One of my favourite things about cook books is the imagery. I could quite happily flick through page after page of sumptuously photographed food for hours. And that’s exactly what I’ve just done with Sam Stern’s Virgin To Veteran (well, okay – maybe not hours, but you get my point).
It’s safe to say that TYC never really – like, ever – talks about cookbooks. But Virgin To Veteran is the exception to the rule, and is far from your average cookbook. It blends anecdote with advice, stunning imagery and – more unusually – amazing typography. You also learn a lot – a lot – about the food you’re cooking.
The recipes are super-easy to follow, and the book is crammed with info about what you’re cooking: e.g. what the various bits of a chicken are best for, a guide to buying pasta and the heroes of baking.
The book covers the basics (pasta dishes, roasts, puddings) but – as as fans of Sam will know – Mr Stern is always keen to add little tweaks to traditional recipes to make them that bit different.
Sam is no cook book novice – he’s already written five other recipe books – and he’s only 21. His passion for food practically drips off every page and his enthusiasm for cooking is infectious. The writing style is approachable and friendly; there’s no swanky terminology and, if there is, it’s explained.
If you’re not a natural in the kitchen, the thought of sauteeing, flambeing and ‘whipping up’ can seem a bit daunting. However, the
whole point of the book is to emphasise that regardless of what you might think, you can cook. Even seasoned (lol) cooks will find plenty in here to test their skills.
Virgin To Veteran makes cooking fun, which is what it’s meant to be. As Sam says in the introduction: ‘Cooking has to be one of the greatest pleasures of all time; it’s creative, it’s fun, it’s relaxing and it’s social. It’s the ideal excuse for getting mates and family round. It’s also an ideal activity for purely selfish grounds.’
To conclude: the book is informative, lively and perfect for adding a splash of self-confidence to even the most butter-fingered of cooks. What’s not to love?
Virgin To Veteran (£20) by Sam Stern is published by Quadrille and is available to buy here. All images © Chris Terry.