Hailing originally from Breton, Richard Bertinet is a chef, baker and food writer, who also runs a range of courses at his kitchen in Bath. It is the latter which has provided the inspiration for his latest book, Cook, as a lot of the content has been inspired by questions from his customers. Subtitled ‘in a class of your own’, the aim of the book is to make techniques and recipes simple and easy to follow, and give readers the confidence not just to make the recipes, but to then develop and make them their own.
Richard’s introduction really gives a feel for his approach to food and cooking, and his philosophy that anybody can cook; the opening notes have a wealth of suggestions and advice that will be of interest to anybody with an interest in cooking.
Cook contains fifty recipes, all with a picture of the finished dish, and some with additional illustrations to demonstrate a technique, or step in the process. There are also step-by-step pictures to show, among other things, how to prepare an onion, or make a traditional French omelette, which aim to give the reader a greater understanding, and help develop skills that will be invaluable in the kitchen. At the end of the book, a bonus section contains a few quick recipes, and several stocks and sauces that will no doubt be very useful.
Throughout, Richard has added Q&As; some might perhaps be obvious to the more experienced cook, but are the sort of thing that a less confident one might ask, such as ‘What is a pinch of salt?’, but they also cover less common aspects, such as how to cook raw chestnuts. There are more than one hundred questions dotted throughout the book, and helpfully, they are explained and indexed at the start of the book, so it’s easy to find a subject that you’re particularly interested in.
Unusually, Cook comes with a bonus DVD, in which Richard takes the viewer through five recipes. These are all done in a way that provides all the information needed to prepare the dish, and are easy to follow; the clip for Simple Chicken Pot lasts 35 minutes, and covers everything from preparing the various ingredients (including jointing the bird), to the final touches. The others, while shorter, are no less thorough.
Throughout Cook and the DVD, Richard keeps things very simple; there are few bells and whistles here, but everything uses great ingredients, and the final dishes look terrific. This is the perfect package for a cook lacking experience or confidence, but even if you’ve got bags of both, don’t let that put you off; Cook could still teach you a thing or two.