Chef's Choice: The Best Cookbooks

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Chef's Choice: The Best Cookbooks
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Chef's Choice: The Best Cookbooks

Read on for 20 top chefs' favorite cookbooks.

Kyle McClelland Executive Chef, Prospect

“It was one of first books that changed the way cookbooks were conceived and it showed that true fine dining could be translated for the home audience. So many cookbooks now take inspiration from it.”

The French Laundry Cookbook
By Thomas Keller
$33
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Wolfgang Ban Chef/Owner Seasonal Restaurant

"When I first started cooking, Eckart Witzigmann's books were a big inspiration for me. Eckart was an Austrian chef who essentially pioneered fine dining in Germany in the ’70s, a mentor to tons of famous chefs. He was the first non-French chef to ever win the French Chef of the Century Award."

The Herbs and Spices Cookbook
By Eckart Witzigmann and Christian Teubner
$8
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Ted Pryor Chef, The Sea Fire Grill

“Growing up it was The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins because it is, in my opinion, the first true American cookbook. In more recent years, it has been Charlie Trotter’s Seafood, which helped to develop my love and expertise in seafood due to Charlie’s elegant style.”

The New Basics Cookbook
By Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins
$14
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Shane Lyons Executive Chef, Distilled

“This book really opened my eyes to a world of cured meats and preserved foods. Ruhlman and Polcyn have taken a subject matter that spans all of human history, the preservation of meat and fish, and made it simple to understand and approachable to execute at any skill level. A must-have for all cooks."

Charcuterie
By Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn
$25
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Gabe Thompson Executive Chef, dell'anima

"The presentation of food in Alfred Portale's Gotham Bar & Grill Cookbook blew my mind. It made me want to move to New York and be a chef. I will never forget cooking for chef Portale at the chef's counter at dell'anima. I was nervous, scared, intimidated, excited, and honored that he was there. I couldn't help but think that 10 years earlier I was being blown away by the pictures and techniques in his book and then he was sitting in front of me eating my food and watching us cook."

Gotham Bar & Grill Cookbook
By Alfred Portale
$45
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Nicholas Wilber Head Chef, The Fat Radish

"One of my favorite cookbooks is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's first River Cottage Veg. His approach and general ethos towards food and ‘natures larder’ is inspiring. Definitely a man whose views were way ahead of his time."

River Cottage Veg
By Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
$26
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Matthew Lightner Chef, Atera

"One of my first cookbooks was Ducasse Flavors of France. As a young and impressionable cook, my eyes were opened by the seasonal, pristine and simple yet strong execution."

Ducasse Flavors of France
By Alain Ducasse
$25
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Abe Hiroki Chef, EN Japanese Brasserie

"I love Elizabeth Andoh's Kansha. It's a book about Japanese vegan and vegetarian cooking, which is firmly rooted in Buddhist tradition. It inspired me while I was putting together our new vegan kaiseki menu at EN Japanese Brasserie. And as Japanese and western vegetables are quite different it also helped me come up with recipes that would please both Westerners and Japanese alike."

Kansha
By Elizabeth Andoh
$23
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Livia Hegner Chef/Owner, Pepalajefa

"I'm Swiss, so it is no surprise that my favorite cookbook is also Swiss. Das Fülscher Kochbuch is our Swiss cooking bible—everyone uses it! I still use it to look things up and often crack up at how old-fashioned some of the recipes are. Also, my friend Donatella Maranta wrote a cookbook called Nicoletta. She is an incredible cook; the recipes are fantastic! The chicken liver pate I serve at Pepalajefa is made according to her recipe."

Das Fülscher Kochbuch
By Sussane Vögeli
$78
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Ken Oringer Chef/Owner Uni

“Jacques Pepin's The Art of Cooking, both volumes 1 and 2, are my absolute favorite cookbooks of all-time. These books basically taught me how to cook when I was a kid, and they cover everything from how to make puff pastry to how to cook tripe. It's an amazing source of information, probably more than any cookbook I've ever read. And it's not just classic French. There's so much creativity in there.”

The Art of Cooking
By Jacques Pepin
$40
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Jesse Schenker Chef/Owner Recette

“I have developed a collection of approximately 250 cookbooks which includes 3 to 4 old Escoffier cookbooks ("before cookbooks were even popular in America") and a $500 Bouley book. I buy a lot of European books—especially Spanish books. My absolute favorite, hands down, is Essential Cuisine by Michel Bras. They don't even make the book anymore. I got it for $50 but they're sold for $200 to 300 now!”

Essential Cuisine
By Michel Bras
$150
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Karen and Quinn Hatfield Chefs/Owners, The Sycamore Kitchen

“A book Quinn and I both refer to constantly is Culinary Artistry. Not so much a cookbook, but a great reference source for seasonality and ingredients that go great together. Certainly a staple for chefs, but a great book for the home cook to add to their collection.”

Culinary Artistry
By Andrew Dornenburg
$20
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David Myers Chef/Founder, Hinoki & The Bird

“This is the very first cookbook that inspired me not only on culinary level but also on a motivational level. With this book, I realized I had found a home and connection not only with food but also his philosophy of cooking. This is a book I still use to this day.”

Charlie Trotter’s
By Charlie Trotter
$27
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Joshua Whigham Chef de Cuisine, The Bazaar

“My parents gave it to me when I was in culinary school almost 17 years ago—it’s been with me ever since! The book is full of classic technique that is deeply rooted in traditional flavors of the past that I often use as inspiration for more modern things that we do here at The Bazaar. In a world of fried hamburgers, this book keeps the culinary world grounded.”

Larousse Gatronomique
Prosper Montagne
$67
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Harrison Keevil Chef/Owner, Brookville

“My favorite cookbook right now is the Eleven Madison Park cookbook. Just like the food itself, it's clean—the recipes are well written and the images are amazing. It's what I'm using as inspiration for the book I am working on at the moment.”

Eleven Madison Park
By Daniel Humm and Will Guidara
$36
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Victor LaPlaca Executive Chef, Isola Trattoria & Crudo Bar

"I worked with an English pastry chef in Key West. I was 21 years old. He turned me on to White Heat by Marco Pierre White. It was the first cookbook I ever saw that had full-page glossy images of the dishes. I tried and failed miserably at a number of dishes back then to cook. I didn't possess the skill set just yet, but those images inspired me to work my hardest."

White Heat
By Marco Pierre White
$17
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Matt Lambert Chef, The Musket Room

“There are many chef/restaurant books out there and most of them are simply outstanding. This book, however, is my favorite. His food, his philosophy, everything explained, and his plates are years ahead of their time! He is one of the most inspirational chefs of our time and his book shows why. The quote on the first page makes me home sick and want to make my home country known. "

Essential Cuisine
By Michel Bras
$150
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Richard Kuo Chef, Pearl & Ash

"My favorite cookbook is in fact my very first one. It was the first edition of Passion For Seafood by Gordon Ramsay. As a young cook, I really looked up to the way he cooked and ran the kitchen with absolute authority. Although I no longer hold the same level of admiration for him or his food, the dishes and recipes in the book still reflect some of the most essential basics of cooking.”

Passion For Seafood
By Gordon Ramsay
$9
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Anita Lo Chef, Annisa

"I love the first Joy of Cooking. It has everything you can think of, from how to make a Tom Collins to how to cook an armadillo. Great for classic reference. And it was the first cookbook I ever owned."

The Joy of Cooking
Irma S. Rombauer
$24
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Levon Wallace Executive Chef, Proof on Main

"Larousse Gastronomique was given to me as a gift by an old friend's mother when I first started cooking. It was a dusty, old copy with some faded old scribbling that only added to the books charm. I still crack that beast open and get lost in the egg cookery section! I love vieille ecole French cookery."

Larousse Gatronomique
Prosper Montagne
$67
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Image Credit: Lifestyle & Mirror

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With thousands of culinary blogs to hit the Internet, and hundreds of cooking shows live on the air, these days, it would seem that everyone and their mothers is on their way to becoming a chef.

And while these new(ish) resources are a great way to become the next Mario Batali or Cat Cora among your friends and family, there's an even older tool that the experts still swear by when it comes to perfecting their culinary chops: Cookbooks.

Ask any top chef and they'll tell you they had to start somewhere, and that beginning was among the pages of their first cookbooks.

So, in case you're in the market for some new skills, 20 top chefs share their picks for the best cookbooks that taught them the ropes.

Check out the slideshow above for the best cookbooks according to several chefs.

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