51cakj72tl_sl500_aa240_Press releases drop into my mailbox daily and I usually give them a glance but rarely read them unless they’re addressed to me by name with some sort of request that’s unique to me.  When I received a mass-mailed release from Group Alain Ducasse, however, the first few lines…well… if the goal of a press release is to grab your attention, this one worked. I found it immediately and viscerally infuriating.

Chef Alain Ducasse’s Recipes Adapted for the Home Cook by Cookbook Author Sophie Dudemaine Ducasse Made Simple by Sophie aims to bring fine dining and the art of entertaining back into the home

(New York, New York – September 2008) This October with the release of French cookbook author Sophie Dudemaine’s newest title, Ducasse made Simple by Sophie, home cooks will be able to effortlessly recreate the world-class cuisine of renowned Chef Alain Ducasse in their own kitchens.

My first thought was, Ducasse made simple?  Why on earth would you want Ducasse simple?  What makes Ducasse preparations Ducasse prepartions are the details, and it’s the details that make a dish increasingly less simple.

But really it was this statement angered me most: “home cooks will be able to effortlessly recreate the world-class cuisine of renowned chef Alain Ducasse in their own kitchens.”  It’s this kind of claim on which many cookbooks stake their reason for being and that I find fundamentally dishonest—that anyone can do this food quickly and easily, and, that quick and easy are what we most want in a cookbook from a Michelin-starred chef.

Do people actually believe this?  I don't know the author, Sophie Dudemaine, but I certainly have nothing against her.  Though I’ve never met Ducasse, I have only the highest opinion of his work as a chef, restaurateur and businessman.  And I must also add that what I’m writing here is not a review of the cookbook itself, which may well be filled with delicious easy recipes—I wouldn’t know, I haven’t seen the book.

What I’m criticizing here is the conceit of this cookbook, and all others that claim to make refined cuisine simple for the home.  It makes me crazy not because it’s fundamentally a lie, though that’s never a good thing, but rather because publishers don’t seem to recognize that it’s a lie, and they want to keep on telling it to us.

Can you imagine a book called The French Laundry Cookbook Made Simple?  Such food would cease to be French Laundry food.

In my experience excellence and ease usually don’t go together. 

There’s nothing wrong with easiness—a poached egg with a little shallot-lemon butter and a good piece of toast can truly excellent.  But to try to combine the two ideas, Ducasse and “made effortless” or the “four-star cooking at home” premise—this idea is harmful to home cooks.  It encourages them to believe that every kind of cuisine can and should be made easy for them.  This is simply not true.  Some recipes are easy.  But many recipes are excellent in direct proportion to the labor that goes into them.

If what you want is quick and easy recipes, buy a cookbook comprising recipes that use five ingredients or fewer.

Or try this: buy better food.  That’s the quickest easiest way I know to quick and easy meals.

Here is a quick and easy recipe.  Pair it with roast chicken, with a grilled steak, a crisp salad or simply a very good glass of red wine.

Pasta with Parmigiano-Regianno

Kosher salt as needed
1 pound dried pasta
4 ounces/1 stick of butter cut into four pieces
1 cup coarsely and freshly grated, excellent Parmigiano-Regianno

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (salted, meaning that it tastes nicely seasoned).  Place a large oven proof bowl in your oven and turn the oven to 200 degrees F.  Drop the pasta in the water and cook it just until it’s tender, then drain it.  Remove the bowl from the oven and toss the butter and pasta in the bowl until the butter is melted and the pasta is evenly coated with the butter.  Taste the pasta.  If it needs more salt, add it now (remember that the cheese you’re about to add is salty).  Divide the pasta among four to six bowls and sprinkle each with the Regianno.  Serve with a delicious red wine.

That's an honest, quick and easy meal.


128 Wonderful responses to “The Fallacy of the Quick-and-Easy Cookbook”

  • genevelyn

    I foolishly bought “Happy in the Kitchen” thinking I could recreate the recipes at home–a review of the book promised I could. Only now can I use Saran Wrap again without bitterness.

  • latenac

    I had a friend who told me what an amazing cook this woman was. And I asked well what did she make that was so amazing. The response – well she went to Dean & Deluca and bought some good bread, some fresh mozzerella, tomatoes and pesto and made sandwiches.

    This did teach me the lesson that simplicity and good ingredients go a long way. It also lowered my opinion of my friend.

  • milo

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the “quick and easy” cookbook as long as it’s honest but simple recipes and not cheats like using cans of soup.

    There are tons of things you can make that are quick and easy but still taste great.

    I do agree that books shouldn’t be dishonest and try to pretend that the “compromise” version is the same as the involved restaurant version, but that’s not reason to dismiss *all* quick and easy cookbooks.

  • Thom Thompson

    Your pasta recipe is exactly what I was told was the original recipe for fettucine Alfredo in 1974. I ate there with my parents three nights in one week during a trip to Rome. We came upon the “original” Alfredo at the suggestion of some German tourists with whom I shared a taxi. I led my parents there and we had a great time with the whole show. We would just get the fettucine and a salad which was quite enough to eat. The last night I asked in broken Italian what the recipe was and the waiter pointed to the noodles, butter and cheese and smiled.

  • David

    There is a marketing person who was patted on the back for writing that press release, proud to have captured the essence of the book. It’s the money talking, I imagine something like, “Somebody write some liner notes that will sell this collection of church recipes ASAP”.

  • Eric

    Well, for one thing, it’s often a conceit put in for sales purposes. The market for a cookbook called “Ludicrously Complex Cooking That You Shouldn’t Even Consider Attempting” is significantly smaller than “[Cuisine] Made Simple”

    Also, I think much depends on your (and the author’s) definition of “simple.” I’ve gone through a few of the “simple” cookbooks and there were quite a few labor-intensive dishes involved. What was simple about them was that I didn’t need an immersion circulator, have to fly in prawns from madagascar, or know how to precision-stack thin slices of black cod in order to make something in the spirit of my favorite dish from whatever chef. Granted, these books do tend to be stuffed with [insert famous chef]’s takes on classic rustic food and whatnot – it’s unlikely we’ll see “Heston Blumenthal MADE SIMPLE!” anytime soon.

    Many of these cookbooks are, of course, utter rubbish, but that’s true for pretty much most cookbooks, period. Others I think just use the word “simple” to mean “not nearly as intimidating as you might think.” and “entirely possible for you to make at home.” Yeah, it’s not going to be perfect, and it’s not going to obviate the need for the Alain Ducasses of the world, but I think the “made simple” premise just needs to be taken with a grain of salt, and that salt needn’t be fleur de sel.

  • FoodPuta

    Oh comon Ruhlman, seriously, that stuff’s a breeze to slap out. Hell, just as I am writing this response, I made lobster gazpacho, while high on grey Krylon spray paint, with Rachel Ray 30 minute meals playing in the background.

    I don’t even know why someone would even think they need this book??


  • luis

    Yeah, that is all marketing hype if the book lives up then it won’t be that simple. On the other hand that caption really doesn’t fool many cooks. Non-cooks wouldn’t know any better.
    What I find most amazing is that anyone would undertake such a project.
    I read lots of cookbooks and for my kitchen I keep coming back to Naomi Moriyama’s “Japanese women don’t get old or fat”.
    The book has a few recipes a little history some facts that are verifiable but the most amazing thing is that Naomi has broken down Japanese cuisine to what she calls “Seven Pilars”. This goes back centuries of tradition in Japan. Has substance.
    Now I am not Japanese nor do I enjoy these recipes as writen down.
    But I get the drift, miso soup … clear broth…any broth…you like.
    I posted a list of these pilars in the kitchen and I find it very useful each time I craft a meal. Be it breakfast, lunch or dinner.
    Seven Pilars are Fish, Vegetables, Rice, Soy, Noodles, tea and fruits.
    Mix and match and combine to create your own food.
    For instance take a ready made Ramen square, Frozen sweet peas and microwave defated bacon strips and I am good for the whole morning. Variations are endles..throw in a dumpling some more veggies…. shaven pork anything… you like.
    May not be japanese but…Queen Himiko might not entirelly disaprove.. and if she did? who cares.
    I like this format very much and I wish there were less recipes in the cookbooks and more distinct meal building blocks with could use for a guide.

  • Kate in the NW

    Yeah, I’m writing a couple of books too –
    “The Effortless Path to Brilliance: Paint Just Like DaVinci In Five Easy At-Home Lessons!”.
    The follow-ups are “Go for the Gold: Train For The Tour de France In 10 Minutes a Day” and “Quick-n-Easy: Home Dental Surgery for Busy People”.


  • Tags

    Just like when they put the word “Premium” on hydrogenated high fructose corn syrup-sodden garbage.

    Premium is what you’re paying, not what you’re eating.

    If you buy a book claiming it’s “Ducasse made Simple,” you are the simple one.

  • French Laundry at Home

    What I find the saddest of all is that Ducasse gave her the greenlight to do it and endorsed the whole thing. The almighty dollar (or euro) wins. [http://www.wwd.com/media-news/easy-as-pie-sophie-dudemaine-1802650]

    Please… someone send Sophie and M. Ducasse my way. Some things are worth doing right. It’s insulting to be told I need Alain Ducasse’s cuisine to be dumbed down for me, a home cook, to be able to make it.

    p.s. — In the cover photo, is that cat food stuffed in the hollowed-out tomato, squash and bread? If that’s what Ducasse Made Simple is gonna look like on a plate… no thank you.

  • Elisa

    Add some cracked black pepper to that pasta recipe, and you get the go-to dish my parents made to get me to eat as a kid. I’m not a picky eater anymore (thank god), but it’s still one of my comfort food recipes.

    But back to the matter at hand, what audience is that book expected to attract? I’d imagine that someone looking for “anything-made-simple” cookbooks might not recognize the name Ducasse.

  • sarah

    It is funny because being from Chicago I had to have a copy of the Alinea cookbook. A neighbor saw it on my counter and said “Come on is anything in something you could actually cook.” I tried to explain that the purpose of book was not to be “how to cook like Grant Achatz” but a beautiful, complicated and terribly interesting look into what he creates. Needless to say, she didn’t understand why I purchased the book if I couldn’t cook from it. Pretty funny!

    I think is natural for chefs to want to make their food seem accessible for the home cook but it is not always the case. There are cookbooks meant to aid and instruct and others that are simply beautiful, mouth watering to flip through and a bird’s eye view into a chef’s vision. Ducasse should leave his food where it belongs in his creations or a terrific coffee table book like the Alinea cookbook.

  • Bob delGrosso

    French Laundry at Home wrote

    “What I find the saddest of all is that Ducasse gave her the greenlight to do it and endorsed the whole thing.”

    I could not agree more. It’s always sad when someone you respect endorses a project that appears to pander. I’ve seen Ducasse cook and knew a student from CIA who externed at Louis XV in Monte Carlo. So I have a pretty good idea of what his art is about. This is sad and wrong.

  • Blushing Hostess

    I will flip through anything once, but things like this only if I have a little bit of time at a bookstore – I will not pay actual currency for them. Generally, I don’t buy books where the branding confuses things and forces things down or apart from what I go to a chef for… I can think of a other titles I would pass up in the same vein: Ducasse Does 30 Minute Meals (with Rachel Ray!), Ducasse on Fajitas and Guac, Ducasse: The Nascar Barbeques. I eat at Spoon in HK, and I prefer to remember his food that way…

  • MissV

    Eric wrote:

    Others I think just use the word “simple” to mean “not nearly as intimidating as you might think.” and “entirely possible for you to make at home.”

    Add me to the minority in agreeing with that. Yes, most of the books you’ll find with “simple” in the title are utter crap, but everyone once and awhile you get something good.

    Only online recipe from the book that I was able to find was for a pumpkin soup: http://www.sheknows.com/articles/805899.htm

    Doesn’t look too bad. It even calls for real pumpkin (not from a can). After a non-stop 9 hour day at work and a 45 minute commute home through traffic and construction, it’s the kind of recipe I can deal with. Is the original recipe? No doubt. But a simplified version, or even simplified techniques, makes a recipe seem do-able to a wider audience. I believe most people have an inner foodie, but here in America people have been scared into thinking that cooking is hard and difficult and full of possibilities for disaster and they really do need to be convinced that something is simple before they’ll try it.

    There are even recipes in TFLC and Bouchon that are actually pretty simple to do as long as you have the “pantry” basics already done (heck, I make garlic and tomato confit once a week and have a freezer full of homemade stocks and my day-to-day cooking is better for it). One reason I became such a fan of FL @ Home is seeing someone else plug through it and having moments of “Hey… I bet I can do that, too!”

  • tokyoastrogirl

    Couldn’t agree more. It seems everywhere I turn in the food community, the phrase “quick and easy” dominates. I am tired of the quick and easy. Don’t get me wrong- there is absolutely nothing wrong with something being quick and easy if it’s meant to be, much like the recipe you just posted. However, if osso buco was made quick and easy, would it truly be osso buco? Can the perfect, crusty baguette or flaky croissant be slapped together? I don’t think it’s possible and part of the joy of successfully creating those things is the process itself- each and every step, every failure and eventually the hard won victory. Here’s an idea- instead of spending all this time experimenting to see which steps can be cut out of a recipe to make it quick and easy, why not spend the same amount of time making a recipe in the way it was meant to be in the first place?

  • tahoedan

    I am dismayed by the elitist attitudes continually posted on this blog. Why can’t a recipe be simplified so the home chef has the chance to make a tasty meal in a reasonable time frame? I cook dinner almost every night and on the week nights I am looking for good, easy to make food. If Ducasse worked with the author to contribute recipes that he is happy with that taste good, what is the problem. Too many of you are so in love with yourselves and your rigid beliefs. You must be horrible to meet in person.

  • claudia (cook eat FRET)

    tahoedan – talk about being judgemental… geeshk. you sound ever so lovely yourself…

    and why is a cat not an alligator? my point being that you can’t make a silk purse out a sow’s ear. these books cater to the home cook who thinks that he/she will be making a ducasse recipe. and it simply not true – or even close.

    i cook simple food all the time. as ruhlman points out, the ingredient list need only be short in number and long on quality. and in the end, it’s all about the quality of your ingredients… period.

    i’ve not seen this book but my guess is that it would be silly for both the serious home cook and equally silly to those wanting to make dinner for their families.

    i think in this case we CAN judge a book by its cover…

  • Matthew Sievert

    When I first started attending culinary classes my friends were so excited. In fact one of them went out and bought the entire Charlie Trotter cookbook set for me. Which was a very gracious thing. However, they all wanted to know when I was going to cook them something out of those books. I still have a hard time convincing people that even if I don’t cook something from those books. I can use them for “ideas” and “concepts.” I believe Bourdain’s use of the term “Food Porn” is very applicable to a lot of cookbooks these days.

    Such as the Alinea book. I would love to cook items from that book. However, probably the best way to do that is to get a job at Alinea. Which would be a most awesome thing in its own right.

    I have bashed Rachel Ray and other folks in the past. But I regret it for the most part. You have to look at what they are trying to communicate to the audience. Which is “you don’t have to be a professional cook to make your family a good dinner.” The Food Network is based around that mantra these days.

    As far as the Alaine Ducasse cookbook. I think the idea sucks.

    I would rather see Paula Dean and Rachel Ray churn out another twenty books full of home made comfort food. Then any book with the words “Ducasse and simple” in the title.

  • carri

    This all reminds me a little of the article in the NY Times Mag by Allen Salkin where he had Ferran Adria cook at his house. He bought fresh ingredients and prepared it earnestly, but in the end it did not have the WOW of his food at El Bulli…and the fact that Adria insisted he would never do that again…you can’t make magic without your spells at hand, and that’s how it should be!

  • Greely


    As always your comments ring true. I have problems with the wording “effortlessly recreate the world-class cuisine of Chef Alain Ducasse in their own kitchens” as well.

    I’m a home cook who likes to look at cookbooks that I can get good idea’s from. I also like to use good ingredients because the ingredients selected do have a direct impact on how the dish turns out. However, I generally don’t have much time in my life to “effortlessly recreate” the dishes of anyone. What home cook does except maybe on the weekends?

    We all have hectic lives and some serious time constraints on us. Heck, I’m lucky if I get to see my pregnant wife more than two hours a day Monday through Friday because I work midnight shift. She’s leaving when I’m coming home. Then I’m sleeping when she comes home.

    That also means that sadly I don’t get to spend much time in the kitchen right now as I’d like. My days are spent unpacking from our recent move, cleaning the house, yardwork and the list goes on as we all know.

    Now I decided to see what else I could find out on-line about this book after reading your blog earlier today.

    These are some of the comments I found.

    However, Dudemaine has taken 100 of Ducasse’s prized recipes and streamlined them so the average home cook can make and enjoy the swoon-worthy flavors of fine fare. “I always simplify the recipes and make the accessible to anyone. Fifty years ago, people spent almost four hours making the daily meals – today this has been reduced to 45 minutes. My aim is not to make complicated failures, but to prepare simple and good meals,” says Dudemaine.


    While retaining the spirit of Ducasse’s recipes, Dudemaine has made the world-renowned chef’s cuisine accessible to every home cook. In addition, Linda Dannenberg, the author of more than 20 books on French cooking and culture (as well as Stewart, Tabori and Chang’s Perfect Vinaigrettes), has tested and adapted the recipes for an American audience.


    To pair-down his complicated recipes, Ducasse enlisted French cookbook author Sophie Dudemaine, who is known for speaking easily to a novice audience. Featuring 120 recipes culled from Ducasse’s 2001 cookbook Grand Livre de Cuisine, the new book–Ducasse made Simple by Sophie–considers the skill level and timing constraints of the average cook without sacrificing quality or flavor.


    Ducasse is listed in every review as an author of the book therefore he knows what is going on. Sadly, I think that he should have passed on this project because it does appear he’s compromising himself in search of the almight dollar.

    It also says that this Sophie selected and simplified the recipes but then it also says that Linda Dannenberg tested and adapted the recipes for American use.

    What’s up with that? Swoon-worthy dishes in less than 45 minutes?! I know that you can make excellent dishes in that time but swoon-worthy Alain Ducasse meals in 45 minutes?

    That’s just plain wrong. Again, it’s a major misrepresentation of the facts. Something that some author’s and publisher’s will do to sell a book.

    Good cooking comes from the heart.
    But it helps if the cook knows what they’re doing.


  • Jennie Cesario is Jennie Tikka

    Tahoedan –

    If given the choice between the magna cum laude from Johns Hopkins Medical School or the “C” student from a cut-rate medical school – which one would you choose for your medical care??

    If you were offered an engineer who had a great safety record and one who had been sued and lost 5 times for unsafe structures – which one would you choose??

    A plastic surgeon?
    A school?
    A teacher?
    A veterinarian??

    If your doctor told you he was going to cut down your heart surgery time by 50% and is using an untrained Anaesthesiologist would you trust him?

    A sub-contractor removed 50% of the concrete tunnel thickness in the Metro Red Line subway here in L.A. so they could get the job done quicker and faster – do you trust that decision??

    Why would you go out of your way to choose below average food? It may sound like humility but it isn’t – its just an attempt to legitimize the mediocre.

    I see a red flag when I see any professional making “fast and simple” their mantra, versus “correct and well-done.”

    You may stop by the homeless shelter I work at any time this winter to watch me being “abusive” to the residents by lobbying for better quality food any time you’d like, dan.

  • Tags

    tahoe dan is dismayed by the elitist attitudes continually posted on this blog.

    Since when is calling out deception “elitist?”

    I smell a food industry shill, what with the code words and all..

  • ihop

    tahoe dan (and others) are mischaracterizing Michael’s point here.

    The point is not that “simple” is always bad. The point is that the whole point of Ducasse’s cooking is that it is NOT simple, and it is disingenuous to pretend that it can be so.

    For example:

    You could, in theory, adapt Dostoevksy into a children’s book. Some publishers might even think this would be a great idea.

    But… Dostoevsky: Made Simple For Kids! is not Dostoevsky. Dostoevsky is not simple, nor is it for kids.

    If you want a children’s book, read a children’s book; there are some great ones out there. If you want Dostoevsky, read Dostoevsky.

    Similarly, Ducasse: Made Simple For Home Cooks! is not Ducasse. Ducasse is not simple, nor for home cooks. There are some great chefs out there who DO use simple preparations, and a home cook looking for the simple-but-good can and should check them out. But if someone wants to use a recipe from Ducasse, it should be a real recipe from Ducasse, which is more or less the gastronomic equivalent of a Russian novel.

    There’s nothing elitist about it — it’s just logic. Ducasse is not simple. These simple recipes are not Ducasse. To pretend so is just dumb. A is not B, and B is not A, so don’t try to tell me that A equals B.

  • Bob delGrosso

    There is nothing wrong with being elitist when one practices elite standards of behavior and is judged by his or her peers to be an “elite.” Actually, I expect it. (Ducasse, for example, is definitely elite.)

    There is something definitley wrong with acting elitist when one is not elite. That is seriously lame. BUT it is not nearly as unseemly as the behavior of an elite who tries to pretend that he/she wants to “educate” the common folk when all he may really be interested in taking their money.

  • CaptainK

    I have received as gifts and bought many cookbooks in my time. But, my go-to one is Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food.

    Like luis said, what we need is more building blocks rather than recipes.

  • redredsteve

    Jennie wrote:

    I see a red flag when I see any professional making “fast and simple” their mantra, versus “correct and well-done.”

    Well said, Jennie. I do a lot of reading at stores like Barnes and Noble and of course, I alway peruse the cookbooks. The displays are absolutely consumed with these same buzz words. They didn’t use to bother me, they just didn’t interest me. As you said, I wanted correct and well-done. How about flavorful or exquisite? Fast and easy don’t interest me. I want long and difficult, if that’s what it takes, but incredible. Can you imagine a book like that on the shelves? I love making my own stocks at home but how can any 30 minute meal recipe (sorry Ray Ray) promote that kind of cookery?

    What’s next, “Quick and Easy Home Recipes from Ferran Adria?” Hahahaha…

  • redredsteve

    One more thing…

    To assume that the average Joe/Jane can go home after work on a weeknight and in a matter of minutes create something even minutely resembling a dish such as that of a true master who has spent years, countless hours, perfecting their craft under the study of other great masters is the very definition of the word pretentious. It is a great disrespect to the title “chef,” and anyone bearing that title.

  • Frank M

    I don’t know what you’re talking about. I just ordered ‘El Bulli for Dummies’ from Amazon! :o)

  • chadzilla

    Just the cover picture of this book is reason enough never to open it.
    It looks like Betty Crocker with arthritis.

  • Natalie Sztern

    Au Contraire Michael, the publishers know exactly what they say and to whom to say it….I think just about now some very happy marketing people are jumping for joy at this column…can u be honest and tell us, if this is how it was suggested your next book be sent out…would you disagree depending on how strong is that suggestion? And if u did how much weight would that hold if you pocketed an advance?

    Honestly, the marketplace is game for all. If the homecook doesn’t see the difference then he/she deserves to buy it – and I am certain that is Sophie’s target market.

  • Ben

    A common comment on Beethoven is that his music is simple enough that a child can play and yet one has to strive for a lifetime to master it. If Ode to Joy is arranged so it can be included in a child’s piano instruction book, does it cease to be a work by Beethoven?

    On the other hand, if what distinguishes Ducasse’s cassoulet from any old cassoulet recipe is exacting technique, the best of ingredients, and attention to detail, then a simplification of the recipe may indeed just become any old cassoulet.

    So I’ve talked myself in a circle.

  • Teri

    Where does this slippery slope of lending ones name? Why it’s simple next we will see Ducasse on Dancing with the Stars.

  • luis

    Anymore I have been watching each celebrity chef’s cuisines (The famous and in the media types we get to see…).
    There is a definite correlation between the chefs girth and general health and their cuisine. Emeril, Battali… Paula Dean, Guy Fiery so many others just don’t look fit at all. They are FAT. I stay away from anything these chefs cook period. For me this is the deal breaker for a cuisine or a chef. I mean what’s the diff if Battali cooks risotto or someone else cooks it like Battali but easier?
    By the time it reaches the “Mantecare” stage you will be carrying the risotto around as fat and plugging up your arteries and shortenning up your life span. Emeril’s
    Andoui sausage… a fat torpedo. Tasty yes but….All the stuff that is simple to do or simplified relies heavily on fat or sugar which after all is what most folks really want to eat.
    As America got fatter and lazier…. and more simplified our troubles got bigger and now we are we are… what a mess.

  • faustianbargain

    nope..not me. my comments would have been coarser and sharper.

    unlike the whole lot of you geniuses here, i wont be chirping in before i get my hands on the book.

  • Jennie Cesario is Jennie Tikka

    The only thing that’s going to improve a home cook’s repertoire is learning how to make components in advance, then let them sit long enough to gain some flavor before you use them. That means – like it does in a professional kitchen – that you’re always making something for immediate use (your mise) and for LATER use, during the same cooking time. So when it comes time to make a meal, even if it’s after a long day at work, you’re pulling together components that are in process of intensifying out of your fridge, or freezer.

    The BIGGEST mistake I think home cooks make is they start from scratch every single meal. So to make up for the lack of flavor they’re getting, they choose overly processed ingredients – usually with heavy doses of salt and high fructose corn syrup instead. Rachel Ray’s entire career is based on that short cut. Indeed – the entire fast food industry is based on that philosophy.

  • milo

    “Why would you go out of your way to choose below average food?”

    And how does anyone here know that the food in this cookbook (or any “quick and easy” one) is below average?

    Pointing out that the title is deceptive, and that Ducasse’s restaurant cooking will never be quick or simple is a legitimate complaint.

    Pointing out that these recipes are probably inaccurate or inauthentic compared to the originals is valid.

    But without checking out the recipes themselves, who can say whether the recipes are bad or good? They may have NOTHING to do with Ducasse, but it’s possible that they are still good recipes when any comparison to him is ignored.

    “Quick and simple” doesn’t have to mean BAD, it just means you can’t do things that are time consuming and complicated.

    And I have to admit, I have eaten “shortcut” recipes that tasted just as good as the “real” versions. Torches and pitchforks in 3..2..1..

  • luis

    Jennie Cesario , yes jennie you are right.. the whole stock debates and so many other cooking pressures here come down to exactly that!.
    I think you hit that nail square on the head. Bravo. We must give Haute Cuisine its due. Nothing wrong with that.

  • Darcie

    This discussion reminds me of a sign my husband has at his shop: “Good, Fast, Cheap – Choose Two.”

    I think this applies to food as well. It can be good and fast but won’t be cheap (quality steak); good and cheap but it won’t be fast (braises from cheap cuts); fast and cheap but it probably won’t be good (food by Sandra Lee & ilk). Of course there are a few exceptions but not many.

    Sometimes simple is fine, however I agree with most people here in that I’m not interested in dumbed down food. But I’m not the target market (for this or almost anything else).

  • Eric

    This is possibly the first time that I’ve actually seen a book judged by its cover.

    Now, this book may entirely be crap. And it may be a shame to the reputation of Chef Ducasse.

    But then again, it may not.

    The “made simple” part is likely shortcuts for home cooks. This is unsurprising, and as many are quick to point out, si the death of most of these cookbooks. And no, it won’t be Ducasse without his skill.


    As one previous poster pointed out, what makes Ducasse’s cassoulet different from anyone else’s? The obvious answer is Ducasse himself, but there’s always the odd chance that maybe he has some different ingredients or techniques that are enumerated within. Given that Ducasse himself is quite exacting, one might hopefully assume that he wouldn’t just slap his name on any old thing.

    Until we’ve actually read it, I don’t think we can accurately say that “Ducasse Made Simple” is a blight upon the culinary landscape. The odds may be stacked against it with a lame marketing-based title, but then again, a lousy title of a book doesn’t necessarily make the book terrible.

    Unless, of course, this is really just a field-test of the upcoming “Michael Ruhlman’s Cookbook Reviewing Made Simple.” 🙂

  • redredsteve

    I agree that quick and easy aren’t bad words, they just aren’t words that catch my attention on the bookshelf. I want delicious, exquisite, etc. I’m all about a fast recipy with low work if the result is flavorful and true. But I’m not looking for a quick and easy pate recipe, I’ll just buy a hot dog if I’m that lazy.

    Nice parallel, Darcie. I think in many ways your “good, fast, cheap” philosophy applies very well to cooking.

  • Jennie Cesario is Jennie Tikka

    Along the very same lines as Redsteve and Darcie –

    If I’m buying a cookbook, its for education. I don’t buy books that teach me what I already know or are below what I learned in culinary school.

    Lots of the people who read and contribute to this blog are well-beyond what they are exposed to in popular cookbooks.

    If book companies want us to buy the books they’re going to have to give us a good reason to.

    Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidental” sold a gazillion copies because it was essentially – educational; we got to see a slice of the cooking world that nobody had exposed before. And we loved it!!!

    Book producers are apparently enamored with the same philosophy that movie producers are enamored with: Sell to one crowd – the crowd with the bigger numbers – the home cook who’s totally clueless.

    That, unfortunately, leaves people like me wandering around Barnes & Noble with my upper middle class income burning a whole in my pocket, still walking out of the bookstore without having purchased anything, all the while wondering when guys like Ruhlman & Bourdain will get something published so I can buy it.

    Any why?? Because I learn something from them.

    You can keep dangling the hope out there to the general public that after one book, suddenly anybody can become an artist, but – why not be honest and sell to those of us who want to learn something instead??

    I walked out of the bookstore this past weekend with two books:
    Ron Suskind’s “The Way of the World” and Ferran Adria’s “A Day at El Bulli.”

    Why cater to the audience that doesn’t want to learn? Indeed, if it is too involved for them to learn, they’ll just close the book and look for another one that’s easier????

  • milo

    “why not be honest and sell to those of us who want to learn something instead??

    Why cater to the audience that doesn’t want to learn?”

    I don’t see why it’s an either or, and I don’t see “beginner” cooks as not wanting to learn either.

    A “simple” cookbook is aimed at a beginner. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just won’t interest someone who already has mastered the basics. There’s room in the bookstore for books aimed at both beginners and those wanting to reach the highest standards. Is there really a shortage of high end cookbooks? I see more at the store than I could ever hope to even scratch the surface of in my lifetime.

    And just because someone buys a “simple” cookbook doesn’t mean they don’t want to learn. A beginner has to start simple. And there are people with skills that still need recipes that can be made quickly, for whom “quick” recipes are a blessing. Really, who has time to make every meal elaborate?

  • Jennie Cesario is Jennie Tikka


    All the textbooks I have ever purchased for culinary school are for sale in bookstores. Those are the basics. How many people start there with their book purchases???

    If you want the basics – buy an actual textbook instead of a book that’s pretending to be a textbook.

  • milo

    But some people don’t want a textbook. What’s so awful about a book of recipes that don’t require advanced skills for beginners?

  • Jennie Cesario is Jennie Tikka

    Textbooks for culinary school are for beginners.

    If you make it all the way through school, you eventually get to advanced technique (which Bob del Grosso and Michael Pardus can tell you all about because they teach that).

    But most culinary textbooks are for beginners. “On Cooking” by Sarah Labensky – that’s a beginner book. “Professional Cooking” by Wayne Gisslen – beginner book. “Professional Baking” by Wayne Gisslen again – that’s pastry basics (not advanced).

    How is it possible to learn to cook without having to study? If that isn’t a logical impossibility then I don’t know what is.

    What you are essentially saying is that you don’t want to learn to cook. Period.

  • redredsteve


    I have nothing against people starting at the beginning and wanting to learn. But a “quick and easy” home version of Ducasse??? That’s so far removed from the point I believe you are making it’s silly! Okay, so buy the Rachel Ray books and cook with boxed stocks. No problem! You aren’t hurting me any. Just don’t carry a name like Ducasse around. I believe it to be pretentious and disrespectful.

  • milo

    I’m not really sure what you’re asking.

    It’s certainly possible to learn to cook from a cookbook aimed at beginners. I’m sure grabbing a textbook would be great, but someone who grabs a decent cookbook aimed at beginners is going to learn as well. Not to mention that someone who gets started with a “beginner/simple” cookbook can move on to more advanced things.

    If I’m a beginner, and I grab a cookbook aimed at beginners, and I make a recipe for dinner, and it’s good, then what exactly is the problem?

  • milo

    redredsteve, I think you’ve misunderstood my comments, my apologies if I wasn’t clear.

    I was responding to the notion that “quick and simple” is always inherently bad, as some on this thread seem to feel. I just don’t agree with that, and the recipe from Michael at the top is a perfect example.

    I’d agree that if a cookbook is going to do “quick and simple” it makes sense to do it with recipes that are inherently simple in the first place instead of taking ones that are complicated and difficult and dumbing them down. Nor does “quick and simple” have to mean using tacky shortcuts either.

    And I absoultely agree that a cookbook shouldn’t promise a famous chef and provide something else. But truth and advertising, and whether all “quick and simple” has to be bad are two separate issues.

  • milo

    “How do you know it’s good??
    Compared to what?”

    Because it tastes good.
    Compared to the food you’ve eaten in your life.

    Let’s take the recipe here as an example.

    Is it quick? Yes.
    Is it simple? Yes.
    Does it require much cooking skill? No.

    Seems like a good recipe to me. What’s your objection to it?

    Really, I just don’t understand the notion that a recipe that is quick and simple can’t be good.

  • Jennie Cesario is Jennie Tikka


    That recipe isn’t in Ducasse’s cookbook – Ruhlman quoted it because its an old standard by you can find in any culinary textbook in any school, that gets taught to brand new beginner cooks – that’s why.

    When you remove a particular Chef’s specific innovation – you are left with culinary basics. That we can all learn. From one book. Written by unfamous people.

  • milo

    So if you think that “quick and simple” recipe is a good one, then what does it matter if the person gets it from a textbook or a “quick and simple” recipe book? The person learns whatever basics are in that recipe either way, and they end up with the same good result on their table either way.

    A good recipe is a good recipe.

    As for Ducasse, I agree that it’s stupid to slap his name on a cookbook that doesn’t represent what he really does.

  • Jennie Cesario is Jennie Tikka

    Milo –

    In fact, I’m looking at it right here on page 519 in “Professional Cooking” (the textbook for my 101 class)

    Heavy cream
    Freshly grated parmesan cheese

    The exact recipe Michael quoted. Because its been around for literally a thousand years.

  • Judy

    Got yer knickers in a knot?
    Why not make some mac ‘n cheese
    As pretty as you please
    And if you got company
    Just sprinkle it with parsley.

  • Jennie Cesario is Jennie Tikka

    Instead of buying 22 cookbooks that will eventually give you a collection of what is considered the absolute basics and make the book producers rich –

    why not buy it in 1 frickin’ book instead and learn everything you should know?

    Ruhlman’s recent book is the pristine example of what I’m talking about.

  • milo

    Of course it has been around forever. It’s a perfect example of a recipe that is quick and simple that is a good recipe. It shows that that kind of recipe doesn’t have to be inherently bad.

    So what’s the objection to either writing or buying a “quick and simple” cookbook with recipes like this? Why does it matter if the consumer gets this from a “quick and simple” cookbook as opposed to a textbook?

    Isn’t this sort of thing exactly what a beginning cook should be starting with?

  • Jennie Cesario is Jennie Tikka

    The problem, Milo – and this is my final post on the matter, is that those other books also provide a lot of bad information, with possibly some good information thrown in as well.

    And other problem is that I don’t need Ducasse to tell me about a 1000 year old recipe that I have already heard about 100 times before.

    Pretending that a recipe is new when it isn’t and taking credit for it in a cookbook, is dishonest and misleading.

  • milo

    Of course you don’t need Ducasse to give you that recipe. But I don’t think a recipe book, “quick and easy” or otherwise, giving you that recipe is somehow inferior to a textbook giving it to you.

    And including a recipe isn’t “pretending it’s new”. You’re not accusing the textbook of “pretending it’s new”. You’re not accusing ruhlman of “pretending it’s new” by posting it here. So unless a cookbook says “here’s a new recipe I made up!” I don’t see the harm in them including it either.

    And sure, a recipe book can include bad advice. Just like a recipe book can include good advice. And just like a textbook can include bad advice. Or good advice.

    Of course there are recipe books both good and bad, just like they are textbooks good and bad. But that doesn’t mean all recipe books should be written off categorically.

  • Guy Anderson

    I guess I must just be PRO Book because I love to cook (my profession) and I love to read so it is just one more for me to thumb through while I am waiting for my wife to finish shopping in the mall. I have all of Ruhlmans books – he is not a pro chef – but I consider him to be awesome and he writes books and articles for a living – so this lady did it with permission of one of the greats – who cares – people buy crazy romance books – people buy cookbooks – it fills a demand so here is a tip – don’t suppot it by nout buying it!

  • luis

    It’s all about principles, techniques and local flavors. I am now much more aware the huge spice rack thing and the huge sauce collections is not were its at.

    Minimize and decluterize the kitchen from these things. Stick to your own cooking style tune your kitchen up for your cooking.

    Focus on quality ingredients and cut down that recipe book bookshelf down to half a dozen books.

    It’s tiresome and useless to run around town looking for this and that to make a particular dish you never find the right ingredients for. I mean when recipes call out for greek olives and cheeses or tomatos that only grow in Italy… Oh please!!!!!!!

    As Bob says learn the techniques cook what you have, and I will add keep the food as fresh as you can and the kitchen spotless.

    Get rid of stuff you don’t use and empty out that spice rack of spices you never use.

    Cook fresh ingredients as elegantly and perfectly as you can. Season to your taste and leave it at that. Gradually expand your go to dish collection.

    Oh yeah, that 350 recipe data base you have… lose it!.

    Use building blocks for your inpiration similar to the seven japanese cuisine pilars and choose local flavors that work for you.

    Most importantly recognize what you are cooking in terms of what it will do to you ultimatelly.

    Red meat is ok once or twice a month. Recipes such as Rhulman posted break down to sugar and fat in your body.(Fast food) Pasta converts to sugar and cream and cheese to fat. Fat and sugar is the fast and easy staple of our lives.

    I think the type of cuisine Rhulman blogs about is professional grade and its best left up to the professionals and to really appreciate and honor it and enjoy it we should patronize their restaurants and eateries. Because their kitchens are tuned up for their cuisines and their flavors and their kitchens are no different from the one I have just described for the home cook.

    The same principle applies. Cook your food, set up your kitchen for just that and nothing else. That is what makes sense.

    The fallacy here is that my kitchen will turn out a Ducasse or a Fedran or a Rippert or a Keller type dish if it basicall its not set up for it. Impossible. It’s like asking an Iron worker to turn out a microchip?

  • MessyONE

    “Red meat is ok once or twice a month.”

    Gee Luis, just when I think you are starting to make sense, you drop a bomb like that one! Yeesh. Eat, exercise, have fun, and keep your nose out of other people’s fridges…oh yeah, and drink wine every day. I had to laugh at a fellow who charted out just how much longer he would be living than average if he kept to his bizarre diet. All I have to say is that I may not live for that extra six months, but I’ll be having fun the whole time, which is more than he’ll be doing.

    Reading these commentaries has my curiosity piqued. I must go and look at the book. I suspect it’s as silly as it sounds. These things always sound like a good idea, but they generally fail in the execution. Cookbooks in general have more to say about the state of society as a whole than they do about what people actually eat on a day to day basis. But then, I’m a fan of the KISS rule in just about everything I do.

    I collect old (really old) cookbooks and get a real kick out of trying some of the more outrageous recipes. For example, tomato soup cake (a WWII favorite) really is as foul as it sounds, notwithstanding what the grannies will tell you. On the other hand, I take it as a personal challenge to make cakes out of a book that has measurements like “piece of butter, size of an egg”, and “small teacup of very dark cocoa powder”.

  • Natalie Sztern

    So…is it sacreligious if I make my sweet n sour sauce using gingerale and heinz chili sauce….of course not, cause I am not a chef, however if I went to dinner at a restaurant where the chef did that, it would be a real shame.

    If I thought for a mili-second I could cook Ducasse food easy I would buy the book…but whether or not it is titled Dummies would suddenly be irrelevant…

  • luis

    Messy that was kind of a tease… but it works for my style of cooking and my level of confort.

    I am already old and I don’t take any medicines. My numbers have moved up from my youth but I am still not diabetic and not plugged up with cholesterol.

    I eat plenty of proteins…fish,chicken,turkey,tofu, beans, pork are everyday foods. Also I cheat with hams, pastramis,cornbeefs,roast beefs and like that.

    I do avoid any forcemeats other than a few pepperonis which are an easy way to add a lot of flavor to pizzas.

    Again you go watch the meat chefs the big pit bosses at FN bbq contests and all the bbq joints guy fiory visits and THEY ALL LOOK FAT with high cholesterol levels and short of breath and very very unhealthy. Why take your cooking there??? Do if you must but in the end how they look is how you will look.
    Only BBQ pit boss that seems to handle it is Steven Raichlem but Steven cooks fish and veggies and lots other meats other than meat. He is is cut from a different cloth than most pit bosses.

  • MessyONE

    Ah, that whole barbecue thing… We lived in Texas for 5 1/2 years. I personally think everyone who thinks that they can eat anything they want should live there for at least 6 months. My brother-in-law calls the standard Texas diet, “If you can dip it, you have to eat it”. I like to call it the “If it ain’t fried, it ain’t food” diet.

    I’m fit, I’m obnoxiously healthy, and I’m not all that young, either. My weight hasn’t gone up, either. Sadly, I just had to face the fact that I have to earn my dinners now. The gym just LOVES me.

  • redredsteve

    I know these threads run rampant, but to bring it back to the original question: can the food of Ducasse really be made “simple?” Someone earlier compared the music of Beethoven being simplified for the sake of the beginner. Sure, simplify it and enjoy it. It can still be good. A simplified Ducasse recipe may still taste good and look great but, in my opinion, it’s not Ducasse anymore. Like Ruhlman said, it’s the complicated part that makes it Ducasse, just like all the little nuances of Beethoven’s music, executed with deft and masterful skill, is what makes it Beethoven (although I much prefer Mozart).

    It just seems like a cheap marketing ploy.

    To take it even further, consider an earlier post from Ruhlman that referenced a link to an article quoting Thomas Keller on chefs and opportunities they are presented with nowadays. Here’s a quote from the article:

    “We always must ask ourselves: ‘Is this opportunity right for me, for my staff, and for my industry?’ If the answer to all three is yes, then you should pursue it to the very best of your ability.

    But if the answer to even one of them is no, then no matter how attractive the opportunity might seem, you must make what is often the most difficult choice of all and just walk away.”

    I completely agree with this sentiment and apply it to this discussion of “Ducasse made simple.” You might, and I stress might, be able to answer yes to the first two (though I wouldn’t,) but can you honestly answer yes to this type of cookbook being good for the industry? If the author and publishers evaluated this project in this way then I believe we wouldn’t even be having this conversation because the book wouldn’t exist.

    I don’t know, maybe I’m being too hardass about it. Maybe I’m taking it too seriously. I like to keep-it-simple-stupid too, but when it’s appropriate. I do not keep it simple if doing so would sacrifice quality or excellence.

  • redredsteve

    Luis – I’m sorry but I have to address this. Judging somebody’s cooking ability or genre, if you will, by their size and weight, or vice versa, just seems ignorant to me. Of course, if all you eat is low fat, low cholesterol, low sodium, whatever, then you will be healthier. Of course, you’ll also have blander, less rich and interesting food. I find the generalizations you are making to be a bit rediculous. For every example of an overweight BBQ fanatic or pastry chef you give, I can give you an example of a fit and healthy one. Everything in moderation, my friend… except heroine.

  • sou


    The title of this book in the original french language is:

    La Cuisine de Ducasse par Sophie

    I wonder if your reaction would have been different had the american title been closer to the original.

    Your reaction prompted me to take a closer look at the book, at Sophie’s website and some of the recipes (the recipe section in french, not the few in english) and decide to order it.

    While I realize it was not your intent to promote sales of this book, I thank you for drawing my attention to it. I’ll plan to post a follow up once I’ve actually had a chance to cook from the book.

    ps. I also have purchased, read and enjoyed, most of your cooking-related books. I think Charcuterie is the only published one I currently do not have.

  • Greely

    Okay, we’re talking about elite made simple. Does that apply only to the kitchen, the restaurant or life?

    Several topics that Michael has posted about recently, including the one about being in the weeds or being overwhelmed by life for a very good reason, brought the topic of this blog to heart in more ways than one.

    Please allow me a moment or two and I will bring it back to the subject at hand which is “Ducasse Made Simple.” Sometimes I have to speak in a subject that I know about that so that other’s can know where I am coming from. Besides cooking of course.

    (In other words, the ministry staff I was once part of would be shouting out, “Tangent Alert, Tangent Alert, Tangent Alert”)

    Friday night I was lucky enough to attend a concert with Steven Curtis Chapman (Over 50 Dove Awards which is the Christian equivalent of a Grammy) and Michael W. Smith (Almost 40 Dove Awards). This was the first time that Smitty (celebrated 25 years in Christian music this year) and SCC (21 years in Christian music) shared a stage. (Bear with me.)

    No other Christian artist has ever won over 50 Dove Awards in their career. Here are two people who have between the two of them released almost 30 albums and won almost 100 Dove Awards. Imagine that in the restaurant business. No one else achieving what you have done. Averaging three awards for each restaurant.

    SCC is a young 46 years old by his appearance on stage during the concert. Yes, his hair is grayer (as is mine starting to be)and he has the touch of a gray goutee going on but his physical attitude during the concert bespoke that of a much younger person. The same applies to Smitty as well who is 5 years older.

    So basically between these two (IMHO) “Outstanding Christian singers” they have over approximately 96 Dove awards. What would that be in Michelin stars?

    SCC has 16 albums released but over 50 Dove Awards. That’s an average of 3 Dove Awards each album. How would you like to have that for an average for a restaurant? The equivalent of three stars for each opening?!

    SCC also wears his heart on his sleeve as does Smitty but I think SCC does more so. SCC has put his foot in his mouth by adopting three Chinese girls at the urging of his oldest child, Emily. Sadly, one of those girls was tragically killed in an accident this past May in the family driveway by SCC’s youngest son, Will Franklin who didn’t see Maria Sue as she was running to play with him.

    SCC was almost ready to give up singing but then he realized that if he was going to be true to what he had sung about for over 20 years, he needed to keep singing. He did.

    Okay, here is where I tie this together. SCC and Smitty are elite in their field and subject to their own stresses peculiar to their own field to include the loss of loved ones. Keller, Masa, Ramsey, Marco Pierre White and Ducasse as well as other’s are elite as well.

    Would you be wanting to buy a songbook by someone who has taken the songs of Steven Curtis Chapman or Michael W. Smith and said, “Now you can play songs on the guitar or piano like Steven Curtis or Smitty because So and So has simplified the format?”

    I would hope not. I also know that neither of them would endorse such a product.

    That’s why I’m sad that Ducasse has done exactly that. While some people have posted, “Wait for the product” I know it won’t be the same. Ducasse has had input obviously on what is in the book but he should also know that Michelin starred food cannot be cooked simply at home. By the way, while a lot of people like to slam-dunk Gordon Ramsey, none of his cook books have that phrase. Neither does Thomas Keller, Eric Ripert,

    Good songs written from the heart which can move people to no end are awesome.

    Good songs written by people who are invited to “simplify” the tone of the original writer’s work to a person at home’s level I don’t think is possible. The heart is not there.

    Good simple food cooked from the heart is possible. Michael gave us a good example of that at the beginning of the blog. Also, he wrote about it with Michael Symon saying he won’t cook food in more than two pots. Chef Pardus did that when he made the consomme video. They stepped up and made it happen.

    Michelin food simplied for the home cook to make the same as is what is served in a Ducasse restaurant is not possible.

    Life comes full circle.
    There is a beginning and an end.
    What we do with what is in the middle
    is up to us.
    We can wallow or swallow what is given to us
    or we can rise above the cards we have been dealt and perform to the levels within our hearts.
    Heart counts.
    Heart matters.
    Heart is what matters.
    Heart is what cares.
    Heart is what keeps us going no matter what happens in our life that might strive to keep us down.

    Heart is in the kitchen. If it’s not, it’s not a kitchen.


  • luis

    Red Steve we could go a couple of rounds with that but I said my peace and I will stand by it. Already I mentioned Steven Raichlem super pit boss that handles the cuisine but you can not ignore what we see in the general population. ie; all those big meat contests…contestants are in awful health.
    To think that the cuisine doesn’t affect your health is ignorant. Which I know you are not. We are both basically in agreement which is why I prefaced my comment with in my kitchen I may cook red meat a couple of times a month. Thats plenty when you add in leftovers as in a nice braise or stew… Once a month is good enough for anyone. The correlation between cuisine and what the chef looks like is pretty self evident if you ask me. Peace bro.

  • Jennie Cesario is Jennie Tikka

    sou’s post proves me point exactly:

    I’m also looking at Sophie’s website and here’s what I see:

    Fruitcake recipe? Standard recipe found on page 312 in my pastry textbook. She did not invent it.

    Jam recipe? Standard procedure found on page 502 – applies to any fruit jam you’d want to make.

    Tartare and ham pancakes? Standard Gauffre recipe (French pancakes w/the cream omitted page 166). She added the cheese and the ham. Rachel Ray has the exact same recipe except with waffle batter.

    ALL the other recipes are standard and are in my pastry textbook. I won’t bore you with the page numbers.

  • Jennie Cesario is Jennie Tikka

    And now I’ll spell it out.

    The original recipes were invented before copyrights existed. What you’re buying is an uncopyrighted recipe that has been “borrowed” by someone and put in a book, that they are getting paid for borrowing. The originator of the recipe died without recognition or money for having invented it. The standard no-name-attached-to-it recipe exists in text books. Only the maker of the textbook gets paid for selling it, buuut – an unlimited number of people can reprint the same set of recipes and get paid each time they do that. An ingredient substitution here and there does not a brand new recipe make. An ingredient DOWNGRADE does not a new recipe make (a la RR’s downgrade of the gauffre recipe with swiss cheese and store bought ham slices. In her case in particular she may think she made an original recipe only because she is totally unaware of the existing standards.)

    The recipes in french on the aforementioned website are again, fairly standard. The only thing different is she’s friends with Ducasse and she has a great big french country estate. BFD. I also lived in Paris (over on Rue Angelique) and have never considered that sufficient qualification to write a cookbook.

    The fantasy factor of “if I buy this and cook this stuff I can play like I’m living in a big french estate” is what’s being marketed to you. That’s what you’re paying for. And that’s what the marketers are getting paid to arouse in you (hence the term “food porn.”)

  • MessyONE

    I think a couple of definitions are in order here. “Simple” and “easy” are not the same thing. If you ever doubt that, go to a department store and try on two plain blazers. Make one the store label and the other Armani. See what I mean? It’s like trying to compare Ducasse and Paula Deen. Chalk and cheese.

    I’m beginning to equate “easy” to lazy for a lot of things. After all, how is it that my mother’s generation (No age cracks, please. I was born the same year that Mr. Ruhlman was.) managed to not only have jobs and raise kids, but cook good food every night? That generation was raised by Depression babies – most of them would rather die a horrible death by snake bite that buy stock or eat takeout!

    I didn’t see the cookbook today – it hasn’t hit my local book store. That said, there was a large display of the works of Ms. Deen. Even her hair is scary. Plus she considers Cool Whip to be a legitimate ingredient…

  • luis

    From “Healthy Eating” browsing around I read this on red meat….

    “”Saturated fats, primarily found in animal sources including red meat and whole milk dairy products, raise the low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol that increases your risk of coronary heart disease. “”

    The point is learn the building blocks, the technique such as found in the “Elements of Cooking” Michael Rhulman book, or Naomi Moriyama’s book and cook what is local and fresh and you have on hand, keeping a sharp lookout for what really helps your body such as Omega3 mono and poly unsaturated fats and amino acids etc.

    Set up your kitchen for your own style of cooking because you will not be making Alain’s, Adrian’s or even Keller’s food anytime soon either slow or fast, and enjoy visiting Professional Restaurants and their chef’s cuisines on special ocassions as a treat.

    Stay away from easy or fast food because its all bad fat and sugar and has made Americans the fatest people on earth.

    A decent cookbook needs to include more than just famous recipes BFD. It needs a compelling reason to empower a reader to wish cook and eat like that on a daily basis. This includes building blocks like the Pilars in Japanese cooking and plenty of healthy stuff… you can make to YOUR taste.

    After a month on such a cuisine you should feel thinner, more envigorated and with oodles more energy and bounce in your step.

  • Kate in the NW

    I ride horses every day. Riding is like cooking – the more you actually know, the less you know you know. Both endeavors take a lifetime and more to learn.

    You start off on an EASY horse. You learn the basics (by repetition, practice, thoughtfulness, and drilling, and often an “abusive” coach who demands the best from you), and then when you have some competency you get on a more difficult horse, and so on, and so on, learning more each time and from each horse.

    A smart trainer helps you learn from the horse. S/he doesn’t pretend you can do well on a performance horse when you don’t even really know how to ride the school-horse yet. Rush it, or become arrogant, or try to cut corners, and YOU GET HURT – BADLY.

    Which I guess is okay as long as you know and accept the consequences.

    Maybe that’s where the endeavors diverge. People are willing to eat bad food. A crappy recipe (or a badly-made dish) doesn’t send you ass-over-heels into the dirt. So we keep trying to climb on recipes we’re not ready for yet; there’s an endless market for it. Every fool who’s been on a National Park trail ride for a few hours thinks they can ride. Everyone wants to say they cook just like Ducasse after buying that cookbook. Doesn’t make it true.

    Things that are the result of great talent, dedication, training and skill require great talent, dedication, training and skill to achieve. No shortcut. Most of us don’t like that sort of truth – in our lives, or in our kitchens.

    BIG reward, though, if you love something enough to put the time in, cooking OR horses. Or anything else.

  • Jeannie

    Sorry, I couldn’t help but bring politics into your comment. Your point, simplifying something that by the very nature of the beast is not simple is kind of the audience Sara Palin attracts, making gross generalizations while omitting the details…..People will buy the book by the conceit it makes, “I can make a Ducasse recipe yet it will be easy”, while deep down they just really don’t understand the real work that goes behind the dishes. I have not seen the cookbook either, it may be great…

  • Bob

    There’s gotta be a good median between books like “Alinea” and the Snoopy Sandwich cookbook I got for my 4th birthday from an aunt. I prefer boosk that give the unadulterated recipes (Alinea has them for sure) as well as sources for odd ingredients and acceptable “cheats” (Alinea needs this). I never expect to get the real deal from a cookbook, but I do expect to be able to at least attempt a recipe or two without going into debt or hooking up with a food-additive-pusher. I think Bourdain’s last book hits a pretty good median… of course, some professional chefs I know think his cheats are “cheap”

  • derek

    First, I have to say that I find it unseemly to criticize this book so severely without reading it. And while I understand the point made by Ruhlman and aptly summarized by ihop (re: Dostovesky, whose name I don’t know how to spell), I actually take issue with this point.

    To continue the metaphor, people buy crappy romance novels all the time; these books make them stupider. I would indeed say that these people would be far better off reading, say, an abridged version of Dostovesky. (And let’s be honest: The Brothers Karamazov is in desperate need of an editor. It really loses its stride at the end, I think.)

    Similarly, if one is to buy a cookbook of meals that can be made in under 30 minutes or whatever after work, why not buy one that is rooted in excellent food and has ostensibly been vetted by an admired figure like Alain Ducasse? Obviously, no one is going to make a blog out of this book, but those who buy it will (hopefully) be far better served than they would have been by Rachel Ray.

  • latenac

    “To continue the metaphor, people buy crappy romance novels all the time; these books make them stupider.”

    Actually people who read a lot of romance novels tend to then pen their own which in turn get published. It’s a self-creating system. Do bad cookbooks work this way as well?

    I think it’s far worse to imply that you can make great meals from great chefs in 30 minutes or less than to have a bad cook pen a work of 30 minute or less meals. It’s kind of like Dostoyvsky writing a bad romance novel. Rachel Ray I can forgive, not support but at least understand. Ducasse or someone else of that caliber, not so much.

    And there is a middle ground between Alinea and 30 minute or less or Cake Doctors, etc. – Mark Bittman, Joy of Cooking, etc., etc. Real cookbooks for average joes that do contain some quick and easy meals as well as the rest of it.

  • JBL

    Ms. Jennie Cesario/Tikka,
    I’m curious as to which pastry textbook you refer? It seems like something that should be in my library.

  • JBL

    Hey Luis, did you hear about that healthy jogger guru (Jim Fixx) that died of a heart attack after his daily run? Just sayin’.

  • tahoedan

    I want to thank certain posters, who they are is obvious, for confirming the thrust of my previous post. I’m hoping that I don’t bump into you at the new Bouley. As a rule, I avoid people complaining about the quality of the apples out front.

  • Nicholas Hall

    Mr. Ruhlman,
    I’m not certain ifthis has already been addressed, as I admittedly failed to wade through all 87 pseudo-related comments to your succinct, elegant, and subsequently misappropriated original post, but I wonder if it is your intention to acquire a copy of this cookbook, so that you can assuage the apparent concerns that you are pre-condemning the food, as opposed to the concept? I think your readership would be interested to see your thoughts AFTER you see (and prepare) the actual recipes.

  • luis

    JBL, Yes of course I read about Jim Fixx and how he loved cheeseburgers and thought running every day would beat his high cholesterol(~270). You don’t excercise to eat red meat and cheese, it doesn’t work of course. The thing folks don’t realize is that the circunference of your open arteries is reduced as it is coated by plaque. The oppening is made smaller. Thusly it takes LESS and LESS and EVEN LESS sat fat and cholesterol to do more damage as the disease progresses.
    It’s a sliperry slope thing. Excercise has no bearing on it at all. Get old and eat like you are young and you are gone.

    This is probably why you see alzheimers in older people as well. And the older you get the harder it is to remember things…. exercising the brain ALONE ain’t gonna git it!

    Nathan Pritikin left a body of work on this… including a cookbook that’s available used at Amazon for 25 cnts.

  • Jennie Cesario is Jennie Tikka

    JBL –

    The book is “Professional Baking” by Wayne Gisslen (third edition). Its the standard textbook for the pastry program at Le Cordon Bleu. I’ve seen it at Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Amazon.com (as well as culinary school cookstores).

    A much bigger book (over 1000 pages) but still basic is Bo Friberg’s “The Professional Pastry Chef.”

    Pastry doesn’t become “advanced” until you’re making 5 foot high sugar sculptures and pastillage. Everything below that is just basic. Cookies, breads, doughs, sauces, ice cream, cake, etc. – all basics.

  • luis

    Nicholas, Michaels point is well taken. Ducasse made simple…its an unfortunate marketing foopaahh!.

    folks that have dedicated and sacrificed their lives to the highest level of culinary excellence and the very highest levels of cuisine in the world and you imply it can all be simplified? Dumbed down….???
    They are right to get upset about it.
    Like saying you will simplify Rafael Nadal’s or Roger Federer tennis game and give joe sixpack a simple method. You have no idea were experience personal talent including their own God given patch of smell and taste and senses timing intellec art begin and the recipes and techniques end. It’s a non starter…..man.

  • Jennie Cesario is Jennie Tikka

    I’m going to invent a brand new game – its called “Stump Jennie”. You find a recipe you like and I’ll see if I don’t already have it in my 1 pastry textbook and my 1 culinary textbook. I won’t even use the additional materials – just 1 book for dessert & 1 book for savory. See if you can stump me.

  • JBL

    Jennie: Thanks for the info. Both seem like volumes that would augment my cookbook library which is suspiciously void of pastry. I used to be a bit intimidated by pastry publications; but, after endeavoring in a few items from Ruhlman’s Charcuterie and The French Laundry Cookbook my bravado seems to have been worked up a bit.

    Luis: I know that most of us don’t like to consider the reality that some circumstances are beyond the realm of choice; but have you even considered genetic predisposition (family history)?

  • Nicholas Hall


    OK, I really don’t want to be drug off into the weeds, here, but please do me the favor of rereading my comment. I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Ruhlman’s contention that the very idea of a “quick and easy” Ducasse is an affront to the very concept of Ducasse, and of the kind of cuisine chefs of his caliber execute. I also agree with Mr. Ruhlman’s acknowledgement that, and I quote, “I must also add that what I’m writing here is not a review of the cookbook itself, which may well be filled with delicious easy recipes—I wouldn’t know, I haven’t seen the book.”

    Clearly, many of the commentors here have taken the original post to mean that Mr. Ruhlman believes one of two things, perhaps both, which are clearly not the intent of the post.
    The first, and most troubling, is that Mr. Ruhlman doesn’t think that simple food can be good. As indicated by his inclusion of an exceedingly simple and undeniably delicious recipe, this cannot possibly be the case.

    The other is that Mr. Ruhlman believes this to be a terrible cookbook with no good recipes. As he has not seen the cookbook, Mr. Ruhlman makes no such statement, and in fact, allows for the possibility that the recipes in the book are both simple and delicious, even while maintaining a firm stance that, at least in terms of its claims and aims concerning the dumbing down of sublime and intricate cuisine, the cookbook shouldn’t exist in the first place.

    I agree with the spirit and letter of the original post. I would simply like to see whether or not, taken on its own merits as a collection of recipes for the home cook, in a vacuum that does not consider its associations with and intrinsic denigration of Ducasse’s cuisine, the cookbook itself is any good.

    Mr. Ruhlman, certainly you know what I’m asking. I find it both humorous and vaguely disheartening that so many people have reacted so strongly to things you didn’t even say, but I’d love to see you take your concerns one step further, and see what merit the cookbook itself has. Would you be so kind?

  • faustianbargain

    i cant wait for ruhlman’s post where he will smack robuchon for thrusting the complete robuchon on us. what was robuchon thinking?

    i am also looking forward to ruhlman chiding keller.. who wrote the foreword for the crillon book by piege.

    silly chefs! they should have consulted ruhlman’s fans before they go about publishing cookbooks, no?

  • luis

    JBL, you are right..genetics predisposition proves my point. Your cooking should not be anybody’s but your own and what works for you.
    It’s totally personal and separate from Proffesional Restaurant Cooking. Your kitchen and your recipes should be your own.
    Here is a quote from “The Flavor Bible” an empowering book.

    “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
    Albert Schweitzer

    Who knows Alain Ducasse may spark a flame within us?… so many others….

  • redredsteve

    On the main page of Rhulman’s blog is a link to another blogged called “The French Laundry at Home” (if I remember correctly, something similar if not exactly that). The girl who writes this blog is exploring The French Laundry cookbook and cooking all of it’s recipes in the comfort of her own home. It looks like she’s doing a great job, all the food looks great, and it’s an interesting read.

    The French Laundry cookbook is not “made simple,” it’s not dumbed down or altered to make it more accessible or comforting to the home cook. It just presents the work and if you really want to tackle the cuisine of Thomas Keller, then there you go. Good luck! So… what would be the harm of Ducasses simply presenting his recipes in a cookbook, as they are prepared in his restaurant, as he created them? Why do they have to be dumbed down or “made simple?”

    It seems to me that if a non-professional home cook can take the recipes of Thomas Keller as they stand, explore them, learn from them, and have some measures of success, that the same could be done with Ducasse. So my conclusion is, as others have stated many times, this is simply marketing. It is the sacrifice of cuisine for the almighty dollar.

    The recipes inside may be good. They may be easy, quick, tasty, colorful, whatever. But make no mistake, ingenious food concepts have been altered for the sake of profit. Because of this, although I haven’t cooked or tasted a single recipe in this book, they already leave a bad taste in my mouth.

  • Greely


    “i cant wait for ruhlman’s post where he will smack robuchon for thrusting the complete robuchon on us. what was robuchon thinking?”

    Ruhlman is not slamming this book because it contains Ducasse’s recipes or style of cooking.

    He’s slamming this book because it implies very strongly by the title that Ducasse’s food can be simplified so that anyone can make it at home.

    His point is valid. Keller did not put out two cookbooks (The French Laundry and Bouchon)with the claim that the recipes inside are simplified for the home cook to make at home. So there is no need for Ruhlman to make the same type of comments about Keller, Ramsey, Masa or any of the other top Chef’s.

    You are missing the point. The point of Ruhlman’s comments are about taking a top tier Chef such as Ducasse and saying that his food can be made simply at home. Is that possible?

  • MessyONE

    Jenny, I’ll take that challenge!

    1. Oeufs a la Tallyrand

    2. Russian Gnocchi…

    These are truly a blast from the past. Frankly, the egg recipe sounds disgusting. However, they were both published in The Cordon Bleu Cookbook in 1947.

    Did I mention that I collect old cookbooks? I have one that has a killer recipe for a mustard plaster. Just what we all need during cold and flu season, eh?