A funny thing happened to me while working on this story, collecting all the very important info that Kitchn readers need to know about French cookbooks: Jacques Pepin, French culinary legend, called me on my cellphone. I did not recognize the number, but I answered and was greeted by Chef Pepin’s very French accent informing me of his whereabouts. He was shopping in the market (if only I knew his grocery list!), but could talk cookbooks with me once he returned home.
When we connected again for real, Chef Pepin gave me a list of his favorite French cookbooks (and graciously spelled out the titles for this non-French speaker, letter by letter). These are the cookbooks that sit on his shelves that he turned to while learning the art of French cooking. And to top off the list, I also scored French cookbook recommendations from renowned chefs Daniel Boulud and Dominique Ansel.
If I ever find myself faced with a French cooking question again, I know what books to turn to … or I could just call Jacques Pepin!
1. The Escoffier Cookbook and Guide to the Fine Art of Cookery by Auguste Escoffier, $25
“Anything that has to do with classic French cooking and the nomenclature will be in this book. All of the division of the different parts of the kitchen will be well explained. It’s a very important cookbook for a professional in the kitchen. ” — Jacques Pepin
“This is always a very solid inspirational reference for the beginning of the 20th century.” — Daniel Boulud
“Dominique loves the Escoffier Cookbook — in fact, he still has the copy that he got in the ’90s when he was a 20-something-year-old cook. It’s a classic and teaches traditional French fine dining recipes and techniques, many of which aren’t often seen anymore. There are a few recipe sections he’s quite intrigued by — the Entremet section, and all types of crèpes — something so simple but so versatile. There’s another section all about sweet omelettes, ranging from omelette soufflé to omelette norvegienne (what Americans call a Baked Alaska!).” — Jessica Cheng, PR Director for Dominique Ansel Bakery
2. Larousse Gastronomique: The World’s Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia by Librairie Larousse, from $47
“You can get it in English, but I have the one in French. It is an enormous companion and has everything you want to find — whether that’s a definition or where a dish comes from — so it’s probably the best cookbook for me. ” — Jacques Pepin
3. Paul Bocuse’s French Cooking by Paul Bocuse, from $6
“To me, this book is the perfect reference to the regional cuisine of Lyon.” — Daniel Boulud
4. Le Repertoire De La Cuisine: The World Renowned Classic Used By the Experts by Louis Saulnier, $15
“This is a very important book because it’s maybe 4 inches by 6 or 8 inches and it’s not even an inch thick, but it has 7,500 recipes! When I was working in Paris, you’d have that in your back pocket. If someone would ask for something and you’d say ‘What the heck is that again?’ you could pull this out. It is rudimentary.” — Jacques Pepin
5. Ma Gastronomie by Fernand Point, from $38
“Fernand Point is considered to be the father of nouvelle cuisine. Ma Gastronomie was a reference to the new generations of chefs following him. This book updates French cuisine in the mid-century into a more personalized one. It focuses on regional ingredients, creating world-famous specialties.” —Daniel Boulud
Do you have any of these French classics? Got any others to add?
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