I am interested in cooking and I do not find recipe books or compendiums very appealing. Sure you can find real nice stuff, but at the end you end up following the steps like a robot and wondering "what if I do this or that instead...".
Thus, I am searching for bibliography from I can learn how to cook and before diving into real technical books that I might glance and never open, I went for a taste with an introduction and this was one of the books I selected.
The book is organized precisely to do that; allow somebody (even if he/she cannot tell a pan from a bus) to have close in to cooking and how cooking actually works.
This book covers how proteins in fish and meat work and general techniques for cooking. it also provides a series of recipes and "tips" or advices for cooking, in the area of appliances or equipment or simply "best practices". It covers extensively the food safety topic from a mid point between the theory and practice. It also covers baking and "modern professional cooking".
From my point of view, the information given is good and useful, or at least, most of it. The book includes interviews with "relevant" people, from cooks to bloggers and knive makers. These are, in my opinion, totally superfluous. I do not think that magazine style has a place in the whole book idea. Perhaps for commercial reasons, but I have been unable to get anything useful from those interviews. I feel they break the pace of reading and are just filling.
The recipes fail to be suggestions on how to apply the techniques and become just recipes. Perhaps would have been best to leave them in an appendix, as they litter the reading, just like the interviews.
The finals chapters on “modern cooking” are a mixture of explanation of what is and what it intends to achieve and a description of techniques and gear. This is all very well, but utterly out of scope in my eyes. If you start explaining how heat works in a pan, it is a long way to get you geared up for using chemicals and liquid nitrogen. The philosophy and aim of modern professional cooking is also very well, but nothing to do with how heat works.
In the given length, I believe it aims too high and falls way too short.
The book edition is, generally speaking, somewhat chaotic and to an extent a botched job of joining together several sets of notes. The pictures are dreadful and say absolutely nothing. Too small, not in colour and far from descriptive. Just the pics of the allegedly famous subjects are good (but again, not all that useful to teach you how to cook)
The author needs sometimes long digressions for comparing computers to cooking, in order to make honour to the name, I suppose, and sometimes some anecdotes are jammed in, in order to make the bond author-inexperienced cook.
In the back of the book, it says that the author has done a bit of everything and (obviously, given his age) not mastered anything. This is also the book. Perhaps in his “geekish style” one could say that the signal to noise ratio in this book is far from good, although those bits are interesting.
I believe it is an interesting project and, perhaps there will be a revision of the book. I would advise to wait for the revision and give it a go... don’t hold your breath though (neither for the revision happening or for the outcome of it)