I'm Colleen Flippo, a 1999 graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and a former test-kitchen cook.
I love cookbooks. I love the glossy photos of the pretty food, the myriad ideas of all the different meals I could make, the vast potential of deliciousness that each book represents. What I don't love, a lot of the time, is trying to actually cook from cookbooks. So many cookbooks are so terribly flawed, and it frustrates me. Even tried-and-true classics aren't always perfect. One of the very first cookbooks I ever got, Julia Child's The Way to Cook, has a dreadful index, which may not seem like that big of a deal, until you can't find what you're looking for because it's not cross-referenced.
The worst offenders are "celebrity" cookbooks. You know the ones; they've got the smiling mug of a Food Network star chef on the cover, and they promise that you too can cook just like Emeril Lagasse or Rachael Ray or Wolfgang Puck. Open them up and start trying recipes, however, and more often than not you'll find that the proportions seem off, or the instructions aren't clear. And if the recipes don't outright fail, well, sometimes they're just not...all that good-tasting. What gives?
It's my suspicion that most celebrity cookbooks undergo very little testing before they're rushed into publication. When recipes seem as though they were cobbled together by an intern? They probably were. So here's my mission: to test cookbooks and see which ones actually work. I'll be selecting popular cookbooks and trying the recipes in my home kitchen. I'll give assessments of how realistic the time estimates are, how easy it is to follow the instructions, and most importantly, how good the food tastes.
I'm a cooking school graduate, but I'm not super-speedy in the kitchen, so my time estimates will be pretty realistic. I have little patience for recipes that make me stop and scratch my head, so unclear instructions will be called out for what they are: sloppiness and lack of respect for the consumer who's going to try to cook these celebrity chefs' recipes without the help of a backstage staff doing all the prep work.
I'll also be posting other odds and ends: my ideas for quick dinners, various favorite recipes I've used over the years, random magazine recipes that pique my interest, and so on.
If you have comments or suggestions, please let me know: Colleen@thecookbookcritic.com.
Off to the kitchen!