By Marissa Guggiana
Welcome Books, $40.00, 288 pages

This beautifully produced, unique book is more a coffee table book than a cookbook, though it is filled with many good recipes. The author visited 51 restaurants from coast to coast, some small, some large, some little known and some prominent, and invited herself to the staff meal. Many of these meals are as good as what is served to guests, and for each restaurant the author collected and reproduced recipes from that meal. Beautiful photos illustrate the staff and the food. Each restaurant and its chef has a one-page story, and each chef answers a series of questions (“A splurge meal?”). This book is also a reading book. It is best to stretch it into 51 days learning about one restaurant a day. It is not an ideal cookbook because recipes are random throughout. Nevertheless, in the index the main parts of a meal (soups, vegetables, meats, desserts) are collected; thus you can assemble your menu from that. Recipes range from very simple (mashed potatoes, couscous) to complex (Mangalitsa Jambalaya with 32 ingredients). They mostly use easily available ingredients and anyone can follow these well-written recipes. Index is well cross referenced and excellent.

“The particularity of that culture is nowhere more present than at staff meal…”

Reviewed by George Erdosh,