Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cookbook Review: Tyler Florence Fresh

The flap says: "In Tyler Florence Fresh, real unprocessed foods shine in simple yet creative recipes designed to maximize the flavor of each component.  Using easy techniques like quick pickling, searing, and dehydrating to heighten tastes and textures, Tyler masterfully mixes and matches flavors to create plates of elegant simplicity that are naturally brimming with wholesome nutrition."

I have really enjoyed Tyler Florence's TV shows on the Food Network, and he is one of the nicer celebrity chefs to look at - as the cover of his latest cookbook can attest to! - so I was super excited to get ahold of this new release.  But I have to say, very sadly, that I was disappointed with the cookbook overall.

I love the earth-to-table movement.  I love the concept of using fresh, locally procured ingredients and doing as little as possible to them to create spectacular stuff, and it on the surface appears that that's what Tyler has done with this book, so that's not my main beef.

My main beef is the presentation of the food in this book.  I'm not a fan of deconstructionism in food; I think it's unappealing, I think it's very fussy and pretentious, and I think meals made up of several components need to blended together to show how they work together, rather than dissected on the plate to show how separate everything is.  And this is what the presentations in this book do; they remind me of biology class where we had to dissect things and splay them out in their bare parts so we could analyze all these parts and pass the lab.  So I found many of the photographs didn't show the food off in an appealing manner and it really put me off.  It mad the food look broken and uncohesive.

And some of the food just looked plain unappetizing.  For instance, the yogurt foam on page 89 is one example.  I hate foam on foods - it's gross.  And there are a lot of sauces in this book that looks similar, and of course, since everything's broken down into its components it looks even worse.  Even the Key Lime Pie - a dessert I love! - is reduced to a puddle of green puree on a plate with crumbs of graham crust sprinkled on top and some little blobs of meringue dabbed here and there.  This did not inspire me at all to make the recipe!

I liked the concept of the hero ingredients Tyler used in this book, ingredients that are the nutritional star of each dish, like asparagus, salmon and tuna.  But the recipes overall seemed - despite what the flap says - overly fussy and too chi-chi for my tastes.  Plus, there are a lot of ingredients on here that fall outside my budget: truffles, fresh tuna, octopus, and squab, for instance.  This leads into my main complaint about the whole buy local/earth-to-table/sustainability movement: some chefs take it a bit far and turn simple things into elaborate haute cuisine dishes that the average person can't afford to make because some of the ingredients, while healthy and sustainable, are too expensive for the average joe.

I have gone through this book a few times, and I just don't feel there is anything in here I would consider making.  Even the chocolate cake would cost me a fortune to make, with 9 eggs and a pound of decent chocolate in it.  I'm sure it's divine, but that's a huge investment for a dessert for me.

So conceptually, a great idea for a cookbook.  Execution-wise, a totally different story.  I don't think I'll be keeping this cookbook around on my already overfilled cookbook bookcase. :(


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