Food 52’s 2014 Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks

2014PigletCookbooks

Here we go! It’s the 2014 Piglet from Food 52, their annual tournament of cookbooks, has started. I love it for a couple of reasons; because cookbooks are awesome and the judging panel adds a unique perspective to the books. The lineups of books that go through cookbook bracketville are always notable and this year is no different. And the judges are always interesting and neck-deep in the world of food and moving the conversation of food along.

For the 2014 Piglet, I’m backing Smoke and Pickles by Edward Lee. Most know of Edward Lee during his time on Top Chef Texas and he’s been plying his trade at his restaurants in Louisville, Kentucky for some time. What I enjoyed about his book was his storytelling and his perspective from learning in New York to moving to Kentucky and embracing the culture, lifestyle, and purveyors of the Bluegrass State. And the recipes I’ve cooked from his book have been great.

Until we know about a winner, there are three weeks of decisions to be made. I, for one, look forward to reading along. As one does with books.

Here are the books:

  • Balaboosta by Einat Admony
  • Family Table: Favorite Staff Meals from our Restaurants to your home by Michael Romano and Karen Stabiner
  • Flour, Too by Joanne Chang
  • Fresh Happy Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes by Jane Coxwell
  • Notes from the Larder: A Kitchen Diary with Recipes by Nigel Slater
  • Roberta’s Cookbook by Carlo Mirarchi, Brandon Hoy, Chris Parachini, and Katherine Wheelock
  • Robicelli’s: A Love Story by Allison and Matt Robicelli
  • Saving the Season by Kevin West
  • Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stores from a New Souther Kitchen by Edward Lee
  • Summerland: Recipes for Celebrating with Southern Hospitality by Anne Quatrano
  • The A.O.C. Cookbook by Suzanne Goin
  • The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz
  • The Art of Simple Food II by Alice Waters
  • The New Persian Kitchen by Louisa Shafia
  • Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison
  • Whole-Grain Mornings by Megan Gordon

Here are the judges:

  • April Bloomfield
  • Brian Boitano
  • David Chang
  • Amanda Cohen
  • Nicholas Day
  • Kerry Diamond
  • Tad Friend
  • Andrea Gentl
  • Aran Goyoaga
  • Evan Hansen
  • Kat Kinsman
  • Liz Larkin
  • Joshua Malina
  • Tejal Rao
  • Maxwell Ryan
  • Sam Sifton
  • Christina Tosi
  • Emily Vikre
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Food 52’s 2012 Piglet

Photo courtesy of food 52

We’re through the first week of the Piglet – Tournament of Cookbooks; Food52’s annual cookbook battle royale. For cookbook nerds like yours truly, the Piglet is great fun. It’s a tournament where the folks at the food community website Food52 take 16 cookbooks published over the last year, pit them against one another bracket-style and have the books judged by various food-loving celebrities. It could be someone like Mario Batali or Nora Ephron weighing in on a winner. Like anything involving a bracket and a chance to place your bets to a winner, The Piglet is a fun read into the biggest, baddest, and boldest cookbook in the land.

This is the third year of the Piglet. The first year’s winner was Seven Fires by Francis Mallman with Peter Kaminsky. I have this book and yes, it is awesome. I particularly like the recipe for cooking an entire cow. But my personal favorite that year was David Chang and Peter Meehan’s Momofuku. Year Two’s winner was Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce with Amy Scattergood. We’re now into the 2012 edition and I’m looking forward to seeing how this Piglet shakes down.

If the first two days of this Piglet is any indication, we’re in for a fun ride. Day One had the domestic goddess Nigella Lawson seducing us with her words. Day two had the delightful Celia Sack of San Francisco’s Omnivore Books weighing in. The third review by James and Caitlin Freemand of SF’s Blue Bottle Coffee, didn’t quite have the lushness of Lawson’s review or the perspective of Sack’s review. Conversely, the Freeman’s felt a bit stilted in my mind, and I couldn’t identify with their viewpoint. Reading these editorials often provides as much perspective about the cookbooks as the critics.

Which is one of the fun things about the Piglet. Because they have reviewers from various disciplines and industries; there will be unique and divergent opinions on cookbooks. Some might love the photographs, some might enjoy the clarity and detail in the recipes. One of my favorite reviews was from the 2010 Piglet when Grant Achatz’ review pitted Canal House Cooking Vol. 1 vs Real Cajun. What I enjoyed about the review was that Chef Achatz’ critiqued two books, each with recipes and styles radically different from his restaurants. His voice made for a great read. I loved it.

There are a few more weeks left in the Piglet, a bunch more reviews, and plenty of opportunities for some upsets. Like the glory of March Madness, we should be in for some surprises. Until then, visit Food52’s Piglet and stock up on those cookbooks. I’m at 336 and I’m getting a bit of an itch to go shopping.