Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg’s Kitchen Creativity reinvents the typical cookbook. This mold-breaker from the James Beard Award–winning author and photographer of The Flavor Bible starts with a course in foundational kitchen skills, then encourages thinking imaginatively about food sans recipes.
“The only thing as fundamental as food to our lives—our pleasure as well as our survival—is creativity,” Page writes. “The act of creation is a source of meaning that can bring us our greatest joys.”
Page places musings from chefs at Blue Hill, Daniel, and Eleven Madison Park (among many others) throughout the book—jumping from one insight about the creative process to the next.
“Creativity is that top layer of people pushing, and society has always evolved form those efforts,” chef José Andrés writes in the book. “To people who complain about ‘too much’ creativity, I say, ‘Who are you to judge?’”
These surprising pearls are meant to spark inspiration as you read, but the book’s greatest value is in its more-structured sections.
To ease you into practicing improvisation with your newly acquired kitchen skills, Page and Dornenburg break the book into two parts. Part I, “The Creative Process in the Kitchen,” is a triptych of lessons: “Stage 1: Mastery” covers fundamental skills, like how to taste and season classic dishes, while “Stage 2: Alchemy” teaches you how to riff on them. And finally, “Stage 3: Creativity” pushes you to heighten your overall sensory awareness in the kitchen.
We won’t judge if you want to skip right to Part II of the book, “A World of Infinite Possibilities: The Lists (A-Z),” where Page provides exercises and thought-starters to prompt your culinary creativity.
Under “A” alone, you’ll find info on chefs who use aged ingredients and cook at high altitudes. You’ll also find a guide to autumn flavor combinations—like bourbon + chocolate + pumpkin and apples + caramel + cheddar—to get you in a creative mood.