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First Look: John Besh's New Book Cooking from the Heart

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In New Orleans chef John Besh's third cookbook, Cooking from the Heart: My Favorite Lessons Learned Along the Way, he gets old school. Not like mid-century devils on horseback and highballs old school, but like Michelin-starred, Black Forest and Provence, aspics and gelées, blow torching fur off a wild boar's head old school. If you're looking to find out what exactly chefs do when they say they "spent time in France/Germany/Switzerland/Italy/Spain/ etc.," this is the book for you.

Like Besh's first two books, Cooking from the Heart is large and glossy and full of huge photos (including a few of a younger Besh gallivanting around Europe, if you're into that kind of thing). The book follows Besh as a young chef learning from and cooking in restaurants across Europe, with his young wife Jenifer and their soon-growing family in tow. He writes about his time spent in Germany's Black Forest region as well as his time in Provence.

The recipes themselves are almost entirely classics, although they are Besh's spin on the classics. Looking for a choucroute garnie recipe? Moules gratinées? Clafoutis for every seasonal fruit under the Provençal sun? Cooking from the Heart has all these and more, in about equal measure with the narrative/memoir sections.

Here's my question about this book, though: would it work just as well as a travel/education memoir? If Besh had more space to really dig into those old stories and talk about where his inspirations come from, his mentors and how he learned from mistakes made along the way, would readers be just as satisfied? And would it leave him enough time to write a cookbook for one of his restaurants, like Restaurant August or Domenica? (Please write a Restaurant August cookbook.)

In any case, the book is as charming as the tiny German mountain restaurants and Provençal estates it describes, and fans of classic European cuisines will be delighted. Cooking from the Heart is out now from Andrews McMeel (order on Amazon); look inside:

· Cooking From the Heart [Amazon]
· All John Besh Coverage on Eater [-E-]
· All Cookbook Coverage on Eater [-E-]

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