Rob Feenie is the most recent celebrity chef aiming to cash in on the home-cooking craze that began in 2008, when the world economy cratered and cookbook marketers saw dollar signs as people tightened their belts and turned to eating budget-conscious meals at home, rather than enjoying pricey restaurant grub. Since then, such superstar toques as Heston Blumenthal, Ferran Adrià, Thomas Keller, and Mark McEwan – to name but a few – have dumbed down the sort of gourmet gastronomy that established their reputations as world-class restaurant chefs, and have attempted to deliver cookbooks aimed at mom and pop in the ’burbs.
While not quite as famous as some of his international cohorts, Feenie is nonetheless one of Canada’s most high-profile chefs. His TV series, New Classics with Rob Feenie, aired for five seasons on the Food Network, he was the first Canadian to win Iron Chef America, and he has co-owned a number of critically acclaimed Vancouver restaurants.
Feenie’s new book conforms to the home-cooking formula perfectly. It opens with the obligatory just-another-Saturday-morning-at-home photograph of the author with wife and children in the family kitchen, establishing from the outset that this is not a showcase for the sort of innovative, hot-house gastronomy that Feenie celebrated in his three previous books. Candid shots of the Feenies enjoying domestic life are peppered throughout chapters with such innocuous titles as “Soup & Sandwiches,” “Salads & Sides,” and “Poultry & Meat.”
While the recipes – including Easy Cream of Chicken Soup; Irish Stew; Crab and Green Apple Salad; Spinach, Bacon, and Blue Cheese Salad; Lobster Mac ’n’ Cheese; Steak Pot Pie; and Quinoa Jambalaya – are sound and reasonably creative, such bloodless fare has been rehashed and regurgitated for decades by the likes of Canadian Living, Chatelaine, and Company’s Coming. Feenie is punching well below his culinary weight.
In his introduction, Feenie states, “My books are not about following trends – though I like to think I help set those trends!” Perhaps in his earlier books, but nothing could be further from the truth here.