Notes From a Kitchen: Chefs' Obsession Asks: Are Chefs Artists?

Notes From a Kitchen: A Journey Inside Culinary Obsession is like a VIP pass to a chef's stream of consciousness: all those secret ideas, moments of inspiration, ingredients, preparation, serving vessels and flavor memories, finally revealed. Every chef has them. They jot them down in countless notebooks over their careers, notebooks no one is allowed to see. Notes From a Kitchen gives us unprecedented access and asks the question, is cooking art?

The authors -- artist Jeff Scott and chef Blake Beshore -- have written an enormous book, both artistically and physically. It has two volumes, 932 pages, more than 1,000 photos and 18.2 pounds. It contains edited film sequences, private journal pages and original artwork. This creation follows 10 well-known chefs and focuses on their particular obsessions. The reader is left to decide if cooking is really an art, with chefs likened to Da Vinci and Raphael, or maybe just an elevated craft.

You won't find any recipes in these volumes, as the authors feel their results cannot be commoditized with recipes. "The ultimate product that great chefs produce, however, is purely momentary and private - a taste, a flavor, or a new sensory experience that may be gone in seconds." That's why Jeff and Blake created a book about chefs' obsessions, rather than printing a recipe book of their most popular dishes.

Notes from a Kitchen: A Journey Inside Culinary Obsession is the first book of its kind to accurately portray the daily creative life of a world-renowned chef in a visceral, cinematic format. Never before has a cookbook focused more intently on whom a chef is as a person and why they place their culinary passion and obsessions before almost everything else in their lives.

Volume 1 follows chefs Sean Brock and Johnny Iuzzini (from Top Chef Desserts), with their Southern and pastry obsessions. Volume 2 follows chefs Neal Fraser, Michael Laiskonis, George Mendes, Emma Hearst, Joel Harrington, Matt Gaudet, Zak Pelaccio and Jason Neroni and their obsessions with travel, creativity, Portugal, Piedmont, farming, butchery, products and pork. The volumes are beautifully photographed, and there are Asian paper and photo-polymer gravure print inserts that explore the depths of the chefs' minds as they create their next masterpieces.

Art versus craft can be debated for years. Many believe that if you mass-produce something, it ceases to be art. I find that notion ridiculous. I know I have looked art in the face on a plate, and the person sitting next to me has the same plate of art. Neither is any less artful than the other. Each is a work of genius, perfection, and years of study, spirituality and inspiration. Jeff and Blake describe it as,

Chefs' obsessions are long-term, even life-long. They are held with conviction, shared with people in large, collaborative efforts and have transcendent meaning, as in saving heirloom seeds and in supporting local farmers. Their obsessions have ethical connotations, as in their reverence for the butchered animal that feeds us. They have often been held not just for decades, but for generations, in a region or in a family. Chefs' obsessions are broad, wide and enduring. They often demand years of experience, the mastery of focused skills, a reliance on practiced intuition and a deep knowledge of many areas of expertise.

This new form of modern cookbook studies the unique artistry that surrounds chefs' emotional craft. You have never read a "cookbook" like this before. Notes From a Kitchen: A Journey Inside Culinary Obsession is a cloth-covered collection that feels more like a beautiful museum artifact and private chef's journal than a traditional cookbook.

Released November 21, 2011, this piece of culinary literature is only available through the website,, and retails at approximately $150. Given the size, exceptional materials used, artistry and never-before-shared intimate food thoughts of famous chefs, it is well worth the price tag. This is a must-have for any culinary book collection and any foodie who wants to understand and get a private tour inside the minds of a few famous chefs.

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Patrise Shuttlesworth