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Originally published May 2, 2014 at 10:34 PM | Page modified May 2, 2014 at 10:58 PM

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Beard Foundation’s cookbook of the year: ‘Historic Heston’

Heston Blumenthal’s “Historic Heston,” a $200, 431-page epic exploration of mostly antiquated recipes, is a book fabulously out of touch with any cook who doesn’t have an army of sous chefs.


Associated Press Food Editor

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Anyone with a hankering for hash of snails or powdered duck or other centuries-old British cookery should be plenty pleased with this year’s James Beard Foundation cookbook of the year.

But for the rest of us — by which I mean, virtually every last one of us — the selection of Heston Blumenthal’s “Historic Heston,” a $200, 431-page epic exploration of mostly antiquated recipes, will be a head-scratcher. It’s one of those books so fabulously out of touch with any cook who doesn’t have an army of sous chefs at his side, one has to ask for whom this book was written.

The answer is obvious. It was written by and for Blumenthal, a talented writer and brilliant chef with a variety of restaurants in England. In that regard, it is a masterpiece. Blumenthal has a knack for ferreting out the genealogy of a dish, a skill he’s put to fascinating use in previous books, including his 2006 “In Search of Perfection.”

But the selection of his latest tome as cookbook of the year — announced Friday evening during a ceremony in New York — is puzzling. Blumenthal takes recipes already made obtuse by history (salmagundi, anyone?), and instead of translating them into terms contemporary readers could appreciate or at least learn from, he filters them through an equally inaccessible lens of modernist (think whiz-bang science-driven cooking) techniques.

What’s more, the book got two awards, beating David Kinch’s “Manresa: An Edible Reflection” and René Redzepi’s “René Redzepi: A Work in Progress” in the cooking from a professional point of view category.

Of greater interest to most home cooks will be the foundation’s naming of Diana Kennedy to its Cookbook Hall of Fame. Kennedy has spent much of her life learning and preserving the traditional cooking and ingredients of Mexico, a mission that sends her across the country in search of elusive recipes.

Her first cookbook, “The Cuisines of Mexico,” was written based on research with home cooks across Mexico and established her as the foremost authority on the cuisine. It remains the seminal work on the subject.

The Beard Foundation’s awards honor those who follow in the footsteps of Beard, considered the dean of American cooking when he died in 1985. Friday’s ceremony named winners in media and publishing; a separate ceremony Monday will be held for chefs and restaurants.

Some familiar faces nabbed broadcast awards Friday. Martha Stewart was honored for her public-television series “Martha Stewart’s Cooking School” in the studio-based television category, while Anthony Bourdain took the top honor for on-location television for “The Mind of a Chef,” also on public television. Outstanding food personality or host went to Food Network’s Ina Garten for her “Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics.”

The big winner in the journalism awards was David Chang’s Lucky Peach, a quarterly launched in 2011 that quickly became one of the top food magazines. Though the magazine itself wasn’t honored Friday, its writers netted awards in five categories: humor, food and culture writing, personal essay, profile and the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.

The list of winners:

COOKBOOK AWARDS

Cookbook of the Year: “Historic Heston” by Heston Blumenthal (Bloomsbury USA)

Cookbook Hall of Fame: Diana Kennedy

American Cooking: “The New Midwestern Table: 200 Heartland Recipes,” by Amy Thielen (Random House)

Baking and Dessert: “The Art of French Pastry” by Jacquy Pfeiffer with Martha Rose Shulman (Knopf)

Beverage: “The Cocktail Lab: Unraveling the Mysteries of Flavor and Aroma in Drink, with Recipes” by Tony Conigliaro (Ten Speed Press)

Cooking from a Professional Point of View: “Historic Heston” by Heston Blumenthal (Bloomsbury USA)

Focus on Health: “Gluten-Free Girl Every Day” by Shauna James Ahern with Daniel Ahern (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

General Cooking: “Smoke: New Firewood Cooking” by Tim Byres (Rizzoli New York)

International: “Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking” by Fuchsia Dunlop (W. W. Norton & Company)

Photography: “René Redzepi: A Work in Progress”; photographers: Ali Kurshat Altinsoy, Ditte Isager, René Redzepi, Lars Williams and the Noma Team (Phaidon Press)

Reference and Scholarship: “Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine One Plate at a Time” by Adrian Miller (The University of North Carolina Press)

Single Subject: “Culinary Birds: The Ultimate Poultry Cookbook” by John Ash with James O. Fraioli (Running Press)

Vegetable Focused and Vegetarian: “Vegetable Literacy” by Deborah Madison (Ten Speed Press)

Writing and Literature: “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us” by Michael Moss (Random House)

BROADCAST AND NEW MEDIA AWARDS

Outstanding Personality/Host: Host: Ina Garten

“Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics”

Network: Food Network

Radio Show/Audio webcast: “This American Life”

Host: Ben Calhoun

Area: Public Radio

Producer: Ben Calhoun

Special/Documentary: “Eating Alabama”

Network: PBS

Television Program, in Studio or Fixed Location: “Martha Stewart’s Cooking School”

Host: Martha Stewart

Network: PBS

Producers: Greta Anthony, Christina Deyo, Michael Morrison, Olivia Schneider, Martha Stewart, Calia Van Dyk and Lisa Wagner

Television Program, on Location: “The Mind of a Chef”

Host: Anthony Bourdain

Network: PBS

Producers: Jared Andrukanis, Anthony Bourdain, Joe Caterini, Chris Collins, Michael Steed and Lydia Tenaglia

Television Segment: “Friday Arts, Art of Food”

Network: WHYY-TV

Producer: Monica Rogozinski

Video webcast, Fixed Location and/or Instructional: “Thirsty For...”

youtube.com/tastemade

Producers: Jay Holzer and Eric Slatkin

Video webcast, on Location: “The Perennial Plate: Europe and South Asia”

theperennialplate.com

Hosts: Mirra Fine and Daniel Klein

Producers: Mirra Fine and Daniel Klein

JOURNALISM AWARDS

Cooking, Recipes, or Instruction: Andy Ricker

Saveur

“The Star of Siam”

Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Review Award:

Alan Richman

GQ

“Alan Richman Walks Into a Jewish Deli...”

“The Elm: Is Brooklyn Ready for Sophisticated Dining?”

“ZZ’s, the Most Expensive 58 Minutes in New York Dining”

Food and Culture: John Birdsall

Lucky Peach

“America, Your Food Is So Gay”

Food and Travel: Nick Paumgarten

Bon Appétit

“Lunch at 8,500 Ft.”

Food Coverage in a General-Interest Publication: The Wall Street Journal

“Off Duty” Section

Beth Kracklauer

Food Politics, Policy, and the Environment: Eli Saslow

The Washington Post

“Food Stamps”

Food-related Columns: Adam Sachs

Bon Appétit

The Obsessivore

Group Food Blog: First We Feast

Health and Well-Being: Rachael Moeller Gorman

EatingWell

“The Whole-Grain, Reduced-Fat, Zero-Calorie, High-Fiber, Lightly Sweetened Truth About Food Labels”

Humor: Lisa Hanawalt

Lucky Peach

“On the Trail with Wylie”

Individual Food Blog: Homesick Texan

Lisa Fain

MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award: John Jeremiah Sullivan

Lucky Peach

“I Placed a Jar in Tennessee”

Personal Essay: Fuchsia Dunlop

Lucky Peach

“Dick Soup”

Profile: Francis Lam

Lucky Peach

“A Day on Long Island with Alex Lee”

Publication of the Year: Civil Eats

Visual Storytelling: James Maikowski, Patricia Sanchez, Stephen Scoble and Fredrika Stjarne

Food & Wine

“Best New Chef All-Stars”

“Oysters & Gumbo: A Chef’s New Orleans Party”

“Vegetables Now”

Wine, Spirits and Other Beverages: Besha Rodell

Punch

“40 Ounces to Freedom”



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