I absolutely love this book! I first discovered it when it was cited as a reference for a cookbook and am glad I did. While I am not a trained chef, I am an avid home cook that enjoys writing my own recipes, experimenting with foods, and as of late, entering recipe contests. This book helps me be more daring in my flavor combinations and has inspired new recipes.
The first section of the book is a great introduction to flavor. It talks about what is perceived by the mouth, what is perceived by the nose, and my personal favorite, what is perceived by the heart, mind, and spirit. It has great passages from chefs from all over the country talking about things like balancing flavor.
The second section expands on this further by talking about things like seasonality, taste, weight, volume, function, region, and flavor affinities. This helps set up the flavor matching chart since many of these dimensions are used to describe key aspects of each ingredient.
The final section, and bulk of the book, is comprised of matchmaking charts. Simply look up a listing alphabetically and you will be presented with a list of ingredients that pair well with it as well as 'flavor affinities' that include the featured ingredient with more than two additional ingredients. This book gives you the ability to look up cheeses, chile peppers, cuisines, fishes, flavorings, fruits, herbs, ingredients, meats, oils, peppers, salts, spices, tastes, vegetables, vinegars and more! Overall these charts are very extensive and include a variety of ingredients from around the world. If you are interested in an ingredient there is a good chance you will find it in here. Also in this section you will find different tips and comments from Chefs that relate to the ingredients as well as examples of dishes (without recipes) that incorporate the ingredient. These can be great in bringing the combinations to life and jump starting ideas.
It is also worth noting that this is really a reference book. There are no recipes in this book. However, this does not bother me at all as I have tons of cookbooks and come to this book when I want to create something on my own.
This is quite a fantastic reference book that I cannot say enough about! I believe it is something that an avid cook who likes to experiment and create their own recipes would find not only helpful, but enjoyable to have in the kitchen.