Over the course of the past year, books focused on food, travel and other culinary affairs were in abundance. Looking over our shelves, we recall the multiple cookbooks highlighting destinations like Spain, Cuba and the Philippines, making it hard to pick a favorite. We nod to The James Beard Foundation, which published a long-overdue look at full-use cooking and reducing waste for home cooks. We treasure the deep dive into the life of Edna Lewis, and learn from the recipes that define Afro-Asian-American cooking to Harlem’s Alexander Smalls and JJ Johnson, and others that embrace the Canadian delicacies that have made Joe Beef one of Canada’s more beloved dining spots. Most importantly, perhaps, the deeply personal account of feeding the island of Puerto Rico from chef José Andrés, which we are naming our Culinary Book of 2018.
In no particular order, here’s our list for what we view as the most important culinary books released this year. If you’re interested in them, you can find cookbook recipes excerpted on our recipe page, or order your own copy by clicking the corresponding links. (They make great holiday gifts!)
Our choice for Best Culinary Book of 2018, mega-chef José Andrés — who has since been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize — made an impression on the world when he stepped in to help Puerto Rico take care of its own after Hurricane Maria left the island in shambles. Arriving four days after the hurricane, Andrés got to work feeding people — one hot meal at a time — cooking 100,000 meals a day at more than a dozen kitchens across the island. Andrés and team not only fed hundreds of thousands, they also confronted a crisis in broken emergency management systems that launched a deep discussion on how to handle disaster relief. Based on Andrés’s experience, We Fed an Island illustrates how a network of chefs and community kitchens can be the inspiration for change. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Chef Relief Network of Andrés World Central Kitchen. Click here to purchase your own copy
With a foreword by Tom Colicchio, who points out that 40% of all food gets thrown away, and an average of $1500 per year is thrown away in food waste by American households, this book is long overdue and can help teach home cooks a few tricks about full-use cooking. Tapping the expertise of chefs from around the country including Rick Bayless, Elizabeth Falkner, Bryant Terry, and Katie Button, each chapter kicks off with a list of helpful suggestions for avoiding waste, plus 100 recipes like asparagus bottom aioli, squash-seed tahini, and fruit-skin-crusted mahi. Click here to purchase your own copy
Though there was no shortage of Spanish cookbooks this year, including house favorites Catalan Food by Daniel Olivella and the Etxebarri cookbook, our choice for the best visits iconic Basque Country. Home to eight Michelin-starred restaurants, the region is a food lover’s paradise and Marti Buckley, an American journalist and cook from Alabama who has lived in San Sebastián for seven years, guides readers through the most iconic dishes of the region from playful pintxos to hearty stews and braised meats. Click here to purchase your own copy.
Making up 4% of the U.S. population, it makes sense that Filipino cuisine is enjoying a moment, and Nicole Ponseca and Miguel Trinidad of New York City’s Jeepney and Maharlika have the season’s best Filipino cookbook. Imparting the bounty and beauty of this underrepresented cuisine to both fans and curious cooks alike, this book highlights sour meat adobos and national dishes like kare-kare (oxtail stew) and kinilaw (seafood in coconut milk and ginger). Chinese-influenced noodle dishes, Arab-inflected curries; and dishes influenced by Spaniards, Mexicans, and Americans, as well as street food fritters, and meryenda, or sweets, round out the recipes. Click here to purchase your own copy.
With the exception of Au Pied de Cochon, few Canadian restaurants have taken the global culinary world by storm like Joe Beef. With their latest book, Montreal’s wacky trio returns, offering 150 new recipes and some seriously deep thoughts. Similar to their first book, ramblings on nearly everything abound: chapters devoted to the Québécois tradition of celebrating Christmas in July, the magic of public television, natural wine and gluten-free cooking, and advice on how children should behave at dinner. The book also includes a 16-page fold-out guide with recipes for cellar essentials for the end of the world (hence the book’s subtitle) like canned bread, pickled pork butt, and smoked apple cider vinegar. Click here to purchase your own copy
Alexander Smalls, an award-winning opera singer and chef, is the restaurateur behind two famous venues in Harlem, New York – The Cecil and Minton’s Jazz Club. Along with Chef JJ Johnson, the two have crafted a unique home for the interchange of Afro-Asian-American flavor profiles – a true homage to converging cultures and people of Harlem. This cookbook presents over 100 recipes crafted from Smalls’ life-long study of low country cooking and the African diaspora and Chef JJ’s Caribbean upbringing which, as they note, “brought Asia and Africa together on a plate.” Click here to purchase your own copy
Through a series of essays, food-world professionals share the stories of their encounters with chef/writer/activist Edna Lewis. Lewis, who passed away in 2006, was a prolific food writer, a trailblazer in the revival of regional cooking, and a staunch advocate of farm-to-table cooking. This is the first-ever critical appreciation of Lewis’s work and includes words and thoughts from influencers like food historian Michael W. Twitty and Alice Waters. Click here to purchase your own copy.
Cuba cookbooks abounded this year, but award-winning chef Guillermo Pernot and author Lourdes Castro’s Cuba Cooks, which explore Cuba’s paladares, collecting dishes and stories from each that weave together today’s Cuban cuisine, makes our list. From Old Havana to Santiago de Cuba and Pernot’s own restaurant, Cuba Libre — which has locations in Philadelphia, DC, Orlando and Atlantic City — recipes like Arroz con Bacalao, Charred Snapper in Coconut Sauce, Duck Ropa Vieja and Malanga Tacos Stuffed with Eggplant meld traditional dishes with modern touches. Click here to purchase your own copy
Colagreco, an Argentine in the south of France, not far from the border with Italy, describes an approach to cooking that is without borders in this beautiful ode to his restaurant. “I believe that if you keep your mind trapped in limits, in a box, if you walk wearing the blinkers of horse tack you will not become aware of the beauty around you,” he told us in an interview about the book. Through 65 recipes that showcase the artisan producers of the surrounding region accompanied by stunning photography, this is one of the year’s great restaurant cookbooks. Click here to purchase your own copy.