Friday, November 12, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Bentley - contemporary cuisine by Brent Savage

Last year, the Momofuku cookbook found it's place under the Christmas trees of chefs around the world. This year, Bentley: Contemporary Cuisine is poised to take its place as the hit "Chef's Cookbook" of the season. The restaurant is in Sydney Australia and garners lots of attention for its creative menus.The book is geared towards industry professionals with the skills and know-how to execute the gorgeous plates within it's glossy pages, Chef Brian Savage's first book strikes me as a cross between The French Laundry and Alinea. While Savage does utilize sous-vide and hydrocolloids such as agar and sodium alginate as well as transglutaminase, he makes sure to remain close to, and pay homage to the classic techniques that form the foundation of cuisine today.

            Even the jet-black cover and pages evoke memories of the storied elBulli books as well as the black monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Savage understands that just because you can make a foam out of say, foie gras, doesn't mean that you should. Chefs will appreciate the notion that Savage walks the tight rope between classical technique and new technology. He doesn't wobble more or less to either side, and is only focused on making sure that the destination at the end of his tight ropewalk is a perfectly balanced plate that is both original and delicious at the same time.

            With increasing emphasis on plating and visual aesthetic with food, readers are sure to appreciate the vibrant photos of Savage's dishes that contrast beautifully against the black exterior of his book. Presentation is clearly a forte at Bentley; plates are spectacularly assembled and though Michelin has yet to include Australia within it's reviewing jurisdiction, the visual excitement of each of Brian Savage's plates stands up admirably against 3-Star Michelin restaurants across North America.

            Industry professionals are clearly the targeted audience of Bentley: Contemporary Cuisine, but anyone interested in picking up new techniques and being inspired by a land far away should seriously consider this book (if not as an immediate purchase, than at least a slot a top this year's Christmas list).

Book reviewed by Kevin Jeung

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