The best books for food lovers and anyone passionate about food culture

Who am I?

The passion I have for food was born during my childhood in France when I learned how to cook and bake with my mother, and it never faded away. I still continue to explore, and I have the chance to participate in more than sixty tastings a year. When traveling, I always prepare my trips by searching the web for unique restaurants, coffee roasters, breweries, and local bakeries. When I interview culinary leaders, I am curious about their innovation and their creative process. Chef Elizabeth Falkner wrote in my book foreword, “Emmanuel genuinely seems like he is trying to solve a puzzle, which is why his book is an important piece of writing.”


I wrote...

Conversations Behind the Kitchen Door: 50 American Chefs Chart Today’s Food Culture

By Emmanuel Laroche,

Book cover of Conversations Behind the Kitchen Door: 50 American Chefs Chart Today’s Food Culture

What is my book about?

Conversations Behind the Kitchen Door is a collection of dialogues with award-winning chefs from various backgrounds and cultures, sharing their personal experiences of where and why food culture is where it is today. My podcast Flavors Unknown, as well as my worldwide search for new foods and flavors, are at the core of this book. I included private conversations with culinary leaders and made connections informed by my years of professional engagement as an executive with a leading food industry supplier. People who are emotionally connected to the food and drinks they like. Scores of chefs offer essential insights and entertaining observations about the food scene today that will be of interest to new and aspiring chefs, as well as foodies and home cooks.

The books I picked & why

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Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

By Michael Pollan,

Book cover of Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

Why this book?

In my first ten years in this country, I fell in love with barbecue and was lucky to travel in the Carolinas, to Kansas City, Memphis, and in Texas, the four main regions that characterize barbecue in the United States. When a friend of mine recommended Cooked by Michael Pollan, I read the first chapter called “Fire” in one go. This chapter takes you on the roads from Skylight Inn in Ayden, N.C., to The Pit in Raleigh, N.C., and other delicious barbecue places. Pollan structures his book by the four ancient elements connected to specific “cooking” methods, grilling, braising liquids, baking bread, and the fundamental of fermentation. The research for the book brought Pollan to meet experts in a particular way of cooking or prepping food, and to learn how to do it himself. Pollan shows how cooking is at the heart of our culture. This book is a page-turner, and it is food writing at its best.

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

By Michael Pollan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cooked as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Michael Pollan, the bestselling author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, Food Rules, How to Change Your Mind, and This is Your Mind on Plants explores the previously uncharted territory of his own kitchen in Cooked.

"Having described what's wrong with American food in his best-selling The Omnivore's Dilemma (2006), New York Times contributor Pollan delivers a more optimistic but equally fascinating account of how to do it right. . . . A delightful chronicle of the education of a cook who steps back frequently to extol the scientific and philosophical basis of this deeply satisfying human activity." -Kirkus (starred review)

Cooked…


Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting-Pot Cuisine

By Edward Lee,

Book cover of Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting-Pot Cuisine

Why this book?

I had the chance to interview chef Edward Lee on my podcast ‘flavors unknown’ and to personally experience his passion for recent American food culture. The importance of immigrant cuisine in today’s food described in his book was a great influence on me when I was working on my book. He tackles the question of “authenticity” in immigrant cooking. He says that authentic is not the correct word. Immigrant food is “frozen in time,” reflecting the culinary moment when the immigrants left their homes. I love Edward Lee’s book as it captures the complexity of American cuisine.

Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting-Pot Cuisine

By Edward Lee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Buttermilk Graffiti as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

American food is the story of mash-ups. Immigrants arrive, cultures collide, and out of the push-pull come exciting new dishes and flavours. But for Edward Lee, who, like Anthony Bourdain or Gabrielle Hamilton, is as much a writer as he is a chef, that first surprising bite is just the beginning. What about the people behind the food? What about the traditions, the innovations, the memories?

A natural-born storyteller, Lee decided to hit the road and spent two years uncovering fascinating narratives from every corner of the US. There's a Cambodian couple in Lowell, Massachusetts, and their efforts to re-create…


Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine

By Sarah Lohman,

Book cover of Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine

Why this book?

I worked my whole career in the flavor industry, so when Sarah Lohman published her book in 2016, I grabbed it from the shelves of the Kitchen Arts & Letters bookstore in NYC. The book focuses on eight flavors, black pepper, vanilla, chili powder, curry powder, soy sauce, garlic, MSG, and sriracha, and traces back to when they first appeared in American cuisine. Lohman introduces the readers to a series of characters like explorers, merchants, botanists, farmers, writers, and chefs. For instance, in the first two chapters, we meet John Crowninshield, a merchant from New England who visited Sumatra in the 1790s to look for black pepper. And Edmond Albius, a 12-year-old slave who lived on an island off the coast of Madagascar, was the one who randomly discovered the pollination method of the vanilla orchid flower that is still employed today on the island that produces eighty percent of the vanilla bean consumed in the world.

Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine

By Sarah Lohman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Eight Flavors as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Very cool…a breezy American culinary history that you didn’t know you wanted” (Bon Appetit) reveals a fascinating look at our past and uses long-forgotten recipes to explain how eight flavors changed how we eat.

The United States boasts a culturally and ethnically diverse population that makes for a continually changing culinary landscape. But a young historical gastronomist named Sarah Lohman discovered that American food is united by eight flavors: black pepper, vanilla, curry powder, chili powder, soy sauce, garlic, MSG, and Sriracha. In “a unique and surprising view of American history…richly researched, intriguing, and elegantly written” (The Atlantic), Lohman sets…


Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir

By Ruth Reichl,

Book cover of Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir

Why this book?

I love Ruth Reichl's writing style. I read through this book like tasting a fine wine, one phrase at a time. I picked up a copy at a tiny bookstore on Cape Cod, when I was writing my own book. I loved Reichl’s way of telling stories. Her book is the story of the behind-the-scenes look at the famous Gourmet magazine and its transformation into a cutting-edge publication under Reichl’s leadership. Reichl was the restaurant critic for The New York Times when Conde Nast recruited her to be the editor-in-chief of Gourmet. In her book, Reichl shares vivid anecdotes of people she’s encountered during the golden age of magazine publishing before the internet turned the magazine world upside down. A must for any food lover.

Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir

By Ruth Reichl,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Save Me the Plums as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Trailblazing food writer and beloved restaurant critic Ruth Reichl took the job (and the risk) of a lifetime when she entered the high-stakes world of magazine publishing. Now, for the first time, she chronicles her groundbreaking tenure as editor in chief of Gourmet.

“A must for any food lover . . . Reichl is a warm, intimate writer. She peels back the curtain to a glamorous time of magazine-making. You’ll tear through this memoir.”—Refinery29

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Real Simple • Good Housekeeping • Town & Country

When Condé…


Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping, and Risking It All with the Greatest Chef in the World

By Jeff Gordinier,

Book cover of Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping, and Risking It All with the Greatest Chef in the World

Why this book?

Chef Rene Redzepi from the three-Michelin star restaurant Noma in Copenhagen is internationally recognized for his unique reinterpretation of Scandinavian cuisine and for using locally sourced ingredients. Redzepi also focuses on fermentation and experimenting with using as much of the plants, meat, and fish as possible. Jeff Gordiner spent four years spent traveling with René Redzepi and Hungry takes us along on their journey from Mexico to Australia, to Norway, and Denmark, and offers a glimpse into the mind of this amazing and complex chef who has changed the way we look at fine dining. This is a must-read to better understand the creative process in modern restaurant culture.

Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping, and Risking It All with the Greatest Chef in the World

By Jeff Gordinier,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hungry as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A food critic chronicles four years spent traveling with René Redzepi, the renowned chef of Noma, in search of the most tantalizing flavors the world has to offer.
 
“If you want to understand modern restaurant culture, you need to read this book.”—Ruth Reichl, author of Save Me the Plums
 
Hungry is a book about not only the hunger for food, but for risk, for reinvention, for creative breakthroughs, and for connection. Feeling stuck in his work and home life, writer Jeff Gordinier happened into a fateful meeting with Danish chef René Redzepi, whose restaurant, Noma, has been called the best…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in American cuisine, cooking, and France?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about American cuisine, cooking, and France.

American Cuisine Explore 14 books about American cuisine
Cooking Explore 73 books about cooking
France Explore 690 books about France

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Yes, Chef, Odd Thomas, and The School of Essential Ingredients if you like this list.