They may take us into the lives of great people, but food memoirs take us right into their kitchens. Chefs and food writers tell their own stories through memorable meals and hard-working shifts. They do this to give their readers life lessons and stories that are easy to read.
I picked these places because they show a different side of the culinary world, from old-fashioned kitchens in France to adrenaline-fueled dinner rushes in New York City. They also use mouth-watering descriptions to show how we’re all connected through food. You don’t have to be a foodie or a great home cook to enjoy these books. They’re great for anyone who wants to know what goes on behind the doors of their favorite restaurant’s kitchen. In our list of books written by chefs and food writers, we hope that you’ll find a book that you enjoy.
The best books by chefs and food writers
One of the best-loved chef memoirs
“My Life in France” by Julia Child
“My Life in France” is one of the most well-known chef memoirs ever. In the movie “Julie & Julia,” which was a big hit, we see Julia Child’s not-so-culinary beginnings before she went on to change the way people cook in the United States with her book. In this book, Julia tells the story of how she learned to cook French food from scratch, how she fell in love with French food, and how she tried to get her cookbook published. People who read this book will love it because it has a lot of the same kind of spirit as Julia Child.
This is a great quote: “No one is born a great cook, one learns by cooking.”
An iconic chef’s memoir about embracing the grittier side of beautiful food
“Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly” by Anthony Bourdain
I love this book because Bourdain’s portrayal of the brutal and beautiful world of cooking is so true to life, even in the most unpleasant parts. I’ve worked in kitchens myself, and Bourdain’s portrayal is so true to life, even in the most unpleasant parts. Antony Bourdain was a great chef and traveler who died in 2018. In 2007, he wrote a memoir about his life in classic New York kitchens and the almost unbelievable things that happened behind the swinging doors. It was full of shocking and true stories about his time in these kitchens.
Love this: “There isn’t anything sacred about your body. It’s just a fun place. Enjoy the trip.”
A famous chef’s passionate coming-of-age memoir
“Eat a Peach” by David Chang
David Chang was born to Korean immigrants. He used to live in Virginia and be lonely. His father loaned him money to open Momofuku, a noodle restaurant in New York City that he didn’t think would last a year. In this memoir, David talks about how he came of age and how Momofuku became so popular that it now has 15 restaurants across the world. David Chang’s memoir is down-to-earth and real. It talks about his mental health as well as how his love of food was a light in his life and the key to his success.
“Organic growth, I always say, means having no plan at all.”
An author’s discovery of the French culinary world
“Dirt: Adventures in Lyon as a Chef in Training, Father, and Sleuth Looking for the Secret of French Cooking” by Bill Buford
A book by Bill Buford, an American author, says that he thought he could learn how to cook French food. He set out on a five-year journey to learn about the history of French food and why it’s so popular around the world. He started out in D.C., but soon moved his family there. Buford’s readers go with him as he goes to a culinary school, learns from the masters, and becomes obsessed with being a good chef. This memoir is a first-person account of a fun and funny anecdotal journey.
Love this: “A recipe is just a start. First, you meet the dish.”
The memoir of a groundbreaking pastry chef
“Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger” by Lisa Donovan
In her memoir, Lisa Donovan, a southern pastry chef and award-winning essayist, tells not only her own story, but also the stories of the women who worked in kitchens before her and were not given the same attention. Her story is one of strength. Lisa’s background led her to make a table where everyone is welcome and valued, and where they can all come together over food. Story: This one is both fierce and heartfelt, and it’s written by a woman who’s just as well known for her writing as she is for her amazing cakes.
“If someone only cares about you when you’re about to leave, you should keep walking.”
An intimate memoir from the host of ‘Top Chef’
“Love, Loss, and What We Ate” by Padma Lakshmi
Padma Lakshmi is the host of “Top Chef” and the author of two cookbooks. She shares her love of food with people from all over the world, as well as with her own family and friends who have lost loved ones. Her memoir talks about her love life, her race, and being a single mother. It also talks about the recipes she keeps close to her heart. It’s an honest picture of her life that shows both the good and the bad. Even if you don’t know who Padma is or what “Top Chef” is, her memoir is one that is easy to read.
“We eat for our bodies, but we hunger with our hearts.”
A story of a chef’s survival through tongue cancer
“Life, on the Line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat” by Grant Achatz by Nick Kokonas
“Life, on the Line” is my husband’s favorite book about cooking. When I asked him what his favorite chef book was, he excitedly put his signed copy into my hands. Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas are the people who started Alinea, one of the best restaurants in the world that thinks about food in a very different way. Alinea opened in Chicago in 2005. Two years later, Grant was told he had stage IV tongue cancer, which was bad for both his career and his life. This book is about how he survived, how he broke new ground, and how his friends helped him get through.
“As I stopped worrying about the future, I began to believe that I might have one.” This is a great quote.
A well-known food critic’s fun memoir
“Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise” by Ruth Reichl
When Ruth Reichl wrote her food memoirs, “Save Me the Plums” and “Tender at the Bone,” she did a great job. This one is even better because it shows how she worked as an undercover food critic for “The New York Times” from 1993 to 1999. When Ruth tried to avoid the stereotype of a “food critic,” she literally put on disguises while she ate to show the average person what it was like to have a meal. To keep the restaurant honest about their food and service, instead of making a show for food critics, she used an alter ego to keep the restaurant honest.
“Time slows down in the kitchen, giving you a whole world of small pleasures.”
A touching memoir from a famous Food Network chef
“Yes, Chef” by Marcus Samuelsson
A well-known “Food Network” star, Marcus Samuelsson is a best-selling author, and has 31 restaurants in 31 countries. He is also a chef who has won many awards. In Ethiopia, Marcus was three years old when he was orphaned and taken in by Swedish people. His adoptive grandmother’s kitchen at the age of three made him want to be a chef, and he always knew that. Marcus wrote a memoir about how he persevered through difficult times. People, food, and charm all come together in his life as he finds his place in the world and kitchens.
Love this: “Each person, teach one. I want to believe that I’m here to teach someone and that there is someone here who is meant to teach me, too. If we each teach one, we can make a difference.”
The true life story of one game-changing chef
“The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen” by Jacques Pépin
It’s called “The Apprentice,” and it’s a very long book about the life of a man who was called “the best chef in America” by Julia Child herself. It covers nearly 50 years of his life. As a boy growing up during World War II, Jacques started cooking. He then moved to France and worked his way up the culinary ladder. When he came to the U.S., he was at the start of the “culinary awakening.” Jacques is a great cook, and he has put 40 of his favorite recipes in this book.