Culinary literature : a French talent06-12-2018
The international cookbook scene has been simmering away nicely for the past 20 years. France, the undisputed enclave of gastronomic excellence, is no exception, and has played a pivotal role in satisfying appetites for culinary literature around the world. And at the same time, promoting the delights of French cuisine to a global audience.
Celebrity chef cookbooks make it global
It did not take long for French publishers to realise that demand was high from readers hungry to unlock the technical mysteries surrounding French cooking, which serves as the gold standard throughout the world. Not to mention their desire to learn a different, healthier approach to food, and to cook for themselves. Several French publishing houses have released cookbooks, and among them, one is regarded as at the vanguard of culinary publishing, its author none other than Alain Ducasse. The publishing house of the same name was initially created as a launch pad for the publication of the French chef’s monumental work, Le Grand Livre de Cuisine, in 2001 also known as A Culinary Encyclopedia. A major commercial success, the book has sold more than 35, 000 copies around the world. What’s more, another of Alain Ducasse’s tomes, Nature: Simple, Healthy and Good, written together with Christophe Saintagne and dietician Paula Neyrat, of which the second volume has been translated into ten languages. And following in the footsteps of Alain Ducasse, sales of books by such French culinary luminaries as Thierry Marx, Marc Veyrat, Jean-François Piège, Pierre Hermé, Paul Bocuse and Joel Robuchon to name just a few, make great cooking available to all.
A best seller title made in France
Yet it is not only the truly greats of French cuisine who are enjoying a slice of the literary pie, and other French cookbooks are gracing bookshelves around the world. Case in point, Simplissime: the easiest French cookbook in the world. This back to basics guide addresses beginners, and focusing more on vibrant photos than wordy instructions, presents a series of simple, original ideas using no more than six ingredients. It has proved a recipe for success for professionally trained chef Jean-Francois Mallet, a graduate of the highly revered school of culinary excellence, Ferrandi. Translated into 16 languages and published in 20 countries, 250,000 copies have been sold at the last count.
The oldest culinary bookshop in the world in France
If French cookbooks are selling like hot cakes abroad, it is arguably thanks to a whole army of remarkable ambassadors who constantly fly the flag for French culinary culture. Step forward Deborah Dupont. The ardent bookseller set up Librairie Gourmande in Paris back in the 80s, and the outfit is the oldest bookshop of its kind. “We stock the most extensive range of cookbooks for a “physical” bookshop, with more than 20,000 tomes packed into a 150m2 space open to the public, including thousands of foreign-language and antiquarian cookbooks,” explains contented proprietor Deborah Dupont. Her bookshop attracts customers from around the world, some journeying from far afield to discover her literary treasure trove. Bloggers, foodie readers, cooks and even professional chefs flock to seek out the latest culinary works of reference. Here the great classics nestle alongside the very latest releases. “We are currently seeing a real surge of interest in pastry and also homemade,” observes Deborah. The shop’s location, slap-bang in the centre of Paris, the professionalism of the specialised staff and super-slick delivery service – “we dispatch books all over the world” – makes this bookshop one of the most sought-after destinations for food professionals and foodistas alike. Deborah has a few pointers for foreign visitors passing through, who may be seeking more insight into French cuisine. “For an affordable, short read, Julie Soucail’s How to cook French cuisine is really good, and available in English, Italian, Spanish, German and even Chinese. I would also recommend the classic La bonne cuisine de Madame Saint Ange. And for a more recent release, Let’s Eat France, by François-Regis Gaudry” she advises. An inspiring place that makes you want to approach the culinary in all its facets. Culture, recipes, technicality …
Did you know?
The first recipe book ever to appear in France was Le Cuisinier François, in 1651, by François- Pierre La Varenne, published in English as The French Cook, two years later, before its general release across Europe.