The term "foodie" is thrown around a lot, both in admiration and disdain. While some people consider restaurant hopping and palette developing to be an extremely worthwhile endeavour, still others can't help but think "hipsters taking 20 photos of their latte art for Instagram" and would rather just enjoy their food than document it. But one thing all food lovers can agree on is, obviously, the food. Whether you love eating it, cooking it, photographing it, reading about it in the best food memoirs, or watching people make it on TV, the art of devouring, baking, frying and sauteeing can be an enriching and exciting part of our lives.
Another foodie must have is learning more about some of the people who have made a career out of their love of food... and these food memoirs will hit the sweet spot. The 15 picks below are all by people who love to cook and eat as much as any foodie, and have risen in the ranks to become some of the most revered food lovers in the world. Whether they're home cooks or certified chefs, restaurant owners or just lifelong fans of putting food in their mouths, all of these books give a different and unique aspect to life as a foodie. And you'll definitely want to savor them all.
'My Life In France' by Julia Child
Julia Child helped awaken America to the pleasures of good cooking with her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her television show The French Chef, but as she reveals in this bestselling memoir, she didn't know the first thing about cooking when she landed in France. Indeed, when she first arrived in 1948 with her husband, Paul, she spoke no French and knew nothing about the country itself. But as she dove into French culture, buying food at local markets and taking classes at the Cordon Bleu, her life changed forever.
'Food: A Love Story' by Jim Gaffigan
Bacon. McDonalds. Cinnabon. Hot Pockets. Kale. Comedian Jim Gaffigan has made his career rhapsodizing over the most treasured dishes of the American diet and decrying the worst offenders. In Food: A Memoir, Gaffigan shares his thoughts on all things culinary(ish). Insights such as: why he believes coconut water was invented to get people to stop drinking coconut water, why pretzel bread is #3 on his most important inventions of humankind, and the answer to the age-old question “Which animal is more delicious: the pig, the cow, or the bacon cheeseburger?"
'Love, Loss, And What We Ate: A Memoir' by Padma Lakshmi
Long before Padma Lakshmi ever stepped onto a television set, she learned that how we eat is an extension of how we love, comfort, forge a sense of home—and how we taste the world as we navigate through it. Shuttling between continents as a child, she lived a life of dislocation that would become habit as an adult. And yet, through all her travels, her favorite food remained the rice she first ate sitting on the floor of her grandmother’s kitchen in India. This is her account of her journey from that humble kitchen, ruled by ferocious and unforgettable women, to the judges’ table of Top Chef and beyond.
'Yes, Chef' by Marcus Samuelsson
Marcus Samuelsson was three years old when he, his mother, and his sister— all battling tuberculosis — walked 75 miles to a hospital in the Ethiopian city of Addis Adaba. His mother succumbed to the disease, but Marcus and his sister recovered, and they were welcomed into a loving family in Sweden. It was Marcus’s new grandmother, Helga, that sparked in him a passion for food and cooking. Yes, Chef chronicles his journey from Helga’s humble kitchen to the most cutthroat restaurants in Switzerland and France; from his grueling stints on cruise ships to his arrival in New York City, where he earned a coveted New York Times three-star rating at the age of 24.
'Blood, Bones, And Butter: The Inadvertent Education Of A Reluctant Chef' by Gabrielle Hamilton
Before Gabrielle Hamilton opened her acclaimed New York restaurant Prune, she spent 20 years trying to find purpose in her life. Blood, Bones & Butter follows an unconventional journey through the many kitchens Hamilton has inhabited through the years: the rural kitchen of her childhood, where her mother stood with an oily wooden spoon in hand; the kitchens of France, Greece, and Turkey, where she learned the essence of hospitality; Hamilton’s own kitchen at Prune, with its many unexpected challenges; and the kitchen of her mother-in-law, who serves as the link between Hamilton’s idyllic past and her own future family.
'Stir: My Broken Brain And The Meals That Brought Me Home' by Jessica Fechtor
At 28, Jessica Fechtor was happily immersed in graduate school and her young marriage, and thinking about starting a family. Then one day, she went for a run and an aneurysm burst in her brain. She nearly died. She lost her sense of smell, the sight in her left eye, and was forced to the sidelines of the life she loved. Jessica’s journey to recovery began in the kitchen. There, she drew strength from the restorative power of cooking and baking. Stir is a heartfelt examination of what it means to nourish and be nourished.
'Tender At The Bone: Growing Up At The Table' by Ruth Reichl
At an early age, Ruth Reichl discovered that "food could be a way of making sense of the world...If you watched people as they ate, you could find out who they were." Tender at the Bone is the story of a life determined, enhanced, and defined by a passion for food. Beginning with Reichl's mother, the notorious food-poisoner known as the Queen of Mold, Reichl introduces us to the fascinating characters who shaped her world and her tastes. Her memoir is a witty and compelling chronicle of a culinary sensualist's coming-of-age.
'Life, On The Line: A Chef's Story Of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, And Redefining The Way We Eat' by Grant Achatz
In 2007, chef Grant Achatz seemingly had it made. Then, positioned firmly in the world's culinary spotlight, he was diagnosed with tongue cancer. Doctors agreed the only course of action was to remove the cancerous tissue, which included his entire tongue. Desperate to preserve his quality of life, Grant undertook an alternative treatment of chemotherapy and radiation. But the choice came at a cost: he lost his sense of taste. Tapping into discipline, passion, and focus, he trained his chefs to mimic his palate and learned how to cook with his other senses. Life, on the Line is a story of a love affair with cooking, survival, and creativity.
'A Tiger In The Kitchen: A Memoir Of Food And Family' by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
After growing up in the most food-obsessed city in the world, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan left home at 18 for America. But as a 30-something fashion writer in New York, she felt the dishes that defined her childhood beginning to call her back. In her quest to recreate the dishes of her native Singapore by cooking with her family, Tan learned not only cherished recipes but long-buried stories of past generations. A Tiger in the Kitchen, is the story of a Chinese-Singaporean ex-pat who learns to infuse her New York lifestyle with the rich lessons of the Singaporean kitchen, ultimately reconnecting with her family and herself.
'Double Cup Love' by Eddie Huang
After growing up in a wild first-generation immigrant family in suburban America, Eddie Huang begins to wonder just how authentic his Chinese identity really is. So he enlists his brothers Emery and Evan, and returns to the country his ancestors abandoned. His immediate goal is to sample China’s best food and see if his cooking measures up — but his deeper goals are to reconnect with his homeland, repair his frayed family relationships, decide whether to marry his all-American girlfriend, and figure out just where to find meaning in his life.
'I Hear She's A Real Bitch' by Jen Agg (September 12, 2017)
I Hear She’s a Real Bitch tells the story of how Jen Agg fought her way through the patriarchal service industry and made it happen, from getting her first job pouring drinks all the way to starting Toronto’s culinary revival and running some of Canada’s most famous restaurants. Agg’s frank and often hilarious observations on an industry in which sexism has been normalized, her memoir is more than just a story about starting a restaurant: it is a rallying cry for a feminist revolution in the culinary world.
'Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage' by Molly Wizenberg
When Molly Wizenberg married Brandon Pettit, he was a trained composer with a handful of offbeat interests: espresso machines, wooden boats, violin-building, and ice cream–making. So when Brandon decided to open a restaurant, Molly was supportive—not because she wanted him to do it, but because she didn’t think he would. Before she knew it, he’d signed a lease. Together they built Delancey: gutting and renovating the space, developing a menu and hiring staff. Delancey became a success, and Molly tried to convince herself that she was happy...until she realized that she hadn’t been honest with herself or Brandon.
'Coming to My Senses: The Making Of A Counterculture Cook' by Alice Waters (September 5, 2017)
When Alice Waters opened the doors of her "little French restaurant" in Berkeley, California in 1971 at the age of 27, no one anticipated the mark it would leave on the culinary landscape...Alice least of all. Fueled by both naivete and a relentless pursuit of beauty and flavor, she turned her passion project into an iconic institution that redefined American cuisine. In Coming to My Senses Alice retraces the events that led her to 1517 Shattuck Avenue and the tumultuous times that emboldened her to find her own voice as a cook.
'Give A Girl A Knife' by Amy Thielen
Before Amy Thielen frantically plated rings of truffled potatoes in some of New York City s finest kitchens, she grew up in Minnesota with a mother whose cooking pulsed with joy, family drama, and butter. Inspired by her grandmother's tales of cooking on the family farm, Thielen moves with her husband to a cabin in the woods. There, she finds a growing food obsession that leads to the madhouse of New York's top haute cuisine. But soon, she comes face to face with her past, and a curious truth: that taste memory is the most important ingredient of all.
'Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among The Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, And Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me To Live For Taste' by Bianca Bosker
Astounded by wine connoisseurs' fanatical dedication and seemingly superhuman sensory powers, Bosker set out to discover what drove their obsession, and whether she, too, could become a cork dork. Thus begins a year and a half long adventure inside elite tasting groups, exclusive New York City restaurants, a California winery, and even a neuroscientist's fMRI machine as Bosker attempts to answer the most nagging question of all: what's the big deal about wine? Cork Dork illuminates the complex web of wine production and consumption, and how tasting better can change our brains and help us live better.
'The Tenth Muse: My Life In Food' by Judith Jones
Living in Paris after World War II, Judith Jones reveled in everyday French culinary delights. On returning to the States she published Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The rest is publishing and gastronomic history. A new world now opened up to Jones as she discovered, with her husband Evan, the delights of American food, publishing some of the premier culinary luminaries of the 20th century. Here Jones shares her story of playing a pivotal role in shaping the American food revolution.