Finding the perfect holiday gift can be maddening (is this the color they’d want? Is it something they already have? Is it so last year?), but really, once you have a sense of a person’s taste, it’s not impossible. This season, we’ll be talking to members of various tribes to find out exactly what to get that college student, or golf-loving parent, or Star Wars fanatic in your life. Think of it as a window into their brain trust — or, at least, a very helpful starting point. For our latest installment, we asked a dozen prominent cookbook authors to tell us the cookbook they’d be most excited to get this holiday season. Below, the tomes (that cover everything from Cuban to Turkish to Thai to bread) that will appease the most discerning gourmands on your list. (For more giftable books we like, click here.)
“If someone gave me Kris Yenbamroong’s Night+Market cookbook, he or she would know me too well. I’ve been a fan of Kris’s since 2011, when I met him at a food event where he was serving small, housemade Thai sausages with whole bird’s-eye chiles and raw ginger. His boldness impressed me as much as his Thai-American-Angeleno story. He’s Thai-food royalty in Los Angeles, but that has been a plus and minus for his career. Young chefs like Kris are paving their own culinary paths while dealing with stereotypes that come from many directions. Kris succeeds because he’s generous, humble, soulful, and smart. His food is gutsy and fun, yet respectful. I’ve had so many chile-related endorphin rushes from eating at his restaurants and learning about the complex and vibrant foods of Thailand, all the while being surrounded by the sights and sounds of Los Angeles. I’ve lived in Northern California for nearly 20 years, but restaurants and chefs like him are why I still love L.A.! ” — Andrea Nguyen, author of The Pho Cookbook: Easy to Adventurous Recipes for Vietnam’s Favorite Soup and Noodles
“Every time I visit my friend Andy Ricker in Portland, Oregon, we go to Kachka. The last time we ate there, we were also joined by chef David Thompson, who insisted we have a vodka competition. High jinks ensued! The Kachka style of eating is to me the perfect vibe: bold, vibrant flavors; serious attention to detail, but in a non-fussy setting; and based around the idea of sharing food and drink with friends and loved ones. I have never been to Russia, but if it’s anything like Kachka, sign me up.” — Kris Yenbamroong, chef-owner of the Night+Market restaurants in California and author of Night+Market: Delicious Thai Food to Facilitate Drinking and Fun-Having Amongst Friends
“This book intrigues me for several reasons. Chef Sean Sherman’s cookbook shares recipes that are a part of our country’s native cuisine and history, one that ironically is relatively undiscovered and seldom written about. His book offers a firsthand perspective on indigenous food traditions and ingredients specific to his tribe of Oglala Lakota, located on the plains of the Midwest. I admire Sherman’s dedication to continually learning, educating others, and innovating on native cuisine before it is lost to us.” — Chitra Agrawal, chef-owner of Brooklyn Delhi and author of Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes From Bangalore to Brooklyn
“While this isn’t a traditional cookbook, I definitely want a copy of The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael Twitty, under my Christmas tree. I can’t imagine a more important historical culinary book coming out this year than this. Southern food is such a crucial element of our culinary landscape in America, and understanding its rich history will better inform my recipe development and love of my culture and cooking all the way around.” — Jocelyn Delk Adams, author of Grandbaby Cakes: Modern Recipes, Vintage Charm, Soulful Memories
“And of course, shameless plug, Feed the Resistance is the top cookbook gift I am giving this year. Contributing a recipe to this book by Julia Turshen was such an incredible experience. The forging of political activism and food is genius.” — Jocelyn Delk Adams
“Since I help write cookbooks and spend an enormous amount of time making sure recipes work, I probably shouldn’t admit that I rarely cook more than a recipe or two from the cookbooks I own. I do love reading recipes, though. And because I’m not cooking much, I especially love books and recipes that tell a story, especially about food linked to a place and culture. For years and years, I’ve been obsessively consuming Eating Asia, a blog (can I still call websites blogs?) by Robyn Eckhardt and her photographer husband, David Hagerman. A few years ago, she got obsessed with Turkey and spent years working on this cookbook. It’s one of those books that reminds you how much you don’t know about the world. I want!” — J.J. Goode, cookbook co-author of The Drinking Food of Thailand with Andy Ricker and State Bird Provisions: A Cookbook with Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski
“I’m a carb enthusiast and love eating bread (no fear here!), but the act of baking it has always intimidated me. Alexandra Stafford’s book, Bread Toast Crumbs, promises to put cooks like myself at ease with approachable recipes for no-knead peasant bread and ways to work it into every meal. Yes, please! I’d like to be able to get my groove on churning out loaves and have the house smell like a boulangerie while I’m at it. I’m hopeful this book will help build my confidence in the baking department. Rise up!” — Colu Henry, author of Back Pocket Pasta: Inspired Dinners to Cook on the Fly
“I’ve never been to Cuba, so I’ve always been curious about what the cuisine is like when you’re actually there. I know things are changing fast, but there’s still so much mystery, which is why I’ve been wanting to get my hands on Anya von Bremzen’s new book. Getting on the ground is exciting enough, but also gaining kitchen-door access to paladares, the privately owned restaurants that must navigate both the government and a crazy black market to survive, seems like a cheat code. It’s like discovering a secret passageway inside a secret passageway.” — Drew Lazor, co-author of New German Cooking: Recipes for Classics Revisited and author of the forthcoming Session Cocktails: Low-Alcohol Drinks for Any Occasion
“I’d be delighted to receive a copy of David Tanis Market Cooking. David was one of the chefs who taught me to cook at Chez Panisse. Anytime I’m stuck in a rut, the first thing I do is refer back to my teachers and their teachers for ideas and inspiration. It’s sort of like being back in the kitchen with them. David is a genius with vegetables, always adding a little unexpected twist, a little something special. It’s been a long time since I cooked with David, but reading and cooking from his books never fails to make me feel like I’m right back in the kitchen alongside him.” — Samin Nosrat, EAT columnist at The New York Times Magazine and author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking
“I’m really looking forward to The Palestinian Table by Reem Kassis. When it comes to cooking at home, I love to make things that fill in the gaps of our local restaurant scene, especially if it means working with recipes that let me take advantage of what Kentucky farmers do best (I think that includes the best lamb and poultry around, along with our fantastic dairy and produce). As a baker, I’m especially excited to tackle the section on regional breads and pastries.” — Stella Parks, senior editor at Serious Eats and author of BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts
“I love cookbooks that you can truly cook from — that are both inspiring but attainable. Downtime: Deliciousness at Home by Nadine Levy Redzepi (wife of renowned Noma chef René Redzepi) is a compilation of simple foods that are elevated with a bit of style and restaurant cooking. I am intrigued and would love to curl up with this one.” — Karen Mordechai, author of Simple Fare and Sunday Suppers: Recipes + Gatherings
“It’s been a real year for cookbooks, so this was an extremely hard choice. You’re all great! That said, I find myself really poring over books written on subjects I know the least about, and to say I know nothing about the food of Georgia or Azerbaijan (or beyond) would be a huge understatement. But, from the little I can gather, the food features lots of herbs, savory pies, and meaty vegetables drizzled with a thing called matsoni (maybe a new replacement for yogurt). Very much my speed. I’m excited to dive into Kaukasis and figure out what plov is, and then maybe even learn to make it.” — Alison Roman, author of Dining In: Highly Cookable Recipes
“I would love to receive Salvador Dalí’s Les Dîners de Gala. My father found an early edition of this incredible art/cookbook in a rare bookstore when I was a kid, and I have tried to steal it from him ever since (he has it on lockdown). It was just rereleased, and I covet it. It’s a Surrealist fantasy of a rolling dinner party, where the food is sculptural, abundant, and absurd. Cookbooks are always full of fantasy, but so rarely does an author own it as much as Dalí does here. Want to throw a dinner party? Just put together a seafood tower of giant lobsters and crawfish that levitate above the table! Voilà!” — Julia Sherman, author of blog turned book, Salad for President: A Cookbook Inspired by Artists
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