Memoirs by chefs, critics, and cookbook authors are beautiful in the way they dive into the connections between food, culture, and a love thereof. Here are some fantastic food-centric books for you to snack on.
Flavor is one thing—togetherness, love, and sentimentality are another. Food-related memoirs remind us why cooking is such an important part of so many people’s lives.
These stories cover everything from life in restaurant kitchens to developing a love for a specific cuisine to success and failure in the industry. If you have any interest in food, you’ll love these books.
My Life in France
If you’re familiar with Julia Child’s success in the world of French cooking, it’s hard to imagine her as a new wife creating nothing but disasters in the kitchen. My Life in France shares her experience of moving to Paris with her husband and falling in love with the country. She was instantly smitten by everything—the culture, the people, and, most of all, the food.
Her appetite to learn French cooking soon transitioned into a passion for making the cuisine accessible to Americans. This book, published posthumously and based largely on letters written to her brother-in-law, tells Child’s story of falling in love with French cuisine.
The Gastronomical Me
Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher, a food writer, shares some of her most poetic encounters with food in The Gastronomical Me. It’s a moving story about her travel experiences trying many different cuisines during a time period with wartime tensions and taboos for women.
Her vivid prose makes it abundantly clear that food is more than a means for survival, but rather emotional nourishment. It’s beautifully written and will have you looking at your next meal differently.
Delights and Prejudices
James Beard was an American chef, cookbook author, and American personality who rose to fame in the 1940s—even if you’re unfamiliar with his books, you might know his name courtesy of the prestigious James Beard Foundation Awards issued every year in honor of culinary achievements. In Delights and Prejudices, Beard tells his story of growing up in Oregon and eating his way around the country as he got older.
You can feel his passion for food in every paragraph. Julia Child described the book as “a timeless celebration of the good life as well as a very personal view of how one of our gastronomical greats developed his palate and his lifelong passion.”
Kitchen Confidential saw a resurgence in popularity after Anthony Bourdain’s sudden death in 2018. This memoir combines his rise to culinary fame with gritty insights into the world of restaurant kitchens.
Although the book has its shocking moments and is laced with Bourdain’s rough words about everything from celebrity chefs to vegetarians, it’s impossible to miss the deep love he has for cooking and its ability to bring the world a little closer together.
Yes, Chef: A Memoir
World-renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson shares his childhood in his grandmother’s kitchen and how his family influences helped him rise to a successful career in Yes, Chef: A Memoir.
Born in Ethiopia, Samuelsson eventually made his way to America and appeared on Top Chef before becoming the famous television personality he is recognized as today.This book gives an open look into the ups and downs of the food world and secrets of the fine dining industry.
Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
Ruth Reichl, a food writer and critic, shares behind-the-scenes secrets and stories from the industry in Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise. Reichl has written many books about food, and this one picks up in the early ’90s when she was moving from Los Angeles to New York to take a job as a food critic for the New York Times.
The memoir details many of her experiences on the job, and is full of beautiful, hilarious, and shocking stories.
Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir
Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir chronicles chef Kwame Onwuachi’s upbringing from the Bronx, to Nigeria, to appearing on Top Chef and serving President Obama. It then discusses his experience opening a fine dining restaurant at a young age, only to close it a few months later.
It’s a heartfelt and honest story about chasing your dreams and the struggles everyone faces when they reach for lofty goals.
Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India
Cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey shares a beautifully written autobiography about growing up with the flavors of Indian cuisine. Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India invites readers into her upbringing in Delhi, where family dinners consisted of 50 or more people gathered over dozens of bright and flavorful dishes.
The book is set against the backdrop of the Partition of India, which added turmoil and struggle to Jaffrey’s life. It’s yet another example of how food has the power to bring things together, even in the worst of times.
A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table
After her father died, author Molly Wizenburg went to Paris and started a blog. The rest is history. A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table shares how she discovered her calling in the kitchen by strolling down cobblestone streets and tasting her first pain au chocolat. This memoir also doubles as a cookbook, which new recipes to try at the end of each chapter.