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The 15 best cookbooks, chosen by chefs

We asked top cooks and chefs which cookery books have had the biggest impact on their career and the way they think about food. How many have you read? 

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A good cookbook can transform the way you eat. Here, top chefs and food writers give us the books that made them into the chefs they are today.

For more buyer’s guides, visit our reviews section to find 400+ round-ups including cookbooks and kitchen equipment.

The best cookbooks chosen by chefs

Larousse Gastronomique (1938)

Chosen by James Martin

A French encyclopaedia of ingredients, cooking styles, regional produce maps, wines of the world and appliances. The 1350-page edition was published in 2001. James, restaurateur and TV personality, says, ‘Larousse Gastronomique was a bible for me 20 years ago, and even today, it is still such a source of inspiration’. Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge says, ‘I still refer to this book for its perfect flavour combinations. I also use the French terminology to help me with my menus.’

Available from: 
Amazon (£50.50)
Blackwell’s (£50.50)
Waterstones (£75)

French Cooking in Ten Minutes by Edouard de Pomiane (1939)

Chosen by Raymond Blanc

Pomiane’s book features simple, nutritious meals and a typically French reverence for food. ‘Modern life spoils so much that is pleasant,’ Pomiane says. ‘Let us see that it does not make us spoil our steak or our omelette. Ten minutes are sufficient – one minute more and all would be lost.’ Raymond, chef patron, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, says, ‘Pomiane is my hero. He was not a chef but a renowned scientist at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, an expert in nutrition and the medical values of food. A man of real knowledge.’

Available from Amazon (£7.99)

The Complete Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon (1976)

Chosen by Ping Coombes

With 13 chapters, which include dishes from Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Vietnam, Japan and Korea, this is a wide-ranging guide, not only to techniques, ingredients and equipment, but also recipes. Ping, 2014 BBC MasterChef winner, says, ‘This is my all-time favourite cookbook, it’s an extensive collection of recipes from all over south-east Asia, which is where I do a lot of my research. It provides a fantastic starting point for so many of my recipes.’

Available from: 
Blackwell’s (£25.59)
Amazon (£29.95)
Waterstones (£35)

Nose To Tail Eating by Fergus Henderson (1999)

Chosen by Barney Desmazery

A comprehensive guide to cooking at home with offal, off-cuts, game and garden vegetables – this book led a move away from fussy restaurant dishes in favour of hearty food and neglected cuts. Barney, skills and shows editor at BBC Good Food, says, ‘One of the most thumbed books in my large collection. I return to it again and again for its brilliantly basic recipes for things like brine, aïoli and horseradish sauce. The foolproof ratios and simple recipes are the building blocks of Henderson’s restaurant St John.’

Available from: 
Amazon (£13.27)
St. John Restaurant (£20)
Waterstones (£20)

Grand Livre De Cuisine Alain Ducasse cookbook cover

Grand Livre de Cuisine: Alain Ducasse’s Culinary Encyclopaedia by Alain Ducasse (2001)

Chosen by Tom Kitchin

Featuring 700 recipes listed alphabetically, including 44 different recipes for lobster. There have been several editions since 2001, including volumes on patisserie and Mediterranean cooking. Tom, chef and owner of Kitchin in Edinburgh, ‘This is a chef’s bible – Alain Ducasse is a culinary legend and one of my greatest mentors. I always revisit his book.’

Available from Amazon (£254)

The Moro Cookbook by Sam and Sam Clark (2001)

Chosen by Thomasina Miers

Sam and Sam’s first book features the cooking from a region most British cooks were unfamiliar with 15 years ago. It paved the way for the success of Ottolenghi with authentic recipes, and is a true taste of their restaurant, Moro. Thomasina Miers, BBC 2005 MasterChef winner and founder of the Wahaca restaurant chain, says, ‘I go back time and again to this cookbook – it was the first Spanish and Middle Eastern book of its time and made it possible for so many others to follow in its footsteps. The recipes are clearly written, the prose is lovely and the ingredients are thoughtfully explained, without being at all dumbed-down.’

Quay: Food Inspired by Nature by Peter Gilmore (2010)

Chosen by Eric Lanlard

Australian chef and restaurateur Peter Gilmore shares signature recipes from his Sydney kitchen, and outlines his philosophy for natural ingredients and organic presentation. Eric, pâtissier and author, says, ‘I love this book. For me, it’s not just about the cooking and the food, it’s the whole lifestyle. It’s an aspirational feast and I never tire of revisiting this book.’

Available from:
Amazon (£35)
Waterstones (£40)

French Country Cooking by Elizabeth David (1951)

Chosen by Skye Gyngell

Written when food rationing was still in force (it ended in 1954), Elizabeth David’s second book includes classics such as hare in a cream & chestnut purée. Often credited with rejuvenating post-war British food, David went on to write many more cookery books. Skye Gyngell, founder of Spring, Somerset House in London, calls it ‘a groundbreaking book. Elizabeth David was a pioneer in the total transformation of British cooking habits.’

Available from:
Waterstones (£9.99)
Hive (£7.69)

La Scienza in Cucina e l’Arte di Mangiar Bene (Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well) by Pellegrino Artusi (1891)

Chosen by Antonio Carluccio

Artusi completed and self-published his manual of Italian food, aged 71, at the end of the 19th century. It is a collection of 790 recipes inspired by home kitchens across Italy. The late chef Antonio Carluccio said, ‘This is my favourite food book of all time; it is the only cookery book that truly encapsulates the real spirit of regional Italian food.’

Available from Amazon (£35.99)

Goose Fat & Garlic by Jeanne Strang (1991)

Chosen by Orlando Murrin

Having bought an abandoned French farmhouse in 1961, Jeanne Strang gathered recipes and regional dishes to create this celebration of food between Languedoc and Limousin. Orlando, executive consultant editor for BBC Good Food, says, ‘If ever a cookbook changed someone’s life – this was it for me! Strang’s description of south west France and its rich culinary heritage is so captivating that, in 2004, I left the rat race to move there and open a gastronomic B&B. An inspirational book packed with impeccable research and authentic recipes.’

Available from: 
Book Depository (£14.99)
Amazon (£14.99)

English Seafood Cookery by Rick Stein (1988)

Chosen by Nathan Outlaw

Rick Stein’s first book, published before he became famous, won the prestigious Glenfiddich award. Nathan, founder of Outlaw’s in Cornwall and London, says, ‘There are no photos, so the text is very detailed, but there are beautiful illustrations. With lots of commentary, it reads like a reference book rather than a cookery book. The recipes include original dishes, old favourites and traditional French-inspired food.’

Available from: 
Amazon (£6.99)
Waterstones (£8.99)

Guide de l’Amateur de Pain by Lionel Poilâne (1981)

Chosen by Richard Bertinet

This account of working life in a bakery by Parisian baker Lionel Poilâne includes chapters on how to choose your bread, the art of sandwiches, and the all-important question of whether bread can be kept in the fridge! Richard, baker, author and owner of The Bertinet Kitchen cookery school in Bath, says, ‘Poilâne’s descriptions of the history and work in his bakery has always reminded me of how I felt when I started baking, and provided me with inspiration along the way. I was lucky enough to meet him before he died and he will always be one of my heroes.’

Available from Amazon (£34.89)

Food in England by Dorothy Hartley (1954)

Chosen by Florence Knight

With chapters on kitchen fireplaces, game, medieval feasts, and salting, preserving and drying, Dorothy Hartley’s book is a compendium of mid-century cooking. Florence Knight, chef and columnist, ‘This book is beautifully written and very visual. It outlines so many recipes that we’ve lost, as well as the wonderful food traditions of Britain. I have a signed copy of a second edition and I love it.’

Available from: 
Amazon (£17.30)
Waterstones (£24)

Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child (1961)

Chosen by Rosemary Shrager

American TV chef of the 1960s, Julia Child wrote this book to adapt French cuisine for American home cooks. It includes 524 classic recipes such as bouillabaisse and cassoulet. Rosemary Shrager, author and owner of The Cookery School in Kent, says, ‘This book is so dear to me – it was the beginning of my culinary education. It has no pictures, just text, and it was my bible. I studied the text over and over again and I did ‘master’ the art! I ended up buying two copies because my one was so well-thumbed. I treasure it – my desert island cookbook.’

Marco Pierre White White Heat book cover

White Heat by Marco Pierre White (1990)

Chosen by Tom Kerridge 

Marco Pierre White’s pioneering ‘celeb’ approach to food is evident in his book’s opening: ‘You’re buying this book because you want to cook well? Forget it. Save your money – go and buy a saucepan. You want ideas, inspiration, a bit of Marco? Then maybe you’ll get something out of this book.’ BBC Good Food contributing editor Tom Kerridge states, ‘Marco really made food cool, and his book was the first of its kind. This book is the reason I became a chef – it turned cooking into something rock ’n’ roll.’

Available from Amazon (£20)

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Which of these have you read and which books inspire you? Let us know in the comments below…