Lessons Learned Along the Way
John Besh is one of the great culinarians of our time. He owns and operates nine fantastic restaurants – August, La Provence, and Domenica, to name a few. He’s got TV shows, and endorsements and cool things with his name on them, but I admire him most for how he conducts himself as a friend, as a husband to his wife Jenifer and as an amazing father to his four children. John is also an advocate for all the right causes, and personally works tirelessly towards caretaking and energizing the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana.
In his new cookbook, Cooking From the Heart, Besh takes the reader back to the restaurants, towns and chefs that inspired him along his culinary journey. Through his recipes and thought provoking essays, Besh passes on lessons that were passed onto him, paying homage to all of his mentors and cultural influences. He transports readers to other times and places in his life – from New Orleans to Germany’s Black Forest and Provence, France – through the stories behind his food. It’s a great memoir without becoming too heavy handed. Besh is an amazing storyteller. This is a book people will actually cook from, and learn from, love, enjoy and most importantly return to again and again.
As part of a preview for this new cookbook, I made his Schmaltz with Apples & Rosemary. Get the recipe here.
I grew up watching my grandmother cook everything in poultry schmaltz. It was the first recipe I ever cooked with her. The flavor of properly rendered fat is the essence of all that is comfort food to me; its cooking value as an ingredient in other dishes is epic. So I was ecstatic to see a recipe for schmaltz in Cooking From the Heart. As with all of the recipes in this cookbook, Besh shares a lesson that he learned while trudging along his culinary journey. This schmaltz recipe (made from rendered pork belly) was inspired by his experience in Germany with chef Karl-Josef Fuchs, where nothing was wasted, including the fat of any animal. In the Black Forest at the Spielweg, rendered fat was highly seasoned and turned into a decadent spread for crusty bread, what could be better than that? Food is a conduit that connects us all. Making this recipe was the perfect way to connect with Besh and one of his great mentors. So now I have a link to Karl-Josef and that makes me even happier than schmearing this insanely good pork schmaltz on grilled sourdough.