Cooking the Books: Cookbook Gift Ideas from Local Food Insiders

The past year has been a fruitful stretch for cookbooks. Which one should you buy for the home chef on your gift list? We asked a few food insiders to tell us what they're eyeing this season.

cookbook gift ideas

Photo by Bruce Peterson

Modernist Cuisine at Home

$150, picked by Tiffani Faison, Sweet Cheeks

The gist ›Former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold’s $625, five-volume Modernist Cuisine (2011) has become the science-driven chef’s bible. Now he’s democratized much of his advanced molecular gastronomy for the home cook—complete with a section devoted to the microwave.

Faison’s take ›“I’m the only chef I know that doesn’t own the Modernist series. I’m stoked for Modernist Cuisine at Home, since it’s not the price of a Fiat.”



$50, picked by Michael Serpa, Neptune Oyster

The gist ›At his 12-seat restaurant on a 20,000-acre farm in Sweden, the young chef Magnus Nilsson—part of the new Nordic cuisine movement—has made a name for himself with meticulously locavore yet wildly creative dishes, which he provides recipes for in this book.

Serpa’s take ›“It’s not exactly my style of cooking—the foraging, natural style of many of the new Nordic cuisine—but it’s still interesting to see what and how top places do what they do.”


The PDT Cocktail Book

$25, picked by John Gertsen, Drink

The gist ›PDT (Please Don’t Tell) is a world-renowned speakeasy-style craft-cocktail bar located in Manhattan. Its owner, Jim Meehan, shares a trove of drink recipes in this book, which features graphic-novel-style illustrations.

Gertsen’s take ›“It’s visually stunning, easy to navigate, and it beautifully combines old and new recipes.”


Come In, We’re Closed

$35, picked by David Becker, Sweet Basil

The gist  Authors Christine Carroll and Jody Eddy traveled the globe—stopping in Cambridge to visit Oleana and Craigie on Main in the process—to get a behind-the-scenes look at staff meals at the world’s top restaurants.

Becker’s take ›“The heart and soul of a restaurant comes out when the whole team is sitting down to a civilized meal. I can’t wait to get a glimpse inside all of these awesome places.”


Mugaritz: A Natural Science of Cooking

$50,picked by Robert Grant, the Blue Room and Belly Wine Bar

The gist ›Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz pulls back the curtain on the boundary-pushing style of haute Spanish cuisine served at his restaurant in northern Spain.

Grant’s take ›“I came into contact with the book this past spring at a shop in Rockland, Maine. I only got a few moments to peek inside, but from what I saw I could tell that the folks at Mugaritz were doing something different.”


A New Turn in the South

$35, picked by Brian Poe, Tip Tap Room, Poe’s Kitchen, and Estelle’s

The gist ›Celebrated chef Hugh Acheson gives readers a taste of the unique southern cuisine on offer at his Athena, Georgia, restaurant Five & Ten.

Poe’s take ›“There are two reasons I’m enjoying this book: One, it takes me back to my days growing up in Georgia, and two, it covers a lot of new twists on southern cuisine—which is what chef Eric Gburski and I are working on doing at [our new restaurant] Estelle’s, in the South End.”


Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast

$35, picked by Joanne Chang, Flour Bakery and Myers + Chang

The gist ›Portland, Oregon–based baker Ken Forkish will teach you everything you need to know about baking artisanal bread, focaccia, pizza crust, and more.

Chang’s take ›“There are not a lot of recipes, but it’s all about the why and how of bread, which fascinates me. Bread is alive and always changing, and the more you read, the more you learn.”


Bouchon Bakery

$50, picked by Gabriel Bremer, Salts

The gist ›Chef Thomas Keller and his executive pastry chef, Sébastien Rouxel, provide an inside look at the sweet side of the famed Bouchon operation.

Bremer’s take ›“I have found the books of Thomas Keller to be an inspiration for myself, and for the kitchen. They’re great learning tools for both restaurant cooks and home cooks. This book will give us a chance to look at great recipes for cookies and baked goods that we can utilize in the restaurant, and that I can use as Christmas gifts.”


The Boston Homegrown Cookbook

$30, picked by Steve Johnson, Rendezvous

The gist ›Leigh Belanger, the program director of Chefs Collaborative, shares a collection of recipes from the likes of Charles Draghi (Erbaluce) and Gordon Hamersley (Hamersley’s Bistro).

Johnson’s take ›“The recipes are great, the ingredients are seasonal and local, the personalities of the chefs and farmers come through very nicely, and the photos and production quality of the