Our Top 10 Best Melbourne Cookbooks
1. Scott Pickett - A Cook's Story
Scott Pickett launched his first cookbook "A Cook's Story" at Estelle in Northcote, and The World Loves Melbourne was thrilled to be there. Since purchasing the book The World Loves Melbourne hasn't been able to put it down. The best book by a Chef we've ever read, not just for compelling recipes and sumptuous photos, but for its amazing real life story. The book gives a fascinating insight into the culinary scene from the 1990s onwards and The World Loves Melbourne found the book inspirational for those chefs (or anyone) following their dreams. It's a sensational adventure! After 25 years in the industry Scott hasn't even turned 40!
Scott Pickett, owner-chef of two celebrated Melbourne restaurants Estelle and Saint Crispin, began his career at the age of 14 in a winery restaurant and did his apprenticeship with two notable Adelaide chefs. He has learnt his craft with some of the greats – Phil Howard of The Square in London, Philippe Mouchel in Melbourne. Here he is pictured with guest Marianne Duluk.
The World Loves Melbourne loves the references to Adelaide's culinary history including Jarmer's (we found it always difficult to get a booking) and Neddy's (bank execs at corporate function struggled with nouveau cuisine), and the stories from Clarendon Winery (memories of enjoyable family functions) as well as the Salopian Inn (much frequented during my time at a wine company). The World Loves Melbourne also appreciates the references to the London and Melbourne culinary scenes. This book is an enlightening insight into kitchens in the last two decades. And of course the rise of Scott Pickett, with loads of talent and doses of larrikin.
A Cook’s Story tells of a life that combines a passion for food with the art and crafts of cooking. It’s an open and sometimes confronting account of dramas in the kitchen, the roller-coaster of opening one restaurant, the demands of opening a second, the pleasures and challenges of competition and success. Noted chef and owner Scott Pickett worked with respected food writer Rita Erlich to tell his story.
2. Olimpia Bortolotto - La Tavola Della Famiglia
Another stunning Melbourne connected cookbook. The World Loves Melbourne is grateful to receive this epic Italian cookbook La Tavola Della Famiglia by a Melbourne icon and was excited to attend the book launch. Sitting in the salubrious surrounds of Cecconi’s Flinders Lane listening to the memories of one of Melbourne’s matriarchs of food is like flicking through the pages of Melbourne’s culinary history.
70 something year old Olimpia Bortolotto can take you back to the 50s when she first started cooking. But she can also go back a lot further to the late 30s when she arrived as a two year old with her parents, lucky enough to be on one of the last boats to leave Italy before War broke out. Olimpia’s dad had already come out in the 20s to work on the railway from Alice Springs to Darwin and was inspired by the opportunities he saw for his young family in Australia. The launch was celebratory and the crowd adoring, with Olimpia Bortolotto a Melbourne icon. These are recipes that are approachable - you can attempt them and wow your friends! As the charming Maria Bortolotto pointed out, these recipes have been tried and tested over 30 years.
3. The Atlantic At Home - Hilary McNevin and Donovan Cooke
For lovers of seafood Melbourne excels but in only the hands of a few. In terms of the best seafood chefsDonovan Cooke has been an icon for decades and we have followed his journey to The Atlantic in Crown Melbourne. Donovan Cooke has perfected the art of cooking and presenting seafood to customers with technique in spades, while keeping the main ingredient of fish the "hero" of the dish. We have visited The Atlantic on several occasions with rave reviews each time.
With his fourth book, The Atlantic At Home, Donovan Cooke is forthcoming with proven recipes, tips on cooking seafood, and pantry and equipment pointers. Written by Hilary McNevin, Melbourne foodie icon from The Age, Winestate and Broadsheet to name a few, this is the complete cookbook with Donovan revealing many of his seafood secrets. Perfect as a gift for the home cook (also noting Mother's Day), this book is attractively presented and will inspire you to grab a heavy iron pan and journey to your local fish market to create stunning seafood dishes.
The Atlantic At Home is filled with tips and recipes with Donovan Cooke passionate about seafood and determined to help even the most reluctant seafood cook get into the kitchen and gain confidence handling seafood. Profiles on seafood producers, lists of pantry staples and equipment lists, as well as an alternative seafood species chart, support the 70 recipes that the chef has amassed in his over 30 years of cooking and prepares regularly in the award-winning restaurant.
The World Loves Melbourne considers this to be a highly impressive cookbook with compelling recipes, material from Donovan Cooke to transform the home cook into a seafood sensation, high quality photos of dishes, and verve of Hilary McNevin's literary contribution that compliments Donovan Cooke's culinary prowess.
The World Loves Melbourne is privileged to review Donovan's book and we interviewed Donovan Cooke about the cookbook and his philosophy on cooking:
The World Loves Melbourne: Are the recipes of The Atlantic At Home "accessible" for the home cook?
Donovan Cooke: Definitely. In Australia, as with many countries, there is a fear of cooking seafood at home. People are afraid to overcook or undercook seafood. A survey shows Australians on average only cook seafood at home once a month. This book seeks to break this mindset to show that seafood is one of the easiest things to cook at home. It's quick, easy and efficient. The Atlantic At Home also gives people loads of tips to make cooking seafood easier. For example, you can visit one of Melbourne's premium markets and engage the staff to clean and fillet the fish for you, ready for cooking. You can then explore more varied fish varieties without being nervous about preparation.
The World Loves Melbourne: What is the key to cooking with seafood?
Donovan Cooke: A key is to cook with a heavy pan otherwise you end up boiling the seafood rather than cooking it pan fried. Of course it's critical not to undercook or overcook seafood. Having the right equipment and pantry items is also important. Quality fresh produce is a must when cooking seafood. A simple method of pre heating a heavy cast iron pan goes a long way in the cooking process. In the book I give people useful tips such as drying scallops on paper overnight to get the desirable golden colouring when cooked.
The World Loves Melbourne: Marco Pierre White says in his Foreword to the book that you are a "master classicist" French style. How important is it to prepare dishes with the right foundation and detail, versus "creative license"?
Donovan Cooke: Every culture has its methods. French cuisine is known for its technique and precision in cutting, boning, and treating meat, as well as meticulous processes in preparing dishes. I was brought up as a cook in "high pressure" kitchen environments where technique was demanded and I honed my skills in these environments. At restaurants like Est Est Est where there was only a small kitchen I needed to prepare meticulously the night before for the next day's service. I have simplified some of the recipes in this book to help home cooks. The truth is that great cooking comes from excellent preparation.
The World Loves Melbourne: Are the recipes in The Atlantic At Home "proven" recipes over many years?
Donovan Cooke: Yes these are recipes I have cooked in kitchens over the years. With the home cook in mind we went through and cooked the recipes as they feature in The Atlantic At Home and myself and Hilary McNevin made any changes necessary to both ingredients and technique. So in terms of the historical and in terms of practicality for home cooks, these are "proven" recipes. In this book there are recipes and techniques from across my 32 years in cooking. For example there is a sauce I first made in The Savoy when I was 18 years old!
The World Loves Melbourne: The Atlantic At Home contains recipes but also "much more". Are you making it easier for home cooks to excel in the kitchen?
Donovan Cooke: I have a lifetime passion for home cooks to excel in the kitchen. I was raised in the north of England at one of the biggest fishing ports in Europe. My Grandmother cooked fish and chips in a fryer for 50 years but couldn't really cook. My family weren't great cooks so I learned to cook seafood myself. I have intentionally provided tips on cooking throughout the book, as well as educate people on the seasonality of fish. Fish is not just for hot weather contrary to popular belief, but is suited to colder weather. I also help people when it comes to the high cost of fish, in that you can use the whole fish in cooking. For example you can put aside the trimmings from fish and use them later, when say making Thai Fish Cakes (recipe in the book). Or when pulling the heads of prawns, you can use them for a shellfish oil. If you have too much squid with risotto, you can store the extra in the fridge to later produce arancini balls. I'm passionate about achieving the maximum yield for fish by using the trimmings.
Highlights in The Atlantic At Home include Olive Oil Confit Ocean Trout, a famous dish of Donovan's which has been inspiration for other chefs.
Grab your copy of The Atlantic At Home online, from The Atlantic restaurant, and cookbook stockists such as -
Readings – Carlton, Hawthorn, St Kilda & Malvern
Books for Cooks – Fitzroy
Essential Ingredient – Prahran
The Avenue – Albert Park
Chefs Hat – South Melbourne
Cedar Hospitality – Brunswick
4. Stephanie Alexander - Stephanie's Journal
Stephanie Alexander is simply Melbourne cooking royalty. Her book Stephanie's Journal gives readers a unique insight into a culinary year with this much loved cook and food writer. The World Loves Melbourne loves "real" cookbooks with depth and insight. With stories showing the highs and lows, and Stephanie lets us enter her charming world, with recipes interspersed. Stephanie has been a trendsetter for many years, with her zeal for fresh seasonal produce and healthy eating now "all the rage". One of the cooking greats, Stephanie inspires with her cooking, but also her approach to life.
5. George Calombaris - Greek Cookery from the Hellenic Heart
George Calombaris has loomed large on the world stage but we enjoy his connection with Melbourne and the foodie scene here. His restaurant involvements, like Hellenic Republic, are taking us further into the casual dining trend but with impressive and approachable cuisine. We've come along way in this country in terms of a multicultural society, as well as in terms of variety and sophistication of cuisine. George has played a huge part in the popularity of Greek fare in Melbourne, making it accessible and affordable, and served with flair. More specifically, George has brought us the Greek Taverna in all its glory.
Greek Cookery from The Hellenic Heart gives us an insight into an iconic restaurant, Hellenic Republic, which has since expanded further. George describes the Greek Taverna as a place of quiet reflection, but also a place for love or war; a place to feed the belly and the spirit. The recipes are compelling, the family connections are appealing, and the photography by Dean Cambray is stunning.
6. Guillaume Brahimi - Food for Friends
Guillaume Brahimi may reside in Sydney but he runs a stunning restaurant in Melbourne that oozes French bistro class. The World Loves Melbourne attended one of Guillaume's cooking masterclasses and admires this talented and charismatic chef. Food for Friends is a classic, with Guillaume cooking in seven private homes as well as two of his acclaimed restaurants (changes since with Guillaume now at Guillaume in Paddington, as well as Bistro Guillaume Melbourne). Guillaume shows us how to master some of his signature French dishes, infused with his personality and charm. This guy loves butter (beurre) and garlic - we can relate.
Once again, this is a high class cookbook, with iconic recipes and photography. The World Loves Melbourne remembers hearing Guillaume speaking about his love for cooking for friends on weekends. This is not some catchy theme for a cookbook, but captures Guillaume's generous lifestyle.
7. STREAT Cookbook
The STREAT cookbook is about grassroots cooking at its best and a great Melbourne story, with STREAT helping the disadvantaged and homeless. The vibrant 160-page hardcover cookbook is filled with delicious recipes from around the world created by STREAT’s head chef Rob Auger and also features beautiful photography and artwork, and a foreword and recipe from celebrity chef Poh Ling Yeow of ABC’s Poh’s Kitchen.
STREAT has supported and trained a large number young people, at high risk of homelessness, for six-months across its three cafés and coffee roasting business. The cafes are located in Flemington, McKillop Street in Melbourne’s CBD, and the café at Melbourne Central. Trainees learn to prepare and serve delicious meals and coffee and upon graduation receive a Certificate I and II in hospitality from the William Angliss Institute. The majority have then found jobs or gone on to further education. Purchasing a copy of STREAT’s cookbook, or frequenting their cafes, or buying some coffee on-line is a great way to take part in STREAT’s crusade to stop youth homelessness. Just go to the STREAT website and you can help turn a young person’s life around.
8. Riccardo Momesso - Antonio & Lucia: Recipes and stories from my Australian-Calabrian Kitchen
Another rustic and approachable Italian cookbook with delightful family connections. The World Loves Melbourne was invited to Valentino's restaurant in Hawksburn for the book launch. Valentino's are a Calabrian Kitchen with a significant Calabrian antipasto / stuzzichini bar and a menu that is printed daily.
Riccardo Momesso's parents, Antonio and Lucia, moved from Calabria to Australia in the 1960s, bringing with them a rich history of Calabrian cooking traditions - foraging, hunting, fishing, preserving and, most importantly, the tradition of sharing food with family and friends. This book is a celebration of Riccardo's parents and Calabrian cooking. The restaurant held a stunning event featuring Riccardo’s cook book, “AntonioandLucia’’ with special guest Lucia; an evening of stories and food, all from the book. Riccardo himself has worked in some of the finest Melbourne Italian kitchens including Il Baccaro, then Bottega on Bourke Street, now his own restaurant Valentino. Check out the 90 simple rustic recipes.
9. Karen Martini - Everyday
Karen Martini based in Melbourne at Mr Wolf, is a celebrity chef these days and has written a stunning cookbook in order "to take the stress out of deciding what's for dinner." Karen shares a generous 120 Everyday recipes in this well presented cookbook. You will find yourself using this cookbook over again, rather than letting it just sit there in your cookbook collection. Karen provides comprehensive and step by step recipes for everyday dishes such as salads and vegetables, soups, pasta rice and noodles, fish and seafood, curry and spice, chicken and poultry, mince, meat, desserts and puddings, and even cakes and biscuits. Photos are top class, with The World Loves Melbourne salivating.
10. Huxtabook - Daniel Wilson
Daniel Wilson is one of our favourite chefs in Melbourne, taking all before him since crossing the ditch from New Zealand. Huxtabook features the philosophy diners experience at Huxtable - dishes from sea, land and earth. Also Daniel gives us intriguing "Bites" and his "Desserts". The 120 recipes also fit into this philosophy of sharing dishes.
There's a sense of fun about this cookbook and there's compelling recipes in this cookbook you're unlikely to find anywhere else. It's fusion food with several influences, notwithstanding heavy Asian influences, and it's fusion that works. Daniel Wilson excites with his food, but always gets the balance right. We love those Korean ribs!
11. Chin Chin: The Book - Benjamin Cooper
You may still be lining up at the restaurant but you can easily order Chin Chin: The Book online. Everyone wants to know how to emulate the success of Chin Chin and the ingredients to Chris Lucas' magic formula. Chin Chin has always been a little irreverant and this 256-page cookbook reflects the cheeky charm that makes Chin Chin what it is. Featuring a long list of dishes from Chin Chin’s own menu, the cookbook is practical and insightful, with tips from sensational head chef Benjamin Cooper. Great photography and artwork add to this now iconic cookbook.
OK, so there's 11 cookbooks in our list...