Quill and Quire

REVIEWS

« Back to
Book Reviews

Jamie Kennedy’s Seasons

by Jamie Kennedy

Jamie Kennedy is certainly one of Canada’s most famous chefs, and arguably one of the most important too. In the 1980s, at the Toronto restaurant Scaramouche, he and Michael Stadtländer functioned as the harbingers of nouvelle cuisine, a European movement that revolutionized restaurant cooking around the world. After Scaramouche, Kennedy’s Palmerston restaurant was a ground-breaking experiment in à la minute cooking (prepared to order, from scratch) which received rave reviews.

While Palmerston was open, Kennedy published his first cookbook, a disappointingly small paperback filled, nonetheless, with brilliant recipes. Fifteen years later, Kennedy’s long-overdue second cookbook, Seasons, has its disappointments too, but like the first book, they can be largely overlooked due to the brilliance of the recipes.

Disappointments? Well, this is not, as they say, “food porn.” As a piece of cookbook design, stand Seasons beside, say, The French Laundry Cookbook or Gordon Ramsay’s A Chef for All Seasons, and it pales. Not that it’s ugly – a large-format paperback, there are the obligatory colour inserts and a peppering of tiny black-and-white shots – but it simply lacks the sleek, sexy style that has become the hallmark, and one of the key selling points, of cookbooks from many of the world’s top chefs. Yes, style has its excesses, but surely Kennedy at least warrants hardcovers by now.

If this is not “porn,” it is, thankfully, also not dilettantism. Any shortcomings in design here are utterly eclipsed by the genius Kennedy brings to the recipes, many of which come from his newest restaurant, Jamie Kennedy at the Museum (Royal Ontario Museum). With sublime clarity, the simplest and purest of ingredients are combined here into radiant seasonal dishes, such as morel consommé served under puff pastry, skate with feta-sautéed vegetables, and chocolate beignets (battered, deep-fried crepes) with whipped cream and raspberry purée. In short, Seasons is a master chef’s recipe book, the cream of 15 years of cooking, and while cookbook fetishists may find it lacking, those who love to cook will likely see it as an offering to be cherished.