Pros: a beautiful cookbook with recipes that allows the food to really shine
Cons: some of the ingredients might be harder to find outside of big cities.
Chef Chuck Hughes is a Food Network star with at least 3 shows to his credit, my favorite being "Chuck's Eat the Street." He is also one of a handful of chefs to defeat Bobby Flay on "Iron Chef: America." But before that Chuck was a chef, in Montreal, and from his reputation, a pretty good one at that.
Back in 2010 Chuck authored a cookbook, "Garde Manger" in French speaking Canada. In 2012 Harper Collins received the rights to publish an English language version for distribution in the US and beyond. While I tend to shy away from cookbooks by big, "celebrity" chefs, I have always liked Chuck's sensibility about food, so I picked up a copy of "Garde Manger" to take a look.
What impressed me immediately was the simplicity of most of the recipes and the fact that these recipes let the food speak for itself and shine through. There are no overblown recipes with ingredient lists running to 15-20 items or insanely complicated directions requiring a culinary to figure out. No, this is simple food, served somewhat simply, meant to comfort more than "wow."
That's not to say that there aren't any longer recipes, but with each recipe it is easy to see what each ingredient brings to the dish. Each ingredient plays an important role in the final dish and each recipe has been pared down so that there is nothing distracting the eater from those few important flavors. This is food us chefs like to eat when we are cooking for ourselves; simple, straight forward, and flavorful.
Even the more exotic sounding dishes, such as "Octopus Salad with Fennel, Green Apples and Pistachios" come across as homey more than as something you'd find in a fine dining restaurant.
Don't confuse simplistic with boring or bland though. The thing with simply prepared dishes is that they require good ingredients and they need to be cooked right as each flavor stands out and you don't have a whole host of other flavors to hide behind. But don't worry, with Chuck Hughes guiding you through these recipes you are bound to impress every time.
Unfortunately, I picked up the book at about 3:00 in the afternoon. After an hour of reading and looking at the beautiful food photography, I am starving. The question is do I pick up the ingredients for the "Seared Beef with Beet Salad," the "Chipotle Pork Chops with Potato Risotto," or the "Roast Halibut with Carrot Butter."