World Class Contributors and Excellent Organization.
Posted by B. Marold on 6/2/2006
`Off Duty, The World's Greatest Chefs Cook at Home' is compiled from contributions of 47 extraordinary chefs and one superior culinary journalist, by prominent UK chef, David Nicholls in order to raise funds for `The Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation', created to support research following chef Nicholls' son's paralyzing spinal injury about three years ago.
For starters, the subtitle is not exaggerating the claim of representing `the world's greatest chefs'. Not only is every single contributor a major culinary star, some such as Charlie Trotter, Thomas Keller, Alain Ducasse, Daniel Boulud, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten are certifiably among the very best chefs in the world, even more prominent if you are limited to the English speaking world. And, in spite of the self-interest of the target charity, I offer the notion that this is truly a better than typically deserving charity, as one of it's primary objectives may be support for stem cell research to treat spinal injuries, which can be done in the UK with no reservations, yet cannot be pursued unshackled by Government strictures in the United States. I'm particularly moved by the fact that American Thomas Keller and Englishman Gordon Ramsay both did heartfelt forewords to the book.
Each chef's recipes are prefaced by the same mini-interview, and when you take the 47 sets of answers together, you get a really insightful look into the psyche and profile of `the world class chef'. I was particularly tickled by the number of chefs who cite the mortar and pestle as their favorite kitchen tool. Watching two or three episodes of Jamie Oliver's TV shows should be enough to convince you that this tool is a seriously overlooked item in the average American kitchen. This part of the book alone is a world better than the similar squibs from the 11 culinary stars profiled in the similar `Food Network Favorites'.
Another major improvement over the Food Network volume is the fact that each chef offers three dishes that together comprise a very nice menu. My only caveat here is that I have strong suspicions that people like Keller, Trotter, and Boulud do NOT cook these dishes at home, except possibly to do some fancy entertaining. One clue is the prominence of high-end ingredients such as truffles, caviar, and foie gras in many of the recipes. And, I have seen some excellent `cooking at home' recipe books from the likes of Charlie Trotter and Wolfgang Puck, and they are a lot simpler (except for Jamie Oliver and Rodgers and Gray) than the dishes in this book.
Overall, I believe the recipes are quite good. Regardless of whether the chef is British or American, all units are given in both Imperial (spoons and cups and ounces and inches) and metric (liters and grams) units. The only caveat I could find with the recipes is the fact that the picture of the dish did not entirely fit the preparation, although the differences were small.
If what you want is true home cooking recipes, Melissa Clark's similar effort, `Chef, Interrupted' may be just a bit better; however, the great personal insights and the high level of contributor is not there.
This is not my favorite kind of cookbook, but of its type, it certainly sets the standard for others to follow.
Posted by Lisa Heller on 12/29/2008
I was very pleased with the Off Duty Cook Book and also with the fast and efficiencent way it was delivered.
A decent cook book and a good read
Posted by Annapurma on 4/2/2006
Most products designed to raise fund for a particular cause have little `real' value. These products are, at the most, tokens of appreciation for the supporters of the cause. So when I bought Off Duty, The World Greatest Chefs Cook at Home in support of the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation, I didn't expect much out of it. It was going to be just another title in my cook book collection. To my pleasant surprise, this is a handsome book to look at with tons of color photographs - 201 photographs to be exact - most of which are of the finished dish, the rest are of the chefs themselves. This is an interesting read for those of you who are, besides your love of cooking, curious to what each chefs has to say, for it includes a short history and / or interview for everyone of the chefs featured in the book. But the best thing that this book has to offer is the many doable recipes for the home cook like myself. The book has 288 pages with roughly 150 recipes organized by chefs. I thoroughly enjoy this book, a decent cook book and a very good read. And one last thing, for those of you who still believe that British cuisine is nothing to talk about; this volume will change your mind. Highly recommended.
Posted by Jon Faulkner on 5/24/2006
The "author", if you want to call him that I guess he would be more of a compiler, of this book created this book in order to help out his son. His I believe 19 year old son was injured in a swimming accident in Australia and is paralyzed David Nicholls created a non profit research organization to help find a cure so his son can walk again. I personally will be buying approximately 4-5 copies and mailing them to friends just to help the cause. Great recipies from some of the greatest chefs all over the world and a good reason, as if the recipies weren't enough, to buy the book.