When your debut cookbook is a lavish nouvelle cuisine feast stuffed with recipes like White Truffle Oil-Infused Custards with Black Truffle Ragout and Braised Stuffed Pig's Head that has more than 270,0000 copies in print, what do you serve as a second course?
If you're Thomas Keller, whose The French Laundry Cookbook was the talk of the food world when it was published in 1999, you simplify. Keller's Bouchon (Artisan, Nov. 20) is as aesthetically pleasing as his first and has the same $50 price tag, but it includes bistro classics like Roast Chicken and Tarte Tatin. It also includes Keller's signature attention to detail and theory, in mini-essays such as "The Importance of the Egg."
That might sound like fussy treatment for such basic food, but according to Nach Waxman, owner of the specialized Kitchen Arts & Letters bookstore in New York City, "For the kind of people who buy these books, fuss is an awful lot of what it's about."
Waxman called Bouchon "a wonderful contrast with the first book" and noted that Keller's shift was in line with what top French chefs are doing these days. He added, "The leading chefs in France, after doing two or three or more books of that kind, are coming out with books that have names like 'the food of my grandmother.' Joel Robuchon just did a book called Les Dimanches de Joel Robuchon [Sundays with Joel Robuchon]." Waxman has sold 330 copies of The French Laundry Cookbook and placed a substantial order for Bouchon.
Keller's restaurant holdings have grown even more quickly than his cookbook output and now include two Bouchon bistros (in Yountville, Calif., and Las Vegas), the swank Per Se in the Time Warner Center in New York City and two Bouchon Bakeries. All will stock Bouchon, and they currently sell between 100 and 250 copies of The French Laundry Cookbook every month.
The first printing for Bouchon was 75,000 copies, with an extra 15,000 added before the official publication date, in anticipation of several national media hits. Most prominent is a profile on 60 Minutes (Wednesday edition) in early December that will feature events at the Borders in the Time Warner Center in New York City and at two bookstores in Minnesota: Cooks of Crocus Hill and The Book Case. Appearances on NBC's Weekend Today on November 20 and on CNBC's The Dennis Miller Show, plus a review in Time magazine, round out the mix.
Keller will tour seven cities, but attendees shouldn't expect food from the exacting chef and his co-author, Bouchon executive chef Jeffrey Cerciello (food writers Susie Heller and Michael Ruhlman, both of whom worked on The French Laundry Cookbook, also contributed to the book). "I try not to cook," said Keller. "Demoing, you don't get an overall view of what went on and the recipes. I like to lecture and do q&as."