Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Publication date: October 30th 2012
For Chantal and me the restaurant business is a passion and will always be a passion. There is always something new to work on. I like a challenge, to see if I can pull it off, even when it’s an area in which I am not completely comfortable and have to learn as I go along. Every time I undertake something new, I get excited, and I also know I can lose it big-time.
While competing on Top Chef Masters, Chef Hubert Keller was given the challenge to create four dishes from four different periods in his life. That challenge stayed with him and was the impetus for his new book, Hubert Keller’s Souvenirs: Stories & Recipes from My Life. The book begins with an introduction and is then broken into seven chapters, each one encompassing a different stage of Keller’s life and professional experience. Interspersed with his reminiscences are recipes from the time period so, when writing about his childhood, he includes recipes unique to the Alsace region where he grew up, including a marvelous fall salad made with celery root, apples, and walnuts. In Mentorship by Three-Star Chefs he writes of being one of the last generations of chefs to be trained in the traditional French apprentice method but also to being one of the first to see fine French chefs turn away from classic recipes with heavy creams and sauces and move towards lighter fare.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that Keller and his wife, Chantal, relocated to the U.S. After a short stint in another restaurant the opportunity arose to become a partner at Fleur de Lys, a fine dining restaurant in San Francisco that had fallen on hard times. Maurice Rouas recognized Keller’s gifts and, despite his ability to contribute to the restaurant financially, agreed to a 50/50 partnership. Forty-two years later they are still working together and Fleur de Lys is still an amazing dining experience (my husband and I went there for New Year’s Eve two years ago and we can both still remember specific portions of the meal. It was sublime). In the last decade, Keller opened Fleur in Las Vegas, where he currently lives, as well as creating Burger Bar, one of the first haute cuisine burger restaurants. These newer, more experimental aspects of his career are covered in the Pioneer chapter along with sinful recipes for baby back ribs and milkshakes ranging from pumpkin pie to caramel latte.
Souvenirs is a book that will delight on many levels. It is a photo album and a touching homage to Keller’s family and his wife, Chantal (there is an entire chapter called Love & Partnership), but is also a gorgeous cookbook with a wide range of well written recipes varying from the simple comfort of Soft-Boiled Eggs with Brioche Toasts to the more decadent Oysters with Margarita Sorbet and Orange Segments. Throughout the book what makes it shine is Keller himself. His style and genial manner come through on every page, as he shares both personal and professional memories. And yet, as down-to-earth as he seems, there is no mistaking the extent of his talent and his impact on each page. The photographs are lush and the recipes carefully constructed with the home cook in mind. Keller the man is charming and warm and Keller the chef, sophisticated and always ready for a new challenge. The blend is a marvelous one and means that this book can sit comfortably on a coffee table to read and enjoy, but is also right at home on a kitchen counter with a dusting of flour and pages dog-eared from use.