Kristen Kish’s first cookbook, a project that the Top Chef season 10 winner says has taken three years from proposal to publication, hits shelves next week — but really, she’s been working on the book practically since birth.
“At its core, my food combines a reverence for the 101s with the beautiful mess that has been my life so far,” Kish writes in the book’s highly personal introduction, which begins with her being given up for adoption in Seoul in 1984 and culminates with her 2013 Top Chef victory.
In between, a young Kish developed her obsession with food watching classic cooking shows like Great Chefs of the World, eventually going on to attend culinary school and landing a job working for beloved Boston chef Barbara Lynch. It was under Lynch that Kish developed the confidence to carve out her own style of cooking, she explains, such as emulsifying creamy cheeses into hot broth to create uniquely funky sauces — a technique she shares with readers via a recipe for rabbit loin with Epoisses, mustard, and carrot.
That refined, technically precise cooking is what carried Kish to cooking competition show glory; here, she translates it for home cooks by prefacing the book’s 80-plus recipes with a section on techniques, covering everything from blanching and deglazing to breaking down a lobster.
From there, the headnotes of each recipe give personal context and root them in her own life. “At the end of the day, as chefs we all tell a very personal story with food,” Kish tells Eater. “For me, when I tell the story of my life, the food follows a little more seamlessly. By learning who I am as a person, you’ll understand the food more.”
Riesling-glazed veal sweetbreads were inspired by her love of fast-food chicken nuggets with sweet-and-sour dipping sauce, for instance. A childhood memory of her father eating the Eastern European delicacy of herring in cream is translated into a recipe for smoked cod rillettes; the stuffed cabbage rolls are dedicated to her Hungarian grandmother, who taught Kish to make them as a child.
“Hopefully cooks and non-cooks alike can appreciate the personal story,” Kish says. “My medium just happens to be food.”
Kristen Kish Cooking: Recipes and Techniques hits shelves October 31 and is available for pre-order now.
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