I first learned about Thomas Keller from Anthony Bourdain. That was years ago on the “French Laundry” episode of his Food TV show “A Cook’s Tour”. A whole episode more or less dedicated to a dinner at TFL that Bourdain shared with a few friends of his. Since then, the cooking of Thomas Keller, has changed the way I cook at home. His recipe for quiche is still to this day the trickiest, most challenging and most finicky recipe I make. but, man does it make a fantastic pie! Every time I strain a stock or sauce three times or pass a soup through a sieve to get that perfectly smooth texture, it is because of chef Keller. Blanching green vegetables in a big pot of salty water? ditto. For me he represents one’s pursuit of perfection in his craft.
I have not been lucky enough to visit his French Laundry or Per Se restaurants yet. So, when I heard he will be signing copies of his latest book “Ad Hoc at Home”, I picked up a copy and stood in line. It was cold but worth it. The odd thing is for a chef who has no TV shows and hardly appears on anyone else’s, there was over 400 people waiting in line! Keller was gracious with his time he chatted, asked about the kind of food I cook and how I use his books. He definitely got a kick when I mentioned how many times I cursed the author of the Bouchon Cookbook when I first attempted the aforementioned quiche. Another fun fact, one of the employees at this particular store made a comment of how “nice” chef Keller was posing for pictures and chatting with the hordes of fans. She then made it a point to say how different he is from “other celebrities” who signed books there. After some coaxing she told me who that was. It was that nice, sweet “girl-next-door-cook-from-a-can” Ms. Rachel Ray. Who knew. Apparently she is a bitch.
Ad Hoc at Home is certainly Keller’s most approachable book for the home cook. The recipes are from his latest casual restaurant Ad Hoc and is chock full of simple kitchen wisdom, homey recipes (split pea soup, fried chicken, leek bread pudding, brownies,…) and glorious photographs. I especially love the chapter labeled “Life Savers”. Here we get many dressings, unique pickles and other pantry items that can, with some creativity, make an excellent meal in a snap. While the recipes are straight forward, this book still asks you to cook and certainly does not compromise. I would expect nothing less.