Something exciting has happened thanks to the cookbook glut of recent years: in an effort to differentiate their cookbooks, chefs began to play with the format. For example, San Francisco chef Daniel Patterson did away with traditional recipes in his 2013 Coi cookbook in favor of free form essays; Stockholm restaurant Frantzén/Lindeberg did something similar. More recently, Italy's Massimo Bottura produced a volume of visual inspiration (alongside traditional recipes), while New York City's Gabrielle Hamilton published a facsimile of her restaurant's recipe binders.
Add to this list Copenhagen's Christian Puglisi, whose brand new Relae cookbook is comprised of several different ways to look at his restaurant. First: an explanation of the founding of his restaurant Relae, from selecting its location on the then-dodgy Jaegersborggade to the measurements of the dining room tables (70 centimeters square) to a treatise on the importance of organic certification to the pH level of their fermented bread starter. It is the literal and highly detailed story of the the restaurant.
Next, a section titled Ideas on a Plate: essays on ingredients, techniques, and theories of cooking. These are separated into categories (Animal, Liquids, Manipulations, etc.) and are more overarching than specific. This section is Puglisi and company's philosophy.
Then, a section called Dishes. Glossy food photography and essay-recipes a la Patterson's Coi; think longer, more in-depth versions of the kind of things a server tells you when you're presented with a dish. Why turnips with lamb? How long did this marinate in whey? That kind of thing. Here is the outcome of Relae; this is what Relae produces.
Last, finally, in the back, an appendix of recipes. The word "appendix" here is deliberate; these are auxiliary to the bulk of the book. To be read and considered by completists, but not integral to the story Puglisi wants to tell.
Instead of offering a strict cookbook, Puglisi has written three lenses through which to view his restaurant: through its history, through its philosophy, and through the fruits of its labor. It's a more vivid way to draw a portrait of a vibrant restaurant than simply writing recipes for home cooks in your standard cookbook format.
Relae: A Book of Ideas is out now from Ten Speed (order on Amazon). It contains photography by Per-Anders Jorgensen and a foreword by Tartine Bakery's Chad Robertson.