It’s not often that a cookbook impresses me so much that I want to write about it. Le Livre Blanc, by Anne-Sophie Pic, is just such a rarity: a jewel when viewed from every facet. From the stark modernity of the laser-cut, purposely-undersized slipcase and the pages’ silver edging to the arresting beauty of the food within, this book encapsulates everything that haute cuisine aspires to be. Resolutely French, with a subtle Japanese influence, there is also a nod to France’s tropical territories in the thoughtful, imaginative and delicate combinations of ingredients. This is not the depressingly ubiquitous, derivative, laboratory-born fine dining that all too often ends up as the culinary equivalent of a pissing contest; this is a collection of deceptively simple looking recipes for immaculately executed plates of exquisite food produced by France’s only female chef to hold three Michelin stars.
The unintended yet somehow fated nature of her journey to reach such heights and the natural femininity of her style partly explain the uniqueness of Anne-Sophie’s cooking; but so too does the artistry imbued by her early patisserie training and the influence of her time in Japan on her classical French food heritage. I usually buy books such as this and I leaf through them with abstract detachment, admiring the displays of talent whilst enjoying them as the gastronomic pin-ups that they are; I don’t remember the last time that I was genuinely inspired to head for the kitchen to dedicate a serious amount of time and effort to reproducing many of its recipes. The photography is striking, the instructions are concise but comprehensive; it is only the slightly fragmented layout of the book that might take a little getting used to.
As you might expect, these are recipes for accomplished cooks; as you might not expect, if you have the time to devote to their preparation, many of the recipes can actually be recreated (to a large degree) in a domestic kitchen. As a food lover, if you want to treat yourself then buy this book. If you want to spoil yourself, then go and eat at Restaurant Pic.