The James Beard Foundation’s Best of the Best: A 25th Anniversary Celebration of America’s Outstanding Chefs

by Kit Wohl

Foreward by Martha Stewart

Chronicle Books

In shops now

Since 1990, the James Beard Foundation has bestowed an award each year to a chef who stands far apart from the rest of the pack.  As the organization celebrates its 25th anniversary, this book profiles each chef in the history of the prestigious award (Wolfgang Puck has earned it twice) and features a couple of their signature recipes.  José Andrés was just named the 2011 winner as the book went to press.

What’s remarkable about this volume – apart from being one of the greatest gifts one can bestow upon a fellow foodie – is that the award has yielded a carefully curated collection of chefs.  Some have become well-known names and even brands over the years thanks to an abundance of cooking programs on American television which keeps us in the know, even if we never make it to Chicago or DC or Portland.  Past honorees featured include Daniel Boulud, Rick Bayless, Thomas Keller, Eric Ripert, Mario Batali and Tom Colicchio.

All of these folks have plenty of cookbooks on their own, but “Best of the Best” is a terrific introduction to some we may be less familiar with.  Or, its just a terrific excuse to try out their recipes to see how they whet our appetite.  Even though I’m a vegetarian, Mr. Colicchio’s Spice-Roasted Lobster with Buttermilk Chutney is calling to me from the last few pages.  So that is where my culinary journey begins…