If you’re the kind of person who goes to bed with recipe books on your nightstand, you’ll love this book roundup. Set against a life in the kitchen and a passion for food, we’ve handpicked the best foodie memoirs to sink your teeth into.
There’s the deliciously shocking life of sex, drugs and haute cuisine from the late Anthony Bourdain; the outstanding memoir from Nobu Matsuhisa that reads more like a self-help book and Nigel Slater’s utterly brilliant look back on childhood through his tender, metaphoric reminiscing of British sweets.
These are the books that should be on your reading list if you love to eat, cook or are simply fascinated by the lives of our kitchen heroes.
Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger by Nigel Slater
Few memoirs are as candid or beautifully scripted as Nigel Slater’s look back at his life. The title “toast” reference is made in relation to his mother and her ability to always burn the toast – her culinary failings used as a metaphor for her love and their relationship. In fact, Slater uses food metaphors brilliantly throughout the book to create a feast for the eyes to look back on his life.
The chef, broadcaster, columnist and writer won six major awards for the book, it was translated into five languages and a BBC major film adaptation was made starring Helena Bonham Carter and Freddie Highmore.
The stunning book will have you dreaming of your own childhood food memories and make you want to delve deep into those family recipes you’ve always taken for granted.
The Wine Lover’s Daughter: A Memoir by Anne Fadiman
A witty and honest look at parental relationships, Anne Fadiman looks back at her life with her father Clifton Fadiman, a renowned literary critic, editor, and radio host whose greatest love was wine.
The grape is what holds this book together, as Fadiman sips between tales of her father enjoying cheap Grapes in Paris in the 1920s to the Château Lafite-Rothschild 1904 he drank to celebrate his 80th birthday, when he and the bottle were exactly the same age.
At times it feels painfully upper-crust, but it’ll have your gripped and wanting to read more – preferably with a glass of red in hand.
A Taste of My Life by Raymond Blanc
Raymond Blanc might have been taken under the culinary wing of the UK for decades now, but it was growing up in France that gave him that joie de vivre in the kitchen.
Few chefs match Blanc’s passion and likeability (it’s no wonder he’s a regular on the TV) and this book is the first up close and personal look of how he came to be a household name.
From business acumen to creativity, mentoring the likes of Pierre White and Blumenthal to being awarded two Michelin stars for Le Manoir before it had even opened, A Taste of My Life is nothing short of inspiring for any aspiring young cook.
The Gastronomical Me by MFK Fisher
Three decades on from its first release and this memoir is just as enjoyable. Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher poetic writing paints a picture (and a taste) of some of the dishes she vividly remembers, almost like others would write about sex or relationships – and there’s some of that thrown in too.
From her first oyster to travelling solo around Mexico, her tales will have you coming back for seconds.
Nobu: A Memoir by Nobu Matsuhisa
Forget the self-help section, Matsuhisa’s memoir is bubbling with lessons of gratitude and humility.
Best known for his celeb chef status and his eponymously named international restaurants, Nobu Matsuhisa puts the microscope on his personal life and journey rising to become one of the world’s most renowned chefs. From failing three times before global success to the love he has for his wife and children and some deeply personal and dark accounts, it’s not only the chef’s culinary skill that shine through the pages of this book, but his philosophic, in many ways Eastern, approach to life that do too.
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
The Keith Richards of the kitchen, the late, great Anthony Bourdain’s memoirs will not so much leave you hungry but with your jaw fully dropped.
The outrageous and outspoken chef’s book reads more of a rock star’s memoir than that of a chefs – trust us, you will not be able to put it down – as he looks back at “twenty-five years of sex, drugs, bad behaviour and haute cuisine.”
Definitely not one if you get your kitchen inspiration from the likes of Mary Berry – you’ll need a strong stomach but Bourdain’s cool, stylish writing will take you through the motions, from belly-laughter to tears.
Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton
The perfect recipe of wit, grit and sarcasm have been poured into Gabrielle Hamilton’s beautifully written book, which takes a look back at her life from rural Pennsylvania to opening her much-celebrated restaurant, Prune in NYC’s Hell’s Kitchen.
A visceral food memoir that’s a joy to read even if you’re not a dab hand in the kitchen.
Humble Pie by Gordon Ramsay
Few chefs are as well-known as Gordon Ramsay – you only have to mutter his surname (or first for that matter) to ignite the fear in anyone.
The famously foul mouthed chef takes a look back at his humble beginnings that are world’s away from his London-LA-friend-of-the-Beckhams lifestyle now, from growing up with an alcoholic father to his brother’s drug addiction.
He also opens up about business decisions which brought him to be the international, seven Michelin star-holding, 30+ restaurants later chef he is today.
Expect swearing, naturally.
Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir by Kwame Onwuachi
American chef Kwame Onwuachi’s memoir is as much a coming-of-age tale as it is a culinary work which draws on discussions of race, fame, and food. It documents his rise (and fall) to fame as he launched one of America’s most talked about restaurants and a catering company with 20 thousand dollars he’d raised himself from selling candy on the NYC subway.
Hailing from the Bronx and being black in a notoriously white, male dominated industry when you hit the top, Onwuachi’s rise was a struggle. He talks candidly about breaking out of a downward spiral system and embarking on a new, exciting but tiring journey at the bottom of the food chain, from working as a chef on board a Deepwater Horizon clean-up ship to training in the kitchens of some of the most acclaimed restaurants and appearing as a contestant on Top Chef.
A must-read for any young aspiring chef who’s dreams feel untouchably far off.
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