Beyond Daily Break Management

Books to Add to Your Bookshelf

Author Image
Written by Korsha Wilson

One of the ways that professionals, in any field, learn new skills or ideas is by reading and adding new titles to their bookshelves. The restaurant industry is no different; nearly every manager or chef office has a bookshelf of well-worn books that are frequently referenced for ideas and recipes.

We asked a few members of Boston’s restaurant community in front and back of the house roles to name a book that they would recommend to someone who wants to be in their shoes someday. Below, are their answers and how to add the titles to your library.

Theresa Paopao, wine director, Ribelle
What book would you recommend to someone who wants to be a sommelier, is a wine nerd or just wants to learn about the hospitality industry?
I always recommend “Windows on the World” by Kevin Zraly to anyone who wants a great wine book.  I’d been working as a server for a year when I got that book and it really helped me organize all the pieces of wine information I already had.  I also have a very worn down copy of “Lessons In Service” by Charlie Trotter that I lend to every new-Screen shot 2015-04-09 at 2.04.07 PMto-the-business employee we hire.
What idea or passage in that book made it so memorable for you?
I love the layout of Windows on the World!  Charts, graphs, statistics and quizzes; you can pick it up and open to a random page and learn something (without feeling like you have to read it from start to finish).
What impact did this book have on you?
I credit Windows on the World with really paving the way for me to become a sommelier; it gave me confidence!

Get Windows on the World, Amazon, $30;

Michael DiBiccari, General Manager and Owner, Tavern Road
What book would you recommend to someone who works in hospitality?
“Setting the Table; the transforming power of hospitality in business” by Danny Meyer.
What idea or passage in that book made it so memorable for you?
“Shared ownership develops when guests talk about a restaurant as if its theirs. They can’t wait to share it with friends, and what they’re really sharing, beyond the culinary experience, is the experience of feeling important and loved. That sense of affiliation builds trust and a sense of being accepted and appreciated, invariably leading to repeat business, a necessity for any company’s long term survival”- Danny MeyerScreen shot 2015-04-09 at 2.07.03 PM
What impact did it have on you?
The above quote was one that resonated with me deeply as this is something I have always found myself doing personally. Growing up the way I did with an Italian family that was centric around morals, values, family, and food, it’s something I feel that came naturally. The idea that what I do personally to impact people in a positive way is one that translates to what I do professionally. I’ve always said to my service team: “One simple kind gesture you do outside of work is an opportunity to do the same professionally at work and develop personal relationships. You never know where that relationship will take you in life”.

Get Setting the Table, Amazon, $14

Todd Maul, Owner and Bar Manager, Cafe ArtScience
What book would you recommend to someone who wants to be in your position someday?
The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David Embury
Screen shot 2015-04-09 at 2.07.39 PMWhat idea or passage made this book so memorable for you?
To me this book represents a manifesto. Embury has an opinion on which drinks are good, bad and not well made. It is not just a list of spirits and drink recipes. He gives structure and guidelines to his philosophy on cocktails. He believes that one should be able to make good drinks if they care to put the time and energy into the trade. And that ultimately it is not a difficult thing to master. I agree.
What impact did this book have on you?
Embury’s book forced me to question all of the information that was being “left out” by other books. Some recipes will say ‘juice from half a lime;’ well, is the lime in season or out of season, because the amount of juice would be quite different. Simple questions like this force you to realize that standards like those have limitations. I decided after reading this book that most of what bartenders hold as truths were not sound chemically, or consistently repeatable; it was just the parroting of books and other bartenders. In this book, Embury asks you and forces you to answer the question: ‘Can you explain the “why” in what you are doing?’ Not to someone else, but to yourself
Get The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, Amazon, $28

Jacqueline Dole, Pastry Chef, Mei Mei
Is there a book that you have read that you would recommend to someone who wants to be a pastry chef?
Screen shot 2015-04-07 at 11.18.21 AMThe first book I read that influenced my trajectory towards sweets was actually “Matilda” by Roald Dahl. As a supplement for a class project, I baked Bruce Bogtrotter’s Chocolate Cake and experienced the addictive sparkle in someone’s eye when you hand them a big piece of chocolate cake.
What book has had the most impact on your work now?
In terms of an actual glimpse into what life as a pastry chef can be like, the introduction to Milk Bar by Christina Tosi practically became my Old Testament; work harder than you think possible, be kind to people even when it’s hard and never be surprised if you end up making a lot more than just buttercream. Christina Tosi presents the ideal image of a pastry chef; Screen shot 2015-04-07 at 11.17.30 AMtough as nails, dedicated beyond belief to her staff and craft and throughout it all, sweet as pie.The most telling passage for me was her evolution from HACCP plan designer to conceptualizing plates for Chang’s restaurants and eventually, her own little kingdom. Pastry is a position that is always in flux; it’s frequently the first to go if things get tight and Milk Bar touches on why it’s so important to rely on ingenuity and resourcefulness to help the rest of the restaurant out as a whole. Matilda, $6 Amazon,   Momofuku Milk Bar $24 Amazon

Joshua Lewin, Chef, Bread and Salt Hospitality
Is there a book that you would recommend to a line cook who wants to be in your shoes someday?
Screen shot 2015-04-09 at 1.44.33 PMThis is a difficult question for me to answer. There are so many great ideas to be gleaned from books… and so many books out there to choose from. As far as cookbooks, I would say Judy Rodgers’ fantastic tome, “The Zuni Cafe Cookbook”,  named after her San Francisco restaurant, would be at the top of that list. There is an introductory section to that book that is a really wonderful introduction to the basic process of cooking at a professional level. I’d happily recommend it to anyone.
But beyond that, and more importantly than that, I would advise young cooks and would be chefs to remember to put away the cookbooks once in a while. The cookbook market is flooded with fantastic titles by fantastic chefs, restaurateurs and other culinary enthusiasts and educators. But to be honest… if you’ve found yourself in the right restaurant for your career level and are working under passionate and skilled chefs… you will spend 10-14 hours a day learning about cooking. Leave some reading time to explore other interests. Too much cookbook reading (and picture grazing) leads to simply repeating ideas and designs.
Read a modern novel or some short stories (Jhumpa Lahiri has some great passages on food if you read closely), re-read classics and pay close attention to the story telling. Read about design and art and human experience. Find personal inspiration in the pages outside of the food. When it’s time, you’ll need this.  And if you just can’t help it and need to read all about food all the time (you don’t, but if you do) read memoir. Read about how people feel about and experience food, memories and build relationships around it (read “Comfort Me With Apples” by Ruth Reichl). Read about how food stitches together human civilization even in periods of major war (“Peace Meals” by Anna Badkhen).

Get The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, Amazon, $27

Is there a book that has helped shaped your hospitality career? Tell us in the comments section below or tweet us @Industry_Press.

About the author

Author Image

Korsha Wilson

Korsha is a contributing editor for the Industry Press and a freelance food writer. She loves hospitality and is obsessed with the restaurant world and the people that work in it. She loves salt cod, Old Bay seasoning and french fries.