Saturday, January 10, 2015

Review: Relae: A Book of Ideas by Christian Puglisi

Chef Christian F. Puglisi opened restaurant Relæ in 2010 on a rough, run-down stretch of one of Copenhagen’s most crime-ridden streets. His goal was simple: to serve impeccable, intelligent, sustainable, and plant-centric food of the highest quality—in a setting that was devoid of the pretention and frills of conventional high-end restaurant dining. Relæ was an immediate hit, and Puglisi’s “to the bone” ethos—which emphasized innovative, substantive cooking over crisp white tablecloths or legions of water-pouring, napkin-folding waiters—became a rallying cry for chefs around the world.

Today the Jægersborggade—where Relæ and its more casual sister restaurant, Manfreds, are located—is one of Copenhagen’s most vibrant and exciting streets. And Puglisi continues to excite and surprise diners with his genre-defying, wildly inventive cooking.

Relæ is Puglisi’s much-anticipated debut: like his restaurants, the book is honest, unconventional, and challenges our expectations of what a cookbook should be. Rather than focusing on recipes, the core of the book is a series of interconnected “idea essays,” which reveal the ingredients, practical techniques, and philosophies that inform Puglisi’s cooking. Each essay is connected to one (or many) of the dishes he serves, and readers are invited to flip through the book in whatever sequence inspires them—from idea to dish and back to idea again. The result is a deeply personal, utterly unique reading experience: a rare glimpse into the mind of a top chef, and the opportunity to learn the language of one of the world’s most pioneering and acclaimed restaurants.

Received for review.

I thought this was going to be a cookbook so I could not pass it up.  However, while it does contain some recipes, it is not actually a cookbook. This is more a story of the author’s ideas about cooking and his experiences. It is not really designed for amateurs and I gather the author did not intend the recipes to actually be attempted by home cooks.

This felt like sitting with a group of black turtleneck clad academics discussing the mechanics of a novel. Yes, it’s interesting, but it’s really rather boring and sucks any sort of joy out of the experience. The author cares more about his ideas than actually serving real food that people would want to eat. He is a true artist and if you don’t agree with his vision then you are clearly an idiot (according to him).

So, while this is an interesting book and certainly informative this is not really for food lovers. It’s perfect for chefs but if you want to actually find a recipe for something edible then this is not for you.

★★★☆☆ = Liked It

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