In 2010, Christian Puglisi, chef and owner at the Michelin-starred Relæ in Copenhagen, was named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top ten chefs in Europe under 30. One of his goals, according to his debut cookbook Relæ: A Book of Ideas (Ten Speed, Nov.), was to turn the common notion of fine dining on its head, creating a space that is "simple and unpretentious, focusing solely on gastronomy."
Puglisi's debut isn't your standard cookbook—recipes aren’t front and center, and much of the page count is devoted to essays on practical elements, ingredients and techniques, and more conceptual elements. We had a brief chat with the chef about why now was the time to publish, and how his culinary philosophy is reflected in the book.
You opened Relæ in 2010. Why was now was the right time to publish your debut cookbook?
I think that it's almost a part of making a restaurant of a certain level so it came up in a very early stage. As we got a few years of experience and better understood the food we were actually doing, we could start the work of trying to analyze the dishes and ideas we were putting into practice. In doing so, the idea of how to put the book together started taking shape.
Why did you decide on the somewhat unconventional cookbook format?
I think that it actually gives the reader a better view on how to cook food this way. It can be really hard to repeat a precise recipe at this level but the small bits and pieces that are described can be put together in any way the reader would want to. This way I hope to influence peoples' general way of cooking, rather than having them do one single recipe once.
You write in the introduction that what we think of as fine dining has “little to do with the way people actually want to eat.” Is this idea reflected in the cookbook?
I believe so. The dishes reflect the restaurant's main idea of cutting everything to the bone.
What do you hope readers, and home cooks, take away from the book?
For me this book needs to serve as inspiration rather than information. The reader should not expect to understand how to prep cod, but maybe get touched a bit on how to cook in general. Most importantly the reader must not get intimated but want to explore the food and cooking in the book.