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Book review: The latest from John Besh, Steven Petusevsky

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Steven Petusevsky

Cooking from the Heart: My Favorite Lessons Learned Along the Way by John Besh (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2013) ties together food, culture, recipes and stories in a way that should appeal to restaurant professionals.  Southern Louisiana native John Besh shares his stories and the experiences that shaped his professional cooking. Along with documenting his personal journey, he passes along lessons learned in Germany’s Black Forest Region, Provence and elsewhere. Among his nine restaurants are acclaimed New Orleans restaurants Luke (Franco-German), La Provence, Besh Steak and Restaurant August (contemporary French).

Besh’s travels, his mentors and the lessons he learned put the book’s 140 recipes into their social and cultural context. Recipes range from Rabbit in Gelee with Chanterelle Salad from the chapter “Lessons of the Hunt,” learned in Germany’s Black Forest region, to “Leaving the Ocean to Learn Fish” with recipes such as Roasted Sea Bass Provencal. The first three chapters underscore Besh’s commitment to respect and honor animals and ingredients. Among the other eleven chapters are “Not Just a Potato” and “Vegetable Love,” exploring the menu possibilities of traditionally humble ingredients. The “Art of the Table” explores experiential dining, while “Mussels in Marseilles” shares lessons learned from mentor Chef Chris Kerageorgiou of La Provence in Lacombe, LA, with recipes like Saffron Mussels and Mussel and Swiss Chard Soup.

As Besh writes in the book’s introduction, “Twenty years ago, after I had served in the Marines, graduated from The Culinary Institute of America, and cooked in the kitchens of some of the best Southern chefs, I somehow had the good fortune to know that I did not yet know enough. Fortune led me to extraordinary mentors, giving life to the adage: ‘When you’re ready for a teacher, one will come along.’” Cooking from the Heart passes along those lessons, and recipes, in its richly illustrated pages.

Vegetables and more

Chef Steven Petusevsky’s new book, The American Diabetes Association Vegetarian Cookbook: Satisfying, Bold, and Flavorful Recipes from the Garden (American Diabetes Association, 2013) offers a flavor-first perspective for health-conscious consumers and those with special dietary considerations. The book features more than 100 recipes and provides versatile ideas for legumes, condiments, vinegars and oils, grains, alternative proteins and ethnic flavors. Ideas include Pear and Stilton Cobbler with Pecans, and Spinach, Rosemary and Garlic Cakes. Culinary Institute of America alum Steven Petusevsky has been a longtime Restaurant Hospitality contributor and is the author of The Whole Foods Market Cookbook (Clarkson Potter, 2002).

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