7 Great Films
Seven documentaries for the culinary-minded
1. Spinning Plates Three restos, three stories: Chicago’s Alinea, whose chef battles a mouth-cancer diagnosis that threatens his life and ability to taste; Iowa’s Breitbach’s Country Dining, where the community bands together to help keep a 163-year tradition alive; and upstart Mexican restaurant La Cocina de Gabby that seeks stability in the ever-volatile food industry. (Available on Netflix, Amazon and iTunes store)
2. Three Stars A globe-trotting documentary that takes us into the bustling kitchens and driven minds of the master chefs who have brought or aim to bring these eateries to the peak of the restaurateur mountain (i.e., Michelin status) and are desperate to keep them there. (Netflix)
3. El Bulli: Cooking in Progress Follows the groundbreaking Spanish restaurant El Bulli, home to some of the most delightful molecular gastronomy experiments ever attempted in the culinary world. (Amazon, Netflix)
4. Jiro Dreams of Sushi A deliciously moving portrait of Jiro Ono, his two sons and their relentless pursuit of perfection in the world of sushi. Engagingly philosophical with some of the most mouth-watering food photography you’ll ever see. (Amazon, Netflix, Hulu)
5. Somm A look at the historically hard master sommelier exam, where notes of levity combine with a suspenseful bouquet for a full-bodied docu experience. (Amazon, Netflix, iTunes store)
6. Super Size Me A comical exposé into the deleterious effects of a diet solely comprised of fast food. Humorous, thought-provoking and sobering. (Amazon, Netflix, Hulu)
9 Essential Cookbooks
Titles that local chefs turn to time and again for inspiration.
1. Plenty (Yotam Ottolenghi, 2011): The vegetarian cookbook for omnivores; also ranks in the top five in cookbook sales at Boswell.
2. How to Cook Everything (Mark Bittman): Updated and repackaged since it was first published in 1998, the New York Times columnist’s tome was written “directly for the home cook,” says
Ardent’s Matt Haase. It’s also a Boswell Book Company best-seller.
3. Made In Italy: Food And Stories (Giorgio Locatelli, 2007): “Really simple,” “phenomenal” recipes combined with narrative, says Sanford’s Justin Aprahamian.
4. Culinary Artistry (Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, 1996): Viewed as a strong reference guide for choosing and pairing ingredients.
5. The Zuni Café Cookbook (Judy Rodgers, 2002): “Approachable,” (with emphasis on balance of flavor and the mindset behind the dish). “The book I’d keep if I had to get rid of all the others,” raves Paul Funk of University Club.
6. The French Laundry Cookbook (Thomas Keller, 1999): The recipes from the Napa Valley resto “never look dated,” says chef/restaurant consultant Justin Johnson.
7. Cooking by Hand (Paul Bertolli, 2003): Part memoirs and treatise on Italian techniques and ingredients by the owner of California’s Oliveto Restaurant.
8. The River Cottage Cookbook (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, 2008): Outside of the “good recipe content,” says Aprahamian, “you’re learning the way the chef [a British ‘real food’ advocate] thinks.
9. Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work (Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot, 2010): “There’s a lot of technical jargon,” says Haase, “but if cooks understand it, ultimately, they’ll be better cooks.”
This story is part of The Epicure’s Guide to Milwaukee feature in our March, 2015 issue. Click to read the rest of the guide.