By Marilyn Kitzes
In his latest book, author and journalist Rahim Kanani profiles nearly 45 culinary icons who collectively have amassed nearly 100 Michelin stars. Kanani, who birthed the idea for this book in 2012 while visiting José Andrés’ imaginative Washington, DC, restaurant minibar, took his lead from how the best chefs get inspired, create, and innovate.
A Wealth of Insight is a great choice for those who love learning about five-star chefs, how they got started, and how they thrive in a competitive industry. Kanani’s subjects appear atop lists such as World’s Best 50 Restaurants, La Liste, James Beard and other rankings and awards, and include such stars as Guy Savoy, Eric Ripert, Aaron Silverman, and Emma Bengtsson.
The author compares chefs and their ingenuity to musicians who produce music in their minds before ever writing the score, artists who visualize their painting before placing brush to canvas, and perfumers who imagine aromas before experimenting. He’s fascinated how chefs are able to intellectually mix and match flavors and textures before they even exist, and their reliance on a memory of flavor profiles from foods from all over the world in every season.
Many chefs explain that before they begin experimenting, they visualize and sketch their ideas out like an architect. They ask themselves what product they are trying to showcase. What method should they use to cook it? What flavors and textures complement the star ingredient, and how do they plate the dish so it’s eaten in the ideal order?
Kanani dedicates a chapter to each chef to explore their creative process, their dedication to perfection, and their passion for food and hospitality. The book covers their childhood memories at their grandmothers’ stoves, career experiences, culinary philosophies, perspective on managing world-class restaurants, and advice to aspiring chefs. One surprising takeaway? Nearly every chef profiled carries a notebook— wherever they are—to document their ideas in real time.
The book begins with excerpts from Kanani’s interview with the late Anthony Bourdain who said “this profession has been accepting of all kinds of people—refugees, maniacs, and misfits—but to excel at it, only the few, the proud, and the weird will flourish.”
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