food in complicated ways: a good cook brings his or her life to the table, and sucks as much experience as possible from the world into it."

So begins Andrew Carmellini's fascinating and gorgeous memoir/cookbook. It's not often I get the chance to review a cookbook. Yes, okay, so this is my first time. But, what a way to begin! I love Italian food and I love cookbooks and I love chefs, so I knew this would be good. My mouth was watering as soon as I opened the book.

Working with his wife Gwen Hyman, Carmellini, one of New York's leading chefs has written a surprisingly accessible and impressive collection. Beginning with stories from his life, Carmellini chronicles his ascent into the food world. He recounts stories of his family and life growing up, of his time in many kitchens and his adventures with exotic foods, and his rise to fame in NYC. Along the way, the reader is given a glimpse into the life of a chef, the exacting standards set by such a brilliant chef, and all the food you could possibly imagine, painted in words vivid and mouth-watering.

With the tales of his culinary adventures out of the way, Carmellini gets down to business, and, the best part of the book. Recipe after recipe, each one shines as a unique and honest tribute to the cuisine Carmellini so clearly adores. Each is presented with notes and stories, some even with gorgeous photographs, and all look amazing. Many of the more difficult looking dishes come complete with step-by-step photographed instructions, to make the process easier and relatively painless.

This is a beautiful addition to any home cook's library of cookbooks and chef-memoirs. The stories are heart-warming and fascinating. The recipes delicious and understandable. I personally cannot wait to try out some of these fabulous dishes.

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