Themed Book Lists

20 Books on Food, Cooking, and Dining That Inspire Designers

“As an architect who likes to cook, I can think of few cookbooks that are so architectural.” — Michael Manfredi on Essentials of Italian Cooking

November 26, 2014

In this list of books on food and food design, cooking, and dining (with a design twist) are 20 recommendations by our contributors, including Tim Brown, Louise Fili, Zuzana Licko, Michael Manfredi, and Maria Popova.

The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen Jacques Pépin

From the Publisher. In this frank and witty memoir, world-renowned chef Jacques Pepin tells how he rose from a frightened thirteen year old apprentice in an Old World kitchen to an Emmy Award winning TV superstar who continues to teach millions of Americans how to cook. We see young Jacques struggling to earn respect while working his way up the kitchen ladder: cooking for Jean Paul Sartre in a Paris brasserie, fending off the advances of Jean Genet, and clowning as he cooks for Eisenhower and Nehru while employed as Charles de Gaulle's personal chef. At twenty three he takes off for America, where he immediately makes friends with a small group of as yet unknown food lovers, including James Beard, Julia Child, Craig Claiborne, and many others. After a near fatal car accident, Pepin reinvents himself once again and in the process plays a pivotal role in redefining American food. It is the story of a boy's coming of age. But beyond that, it is the story of America's culinary awakening and the transformation of food from a mere afterthought to a cultural touchstone and a national preoccupation.

The Art of Eating M. F. K. Fisher

Architect Billie Tsein comments on The Art of Eating:

“Incredible power of simple needs deeply and beautifully met.”

Au Revoir to All That Michael Steinberger

From the Publisher. France is in a rut, and so is French cuisine. For the first time in the annals of modern cooking, the most influential chefs and the most talked-about restaurants in the world are not French. Large segments of the wine industry are in crisis, cherished artisanal cheeses are threatened with extinction, and bistros and brasseries are disappearing at an alarming rate. How did this happen? Author Michael Steinberger investigates in this sharp and funny book, following the trail into the kitchens and vineyards of France, with detours into French politics, economics, and culture. The result is a portrait of a cuisine and country in transition.

Butterflies and All Things Sweet Bonnae Gokson
A. Chester Ong
Petrina Tinslay

From the Publisher. Bonnae Gokson’s book Butterflies and All Things Sweet opens a window into the inspiration and ideas behind her extraordinary cake designs. Unique in the world, these cakes encapsulate the creative vision of the woman who made her name working with luxury brands including Chanel, Giorgio Armani, W Hotels and Ritz Carlton.

Cooking for Geeks Jeff Potter

Why do we cook the way we do? Are you the innovative type, used to expressing your creativity instead of just following directions? Do you want to learn more about cooking or are curious about the science behind what happens to food as it cooks? More than just a cookbook, Cooking for Geeks applies your curiosity to discovery, inspiration, and invention in the kitchen. Why is medium-rare steak so popular? Why do we bake some things at 350°F/175°C and others at 375°F/190°C? And how quickly does a pizza cook if we overclock an oven to 1,000°F/540°C? Jeff Potter provides the answers to these questions and more, including recipes, interviews, and experiments.

The Designer’s Cookbook Tatjana Reimann
Caro Mantke
Tim Schober

This unique and beautifully produced cookbook presents an innovative take on menu design for the home cook as well as the practiced gourmet. Looking for something new to try in the kitchen? How about a delicious dinner in which each course—from appetizer to dessert—is the same color? It may sound impossible, but as this cookbook proves, color-coded cooking is not only possible but also delectable. Divided into twelve color-based chapters, the recipes range from saffron lemon ravioli to melon soup to blueberry tartlets, all arranged in four-course meals of two starters, one main course, one dessert and three drinks. These carefully tested recipes use only natural ingredients and no artificial colors and are as easy to prepare as they are to behold on the table. Brilliant photographs of the complete menu as well as individual ingredients will appeal to aesthetic and eclectic cooks—and the results are sure to create memorable meals that lead to further experimentation in the kitchen.

EAT ME viction:ary

From the Publisher. Eating is no longer a pure experience of smell and taste but rather an effective agency to communicate and engage, an indication of cultural values, lifestyle, artisanship, criticism, aspirations, and imagination.

While no single aspect of food and it associations can epitomize the new food culture, EAT ME takes a slice of modern life where food has been taken as the medium to promote social interactions and spice up our everyday lives. In addition to the highly competitive realm of food packaging design, the book also features a survey of recent art creations, social events, identity projects, restaurant designs, culinary implements, and products inspired by food. The substantial showcase is complemented by fascinating insights in the forewords and case studies given by experts, entrepreneurs, and practitioners, each distinct with regard to their experience in product, packaging, image-making, branding, and spatial design.

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking Marcella Hazan

Here—in one volume—the authentic, delicious recipes and foolproof techniques that made Marcella Hazan's masterpieces, The Classic Italian Cookbook and More Classic Italian Cooking, the most acclaimed, consulted and enjoyed cookbooks in their field.

Food Designing Martí Guixé

From the Publisher. This book documents Martí Guixé’s work around food design, taking stock of his research from the very first projects in 1995 to the last ones in 2010. Even food may be designed: Martí Guixé gives here countless examples by squaring potatoes, building molecular structures with olives and toothpicks, decorating cakes with a graphic representation of their content, and even sponsoring food.

Food Rules Michael Pollan
Illustrations by Maira Kalman

From the Publisher. Michael Pollan's definitive compendium, Food Rules, is here brought to colorful life with the addition of Maira Kalman’s beloved illustrations. This brilliant pairing is rooted in Pollan and Kalman’s shared appreciation for eating’s pleasures, and their understanding that eating doesn’t have to be so complicated. Written with the clarity, concision, and wit that is Michael Pollan's trademark, this indispensable handbook lays out a set of straightforward, memorable rules for eating wisely an healthfully. Kalman's paintings remind us that there is delight in learning to eat well.



French Fries Warren Lehrer
Dennis Bernstein

From the Publisher. This book/play presents a day in the life of the original DREAM QUEEN restaurant (a restaurant that grew to become the third largest burger chain in the western hemisphere). Before the book/play begins, 83-year-old Gertie Greenbaum is found dead in a pool of blood and ketchup. Four customers and three employees (each set in his or her own typographic voice and color) give testimony to how Gerite died, and continue their day discussing food, money, religion, politics, love, loss, dreams, memories, and fading aspirations. The text is illuminated with icons and images that evoke the fast food tableau, and the internal projections of the characters.

In Defense of Food Michael Pollan

From the Publisher. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” These simple words go to the heart of Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, the well-considered answers he provides to the questions posed in the best-selling The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Kitchen Confidential Anthony Bourdain

From the Publisher. A New York City chef who is also a novelist recounts his experiences in the restaurant business, and exposes abuses of power, sexual promiscuity, drug use, and other secrets of life behind kitchen doors.

Knife and Fork Robert Klanten
Anna Sinofzik

Knife and Fork is a showcase of unconventional visual identities from the world of eating, drinking, and hospitality. The featured examples prove that even small enterprises can create big design concepts—despite limited budgets. Exploring how clever corporate identities can help new or niche businesses succeed, the book is an inspiration for anyone thinking about founding their own company or redefining an existing one and giving it an unforgettable look.

Although based on very different ideas, the businesses presented in Knife and Fork are all defined by their originality and personal character, which are then reflected and communicated in a variety of eye-catching ways. From mobile espresso bars and chocolate manufacturers to cookery schools and bed and breakfasts, the distinctive approaches to branding start with names, logos, fonts, and colors and culminate in product, packaging, and shop design. Whether minimalistic, nostalgic, or playful, the selected visuals represent a new generation of entrepreneurs, who understand how to creatively visualize business ideas and successfully communicate them across all channels. 

Menu Design in America Steven Heller
John Mariani
Jim Heimann

From the Publisher. Menu Design is an omnibus showcasing the best examples of this graphic art. With nearly 800 examples, illustrated in vibrant color, this deluxe volume not only showcases this extraordinary collection of paper ephemera but serves as a history of restaurants and dining out in America. In addition to the menu covers, many menu interiors are featured providing a epicurean tour and insight to more than a hundred years of dining out. An introduction on the history of menu design by graphic design writer Steven Heller and extended captions by culinary historian John Mariani accompany the menus throughout the book. Various photographs of restaurants round out this compendium that will appeal to anyone who enjoys dining out and its graphic and gastronomic history.

Modern Art Cookbook Mary Ann Caws

From the Publisher. Matisse, Picasso, Hockney—they may not have been from the same period, but they all painted still lifes of food. And they are not alone. Andy Warhol painted soup cans, Claes Oldenburg sculpted an ice cream cone on the top of a building in Cologne, Jack Kerouac’s Sal ate apple pie across the country, and Truman Capote served chicken hash at the Black and White Ball. Food has always played a role in art, but how well and what did the artists themselves eat? Exploring a panoply of artworks of food, cooking, and eating from Europe and the Americas, The Modern Art Cookbook opens a window into the lives of artists, writers, and poets in the kitchen and the studio throughout the twentieth century and beyond.

On Food and Cooking Harold McGee

“A lovely treatise on the importance of science to craft.” — Tim Brown

Pasta by Design George L. Legendre
Foreword by Paola Antonelli

From the Publisher. Pasta’s wonderful, sometimes whimsical, geometrical shapes and surfaces are designed to hold certain sauces or accompaniments, to be beautiful yet functional. Here are over 90 forms of pasta, each shown through specially commissioned photographs, mathematical formulae that accurately describe each shape, and drawings that reveal the hidden genius of our everyday food. Brief texts describe the special attributes of each form of pasta, along with advice on specific uses in cooking. George L. Legendre is principal of IJP Architects in London and a leading specialist in complex surfaces. The foreword is by Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, at The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The Way to Cook Julia Child

From the Publisher. In this magnificent cookbook, illustrated with full color throughout, Julia Child gives us her magnum opus—the distillation of a lifetime of cooking.

Yes, Chef Marcus Samuelsson

From the Publisher. It begins with a simple ritual: Every Saturday afternoon, a boy who loves to cook walks to his grandmother's house and helps her prepare a roast chicken for dinner. The grandmother is Swedish, a retired domestic. The boy is Ethiopian and adopted, and he will grow up to become the world-renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson. This book is his love letter to food and family in all its manifestations.

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