Cuckoo For Coco

Sometimes I really think that if I was poking around my favorite vintage shop and I found a magic brass lamp containing a genie, one of my three wishes would be for a copy of everything Phaidon Press has ever published.

Phaidon produces lavish, beautiful, exceptional works, and their books related to cooking are tremendous additions to any collection. A few months ago I was starry-eyed over the receipt of I Know How to Cook.

Now I am agog over their recently published Coco: 10 World-Leading Masters Choose 100 Contemporary Chefs. I’ve had my eye on it for a couple of months, but at $49.95, I was saving up my chocolate money to buy it. Today was the day.

Essentially, the book has 10 of the world’s most renowned culinary figures–Ferran Adriá, Alain Ducasse, Alice Waters, René Redzepi, Jacky Yu, Yoshihiro Murata, Fergus Henderson, Shannon Bennett, Mario Batali, and Gordon Ramsay–each choose 10 “contemporary” chefs they feel exemplify the best of the modern culinary world. Each master chef also provides a classic recipe with an introduction towards the back of the book.

The 100 contemporary chef selections range from Alvin Leung, whom Ferran Adriá calls “a symbol of a culinary revolution,” and who is dazzling Hong Kong diners with dishes like toro with foie gras powder, freeze-dried raspberry and mustard herb at his restaurant Bo Innovation, to Inaki Aizpitarte, whose intuitive interpretations of bistro classics–served at his understated Le Chateaubriand bistro in Paris–caught the attention of master chef René Redzepi, who praised Aizpitarte’s ability to present “ingredients as closely as possible to their natural state, providing an honest encounter between produce, chef, and guest.”


And although I think I know a thing or two about coffee living here in Portland, I was captivated by the astonishingly inventive coffee creations flowing forth from Tung-Yuan Lin’s stylish Taipei coffee house, GaBee, in both liquid (Taiwanese iced white gourd coffee) and solid (spaghetti with mushrooms and coffee cream) form.
Each chef’s work is displayed and explained over the course of four pages, by means of an introduction by the master chef that chose them, a brief bio, a sample menu with recipes, and vibrant photographs of the chef in action, his ingredients, and his environment. The recipes, while often incredibly sophisticated, are presented in a simple and straightforward manner that allows you to believe, however errantly, that you will be able to deftly reproduce them. I will let you know how this goes this weekend when I attempt a rendition of Alain Ducasse-nominated Armand Arnal’s bitter herb velouté and gray mullet escabéche.

With the 100 chefs hailing from all corners of the earth, it was heart-warming to turn to page 147 and see Portland’s very own Tommy Habetz, nominated by jolly Mario Batali, who affectionately refers to Tommy as “Puff Daddy Habetz.” The two met in New York in 1994 and opened Batali’s Lupa together, “before the West Coast stole him away forever,” as Batali puts it.


Batali praised Tommy for granting “the wishes of those who love simple gustatory pleasures like a sandwich”, and “always pushing the envelope and giving people a more unusual or creative version of the classic they crave.” The spread includes recipes for his oxtail confit, celery and hot pepper relish sandwich, goat cheese, peperonata and olive salad, and biscuits with rabbit gravy. Hmm. I think I may need a second lunch. Bunk, here I come.