"On the Line", the new cookbook by Eric Ripert, chef of "Le Bernadin" is perhaps an example of the next, inevitable mutation of cookbooks.
With the Food Network creating stars out of normal people, and other cable channels broadcasting shows featuring chefs and scrambling to create the next "Top Chef", both our airwaves and bookshelves are becoming crowded with cookbooks. In an effort to make some of them stand out, certain very well regarded chefs are producing books that are more a mix of cookbook and diary. Eric Ripert's "On The Line" is such an example. And a stellar example at that.
Ripert, chef of Le Bernadin, in New York, is one of the most well regarded chefs in the world. His restaurant is frequently regarded as one of the world's best and he has made many guest appearances on cooking shows, everything from "Top Chef" to "East Meets West with Ming Tsai".
Le Bernadin is well known for two things; Ripert's recipes and the emphasis on fish and pastry chef Michael Laiskonis' unique desert creations. "On The Line" features recipes from both.
But the book is more interested in providing a chronicle, a day in the life of Le Bernadin. "On The Line" seems to chronicle, maybe exhaustively, every position at the restaurant, what they do, what they are responsible for, what happens at 7:03 am, who is responsible for that, when various personnel arrives, what time the ice cream is made and who is responsible for that, etc.
Granted, this book is not for everyone. But I think it definitely serves a purpose. A lot of budding chefs could gain some inspiration from Ripert (his food is supposed to be brilliant) and by reading this book, they are likely to learn a lot about he runs his kitchen, perhaps providing the reader with even greater inspiration.
Do I want this type of cookbook to replace the more traditional? No. When I buy a cookbook, I buy it because I am interested in the years of experience that particular chef has. I want to try to recreate some of their recipes at home. I want to use these recipes to provide enjoyment for my family and friends. When so much of the book is about the day-to-day routine of running the restaurant, there is just naturally less I can do with that as a home cook.
But I also read through cookbooks like a novel, placing post-its on recipes that I want to try. Reading through "On The Line" was not difficult and was, in fact, very interesting. It is interesting to learn as much as possible about the inner-workings of a restaurant regarded by many to be one of the best in the world.
Another aspect about these new 'behind the scenes" cookbooks that rubs me the wrong way is that they often seem to be vanity projects. "We are an acknowledged great restaurant and here is why." But Ripert's book doesn't have that feeling. Perhaps it is because he is so humble and self-effacing whenever I see him on television that I just don't believe he has this in him.
"On The Line" is informative, interesting and would make a great gift to a new Culinary Student.