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New to cheftalk and I had a question. I know there's a cookbook forum but it doesn't seem very active so I thought I would ask on here. There seems,to be a lot of restaurant cookbooks and I was wondering how accurate they are. Have you ever worked at a place that published their own cookbook? Will the recipes yield something that is ballpark of the actual restaurant dish?
 

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There's a wide range of instruction quality and often little testing.

Many of these cookbooks assume a higher level of cooking skill and understanding than many home cooks have. So the instructions might be very terse and assume things.

Another flaw I see too often is that the recipes weren't tested for the home environment. The timing often assumes the higher heat output of the professional equipment. Or the recipe is just scaled down to home cook sizes but never tested to see how the recipe actually turned out. Many recipes don't scale as linearly as you might think. 
 

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I've never worked somewhere that has published its own cookbook, although I have worked in a hotel where the head chef added a recipe to a book published about regional restaurant dishes in Cornwall.

(In that case it was a bit of a mish-mash book, but the recipes were honest and would easily work in a home environment).

In my experience of scouring books from the real fancypants places for ideas is that yeah, they generally assume a high level of cooking experience and knowledge, and they're also not so suited to home kitchens with their equipment requirements.

For an experienced chef able to try a recipe, and look at something that's not quite right and figure out how to fix it with their own equipment fair enough.... but for dear old Mabel getting the book for xmas probably won't do much for her dinner plate.

Books from high level restaurants are basically just food porn to make the rest of us heathen crywank over them.

:D
 

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I can tell you without reservation that trying to duplicate a restaurant cook book recipe or a celebrity Chef's recipe is very difficult to do in a home setting.

A lot of forethought must go in to each step in the recipe and sometimes the home kitchen simply cannot duplicate what is necessary to make the dish.

Issues like a home oven vs. a commercial one, availability of ingredients, freezer space and refrigeration issues too.

Sometimes ingredients are left out of the recipe or technique is assumed.
 

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In order for a “ professional kitchen” to operate, it’s gotta make money, in order to make money, you gotta know how much your ingredients cost, and how much of each ingredient you are using.
The best method for doing this is using weight to calculate your ingredients, which not only is easy and makes total sense, but also takes into consideration that most ingredients are sold and bought by weight NOT volume.

For some unknown and unexplored reason, North American media REFUSE to acknowledge the concept of measuring ingredients by weight. They ( media) assume ( bad word that, ass-usme) that a home cook can not use a scale and instead give all ingredients in volume rather than weight. Measuring any non- liquid by volume is not only slow and messy, it is also in accurate. This refusal by media to acknowledge using a scale , is insulting to anyone who uses a scale to measure their own weight, their luggage weight, to any truck driver who uses “ tare” and “ gross vehicle weight” on a daily basis, to cashiers at grocery stores charging you by weight, customers buying said groceries by weight, or to anyone else using scales in their professions.

End of rant
 

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Will the recipes yield something that is ballpark of the actual restaurant dish?
In my experience, it doesn't matter whether it is a recipe from my restaurant or my at home stuff, I can give the exact same recipe to ten different people...and the results will be ten different finished products. Some will be ballpark. Some...not so much. This will even happen unfortunately, if the ten people are restaurant kitchen people :ROFLMAO: but at least that gives me good feedback on who to invest my time and energy on. :~)
 

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I have a large cookbook collection (nothing compared to Phil!), including a lot of "restaurant" cookbooks. I'd say roughly you can divide these into 4 groups:
  1. Famous-Guy Food Porn: recipes sorta kinda work if you have good technique and knowledge, and thus can fill in or correct on the fly where there's been some kind of editing, proofreading, or probably writing screwup. Unfortunately this is the majority when it comes to semi-famous fine dining establishments putting out a book.
  2. Modernist Technical: a trend started by ElBulli, continued by The Fat Duck (Heston Blumenthal), WD50 (Wiley Dufresne), NOMA (Rene Redzepi), and so forth. These are restaurant recipes, occasionally scaled for relatively small quantities. They assume you have whatever equipment and weird ingredient access is required, and simply explain how they do it. These are great fun for the home cook IF
    1. you have good technique
    2. you understand a good deal about modernist methods and thus can substitute intelligently
    3. you are willing to treat these as projects
    4. you are OK with things occasionally failing completely
  3. Famous Guy At Home: recipes are not restaurant recipes at all, but are rather reconstructed for the home cook and kitchen. These things are about 50/50 whether they've really been worked through and tested or not. The gold standard here are the majority of works by Paul Prudhomme, who actually built a mockup home kitchen and insisted that every recipe be tested in it, to be sure it'd work properly for the home cook.
  4. My Restaurant The Book: this is where you have a more local place that wants to kick up their business by having a book. You have no idea what you're getting here. Some of these are lovingly constructed and worked through; some are dreadful, with obvious missing ingredients (I recall one with a roasted carrot soup that forgot to mention carrots in the ingredients and skipped the roasting phase in the instructions). Basically with these I'd say buy it if you love the place and want to boost their business, or if you have an interest in the shtick they do, and give it a whirl.
Hope this is useful.
 
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