Best Nonfiction Food Books

The ultimate list of the best books to read if you have a love for all things food industry, restaurants, travel dining, and cooking. These nonfiction books are all must-reads.  No one should be without at least a few of these in their collection. Whether you want to read about the restaurant scene in New York or how to pick out the perfect cheese pairing, this book list is for you or the foodie in your life. I recommend many of these for your next book club selection as one of the best reads now.

Since I was a teen, I had a love for cooking, travel, and reading.   Back then ( trying not to age me here), there was not a lot on the shelf you could read about both those genres together.   When Anthony Bourdain came on the scene I think it finally opened up what people thought was a complex combination of both worlds into one simply magical genre.  His books became a must-read for me and that sparked my interest in other authors like Marco Pierre White and Julia Child, of course.

Since then the boom of amazingly good reads where food is the main character has skyrocketed.  Do not get me wrong there are some terrible books out there but there are so many wonderful ones too.  I am often asked “recommend me a book” by friends and family.  With so many wonderful book options about food, life, and travel often all woven together, my suggestion list of best reads keeps growing. So I want to share some of my favorites and hope you enjoy them too.  Purchase one today for yourself or as a gift, these are some of the best non-fiction books.

Please comment below if you have read any of these and share your thoughts.

I would also absolutely love to hear your recommendations too. I am always on the lookout for some more great reads!

 

The Short Order Cook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.  If you click on a link and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission on the sale at no additional cost to you. This helps with the costs of running the blog. Thank you! 

Best Nonfiction Food Books

 

Non-Fiction Food Genre Categories

I have broken down my recommendations into several categories. If you have an interest in any of the following food-related groups, it will be easier to scan and buy what interests you most.  All of these books are the best reads and are the best rated also when you check out Amazon or other sites. The food genre categories I suggest are the following:

  • Chef biographies / memoirs

    • The best biographies and autobiographies are my favorite.  Getting to know the chefs, food writers, and others is what makes the stories so personal and exciting.
  • Restaurants; behind the scenes

    • These books are often fast-paced and really hook me in.  For those both in the food business and those not, getting a behind the scenes look is either validating or enlightening with these great reads.
  • Food & Travel

    • A mix of two of my favorite things into one is pure bliss for me. A way to escape from the everyday world makes travel books so popular. When you add the culinary aspects of foreign lands and people, you really get a sense of cultures and communities. I highly recommend reading these books and then cooking up some international or new recipes.
  • Other

    • A group of books about other categories like food anatomy and how it may affect our health or proper food pairing ideas.

 

 

 

The Best Chef Biographies/Memoirs

 

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly – Anthony Bourdain

The raw, ambitious, and sarcastic book is the tell-all memoir by Bourdain that elevated him to a best-selling author.   He takes you behind the scenes of sex, drugs, and mis en place for a wild ride behind the scenes of a New York French restaurant.  He explains why you should rarely go with chef specials and any restaurant that doesn’t have a tight menu can do nothing really well.    There is more to this book than learning what knives to use or how staff “yell” at one another when working the stressful line.  His young days working his way up the ranks are some of my favorite parts.  This book is witty, personal, and wildly engaging throughout.  

 

The Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness, and the Making of a Great Chef – Marco Pierre White

Marco Pierre White is the original bad boy of the professional kitchen underworld.  The youngest chef to receive 3 Michelin Stars shares the determination, madness, and sacrifice it takes to make it.     It is an intense and passionate account of what it takes to go from humble beginnings, to train with chefs, and to have proteges, such as Gordon Ramsey (a feud in the book between these two is quite telling of the foul-mouthed nature many chefs portray) rise from under your ranks. This culinary rockstar inspired many that came after him including Anthony Bourdain.

 

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise – Ruth Reichl

The former editor of Gourmet magazine and food critic pens a wonderful trip for us to all take behind the scenes of the world of restaurant reviews.  If you ever wondered if service would be more on point of you were “someone important”, then this is a fun read for you. It is at times funny at times and includes recipes from some of the top restaurants.  Reichl’s writing style is sophisticated but not “hoity”.  If you love reading about food and delicious descriptions of every plate, you will love this book and almost savor every bite along with her. 

 

 

The Best Restaurants; Behind the Scene Books

 

Spiced: A Pastry Chef’s True Stories of Trials by Fire, After-Hours Exploits, and What Really Goes on in the Kitchen – Dalia Jurgunsen

Not everyone chooses to work in a professional kitchen, sometimes it chooses you.  Out of a job and ready to work, Dalia somehow lands a stressful but dream gig at the infamous Nobu in New York City. As an apprentice to a pastry chef, she learns that timing is everything in a stressful position behind the scenes where the final touches must be precise or else.  The highlights of this book are about the relationships and hierarchy that exists in the restaurant business.  She is looked down on for her “grunt” work and really struggles internally to find confidence within herself and strives to gain respect from others.  The intricate desserts she prepares and the sometimes steamy relationships pair for a sweet duo in this delightful memoir. 

 

Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line – Michael Gibney

A fantastic debut book from a talented chef that has been working in kitchens since he was 16 years old.   The book takes us on a real-time frantic ride for 24-hours on what it takes to please restaurant customers in the world of fine dining.   The staff works like a well-oiled machine on very little sleep and likely still a little hungover from the night before.   The stress, passion, and dedication by restaurant staff shine in this book. Anyone that likes to dine out should read this and gain whole new respect and appreciation for these devoted chefs. 


 

 

Restaurant Man – Joe Bastianich

Unlike the previous two books, this behind the scenes book focuses on the business side of the restaurant world versus behind the kitchen.  The son of the infamous, Lidia Bastianich, makes a name for himself as a successful restauranteur.   The passion for the industry keeps him persistent even when dealing with money-skimming managers and difficult suppliers. This book reads likely how Joe would speak with you if telling you this story over a glass of wine and a plate of handmade pasta, profanity and all.  A unique take on what it takes to start and run a successful restaurant empire. 

 

The Best Food & Travel Books

 

A Cook’s Tour – Anthony Bourdain

The quintessential food travel book of all time in my opinion.  You know I have been a Bourdain fan for over 20 years but this is honestly my favorite of all his books.  His sharp wit, a strong sense of adventure, and love for local people and flavors prevail throughout this book. From Vietnam to London to California, every mile of the journey is unbelievable.  The tours in Russia and Morocco are my personal favorites.  No wonder Food Network gave him his first show shortly after this book became a best seller.  DO NOT miss reading where it all started. 

The Tuscan Year: Life and Food in an Italian Valley – Elizabeth Romer

This book takes us through all the seasons in a valley nestled between Tuscany and Umbria.  Whether it is planting and harvesting fava beans or making cheese, this book covers it all. Though this is not technically a travel book, it does conjure up the desire to travel to the region and emerge yourself as a local. One of my biggest bucket list items is to live in  Italy even if for just months at a team each year and live like a true Italian and not an American tourist. The book is filled with wonderful authentic seasonal recipes throughout the magical prose. 

 

 

My Life in France – Julia Child

There is no way I am creating a list of the must-read food books and NOT include Julia Child.   Her memoir is full of surprises for those that know Julia from her cooking show but knew little about her life and love for French cooking.  If you plan to visit France any time soon, this is a wonderful read to take with you and enjoy during your travels as if was a book on the history of French cuisine.   For the love of French food, the Cordon Bleu culinary academy, and such an icon this is a fascinating read.

Other Amazing Books about Food

 

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent Killers – David Perlmutter, MD

As someone that always felt tired and just a bit hazy whenever eating a high carb meal, this book finally gave me my answer and validated all I was experiencing.   Dr. Perlmutter finally blows the lid off the reality that carbs are ruining our brains.  Using language we can all understand, this neurologist takes us into the changes our brains go through when we consume grains, even whole grains.   The real-world accounts by patients are a great balance with the scientific studies to paint a picture that shows we should exclude grains for better health.  

 

 

Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling – Meathead Goldwyn

How can you not trust someone that names themselves Meathead to teach you all you wanted to know about barbecue and grilling.  There are recipes in this book but it’s the science behind good barbecue that makes this book a must-have.    The marriage of meat, heat, and smoke are the basics that lead to exceptional barbecue and you will learn all about it here.  If you are just learning how to barbecue or consider yourself the family pitmaster, this book has it all.  

Cheese Primer – Steven Jenkins

Unless you are lactose intolerant, no one should be without this book. If you are a cheese lover, this is the book for you. Better yet, make this the next gift you get the cheese lover in your life.  Learning about cheese doesn’t have to be fancy or difficult and the author writes for both the novice and professional. This is the “Bible” of cheese that takes you on a cheese tour throughout the world. As cheese imports became more part of mainstream dining and shopping,  the hunger for more knowledge about regional cheese from different countries grew.  The author is passionate about cheese and it shows in every page of this book.  Whether you want to know how to pick out, cook with, store, or what to pair cheese with, this is the ideal book. 

 

 

Review of all the Books & Current Pricing

                  

                  

 

                  

 

                  

 

The Short Order Cook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.  If you click on a link and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission on the sale at no additional cost to you. This helps with the costs of running the blog. Thank you! 

 

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