A Chef’s Culi­nary Evo­lu­tion in 150 Recipes

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight -

Todd Richards, Ox­moor House (MAY) Hard­cover $35 (368pp), 978-0-8487-5441-9

Todd Richards’s Soul is a thought­ful in­tro­duc­tion to African Amer­i­can food, though it is only the launch­ing point for Richards’s in­ven­tive cook­ing reper­toire. Chap­ters be­gin with base recipes for food sta­ples like stone fruits, pork, and corn; as heavy as these recipes are, they are just warm-ups for the mae­stro restau­ra­teur as he crafts in­creas­ingly com­plex dishes, eas­ily riff­ing to trans­form clas­sics with global fla­vors, tech­niques, and un­ex­pected in­gre­di­ents like pea ten­drils, beet pow­der, and sam­bal oelek.

Soul de­fines Richards’s core philoso­phies about food, cre­ativ­ity, and so­ci­ety. His heart­felt opin­ions about race in Amer­ica and the im­por­tance of shar­ing food at the ta­ble as an ex­pres­sion of love and fel­low­ship in­fuse this book with ex­tra mean­ing. He is also pas­sion­ate about avoid­ing food waste and makes a tasty and per­sua­sive case to save col­lard green stems for pick­ling, as well as for try­ing of­ten-unloved prod­ucts like giz­zards, chitlins, and okra seeds.

Menus for a va­ri­ety of fes­tive events show off Richards’s vir­tu­os­ity, from a homey fish fry to a fancy brunch fu­eled with such in­spired dishes as Straw­ber­ries with Cham­pagne Aspic, Whipped Cream, and Honey. It would take a fam­ily emer­gency (some­thing re­ally dire) to skip an in­vi­ta­tion to the Chef’s Ta­ble menu at his house for some Smoked Cat­fish Dip with Parme­san Tuiles and daz­zling Sea Urchin with Smoked To­mato Broth.

The sim­ple ti­tles be­lie the el­e­gance and layers of fla­vor, color, and tex­ture that Richards builds up in his recipes. He di­vulges many tricks of the trade, of­fer­ing ad­vice for home cooks on ev­ery­thing from how to res­cue over­done cala­mari to a per­sua­sive dis­cus­sion of how to cook pork jowl. Recipes come with ad­vice on ap­pro­pri­ate side dishes and bev­er­ages, and the menus even have sug­gested sound­tracks.

Most of all, Soul dis­tills many years of cook­ing, im­pro­vis­ing, and learn­ing about dif­fer­ent in­gre­di­ents. Richards is a mas­ter­ful chef who gen­er­ously doles out his ex­per­tise and per­spec­tive in this in­spir­ing book.

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