Lately, conversations among the fooderati have inevitably turned to innovation in 21st century restaurant cooking—or the decided lack thereof. Diners' collective preference for straightforward cooking (combined with the significant financial exposure that comes with swinging for the fences) has disincentivized restaurateurs' creativity.
Nothing new here, but the issue persists. Per Se vet Jonathan Benno is going Italian Corporate with Lincoln. Michael White, whose Marea was one of the riskiest recession bets in the country in May 2009, is opening a casual osteria in Soho and another, Ai Fiori, in a hotel. Thomas Keller is expanding by way of more casual restaurants.
All of this is to say that Rene Redzepi's new cookbook, Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine, is important. It is a journal and catalog of Noma—this year named best in the world by San Pelligrino—since it opened in Copenhagen in 2003, documenting 33-year-old Redzepi's notion of The Perfect Storm: "the maelstrom of operating at the cutting edge of international gastronomy using only locally sourced ingredients," according to the liner notes.
The man is a little crazy, make no mistake. He serves "vintage carrots." As such, Noma is still fairly bleeding-edge despite it no longer being a youngster, but with a philosophy finally codified, this cookbook may prove to be something of a playbook for a particular brand of haute locavore chef. For additional context, see Frank Bruni's excellent July 2010 Redzepi profile.
The 365-page book, with 200 color photographs, is a pro manual and a conversation piece—especially for the novice. "2g sorbet stabilizer" or "3 handfuls hay" isn't the stuff of too many amateur pantries. Have a look: The Feast has preview shots of the book coming at you this week. It drops for $49.95 in October. [The Feast]