Review: The Competent Cook by Lauren Braun Costello

Doing this blog I get to see a lot of books about cooking.  Some are great, some a bit less.  However, The Competent Cook by Lauren Braun Costello really stands out.  It will hold an honored place on my book shelf between McGee and Julia for years to come.

The author, Costello, is a veteran of the kitchen having founded Gotham Caterers in New York.  Additionally she has worked as a private chef, recipe tester (The Joy of Cooking), a food stylist (The Early Show), and a culinary instructor.  She holds a Grand Diploma in Culinary Arts with distinction from The French Culinary Institute in New York City.

Like her popular column at CDKitchen.com, also entitled The Competent Cook, Costello’s book is way more than a collection of recipes.  It is a how-to guide to setting up a functional kitchen from scratch.  Which pots and pans to get, what utensils to buy, the whole nine yards.

In fact, you won’t see the first recipe until page 108.  The early chapters are instructions on the basics – kitchen organization, essential tools and techniques for everyday cooking, baking, grilling, health conscious, et al.  There is even a chapter on how to shop and store food properly.

For you recipe-mongers there are 150 new basics all modern cooks should have in their repertoire. There are four appendices as well including a way-better-than-average glossary and measurement conversions.  The equipment materials appendix spells at the attributes and limitations of glass, cast iron, stainless and other cooking surfaces.  The section on cooking with eggs is McGee-esque with its scientific explanation of every single way to cook an egg.  It’s text book eggology.

The Competent Cook is perfect for the graduate just striking out on their own.  It is also a terrific house-warming gift.  And absolutely the best bridal shower present ever.  EVER!

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less
Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards
2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up
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