What a contest! I have reviewed two books on this blog that ended up competing for various James Beard awards: Bistro Laurent Tourondel was nominated in the Cooking from a Professional Point of View category and The Country Cooking of France was nominated in the International Cookbook Category. The Country Cooking of France won and Bistro Laurent did not. I can tell you that both books are excellent and it’s a shame that both did not win.
Actually, for a twist on my review of Bistro Laurent Tourondel, I sat down and interviewed Michele Scicolone, Laurent’s co-author of this terrific book.
Michele is one of Cooking by the Book’s favorite authors. She has published 15 cookbooks and counting.
Suzi: Michele, this is a beautiful book, are you happy with the finished product?
Michele: Yes, and thank you. I like everything about it. The recipes are delicious and very accessible to the home cook. Laurent has a great eye for food styling and he did a terrific job. It all looks so tempting.
Ellen Silverman took the food and action shots. I have worked with her before on several of my books and she is always sensitive to the author’s ideas.
And the design of the book makes it very readable. I enjoy just leafing through it as well as cooking from it.
Suzi: How difficult was it to work with such a busy chef? Did you work with a schedule?
Michele: Laurent and I had a very good working relationship and he is very conscientious about his work. His assistant, Charlotte March, was a huge help in getting information to me and keeping up with Laurent’s busy schedule. I enjoyed the project and the opportunity to work with such a great chef.
Suzi: How long did it take you and Laurent to complete the manuscript?
Michele: I think it was just about a year.
Suzi: Are there many recipes in the book that are featured in the BLT restaurants?
Michele: Yes, many of the recipes are dishes that are served in the restaurants, or slight variations. There are also a number of recipes that Laurent cooks at home, and some that he learned from his mother and enjoyed when he was growing up in France.
Suzi: Now for the most common question, did you have any favorite recipes?
Michele:It is hard to choose! To name a few, I loved the Cinnamon Pecan Sticky Loaf with Crème Anglaise, the Dried Apricot Bread Pudding, Warm Chicken Liver Spread and Braised Short Ribs. And the popovers are the best I have ever tasted.
Suzi: Did you learn anything about converting restaurant recipes to home use? or maybe I should ask that of Laurent? Was he able to think from the home cooks perspective? And what do you think he learned from you?
Michele:Converting restaurant recipes to home use is challenging. It is not just about reducing the quantities, but it is also finding the ingredients, the availability of equipment, timing, and knowledge of techniques. There is a lot to consider and recipes need to be doable.
But I have a lot of experience with that from my years in various magazine test kitchens and my many cookbooks (this makes 15!) and all my articles. Since my training is as a home cook, and not as a chef, I just naturally work that way.
Laurent began cooking at home with his mother and grandmother, so he does understand the difference.
As we worked, I kept my attention on quantities, pointed out inconsistencies, suggested home cooking tips for challenging techniques, researched ingredients, and generally tried to make it all practical and informative.
Suzi: Did you work in the kitchen with Laurent?
Suzi: Any advise for my readers regarding this book?
Michele: It is a book that you can use every day for great family meals or a formal dinner party. As with any new recipe, read it through in advance and line up your ingredients and equipment so you don’t get caught short.
Suzi: Thanks so much Michele. We all look forward to your next book.
To my fellow bloggers: We have included a couple of recipes for you that we are using this summer season at Cooking by the Book. Joyce, our executive chef just loved the book, too, and has used several recipes for our summer program. Have fun.