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Feenie’s: Brunch, Lunch, Dinner

by Rob Feenie

There are two admirable things about Vancouver chef Rob Feenie’s third cookbook, Feenie’s: Brunch, Lunch, Dinner, and one thing not so admirable.

The first admirable thing is that Feenie gets out of the way of his material. With credits that include two restaurants, two previous cookbooks, and a Food Network television show (as well as an Iron Chef America championship), Feenie is one of Canada’s most famous chefs. As such, it would have been easy for his new cookbook to have become mired in self-regard, with tedious essays on how he goes to the market each morning and how he loves his grandmother’s latkas, etc. Instead Brunch, Lunch, Dinner is a wonderfully simple book, offering bistro recipes from his newest restaurant, Feenie’s, accompanied by only the most spartan of comments from the chef himself.

The recipes are a thrill: Brioche French Toast with Bourbon Maple Syrup, Sour Cream Mousse and Candied Pecans; Duck Confit Salad with Bacon-Hazelnut Vinaigrette; Veal Neptune with Crab Hollandaise and Mushroom Ragout. This is haute comfort food, and it rocks.

The second admirable thing is the book’s format. Brunch, Lunch, Dinner shows what can be done with a trade paperback and a little imagination. Rather than going for the stale industry-standard square paperback with colour inserts, the book is presented in an elegant rectangular format with French flaps and colour photos throughout. Nothing fancy here. No need for hardcovers. That’s not what this book is about. Still, such a design – when executed properly, as it is here – says volumes about a chef’s confidence.

The one less-than-admirable thing about Brunch, Lunch, Dinner is the photography. This is a bright, relaxed book, employing a colour palette of red and turquoise reminiscent of 1950s kitchens. But the photographs here are too tightly cropped for this relaxed style, and their trendy shallow focal plane robs them of punch. Also, the lighting is both garish and murky. Feenie’s uncluttered presentations should pop off the page. Instead, they struggle to be seen. It’s a case of the vision behind the food being miles ahead of the vision behind the camera.

Nonetheless, this is a minor milestone in Canadian cookbooks – a small, confident collection of superb recipes from a superstar chef in an almost-perfect package.