I just finished reading Knives at Dawn with the 4 food book clubs I run. It's about a cooking competition in Lyon and there was a lot about Thomas Keller in it.
I loved the book, but really enjoyed learning about the man behind such famous restaurants as The French Laundry, Per Se and Ad Hoc. To be devoted and driven like that is fascinating to me.
So I decided to see if I, a non-perfectionist who likes to improvise when cooking, could tackle such a feat as The Essential Thomas Keller - a boxed-set of 2 of Keller's eponymous cookbooks, The French Laundry and Ad Hoc At Home.
They come in such a beautiful case and are hefty, coffee-table style books with luscious photos. These are no ordinary cookbooks, let me tell you. This is one helluva swank gift, if you ask me. One that your food-lover friends will no doubt actually use.
The French Laundry is Keller's fine dining restaurant, of which so much has been written, including his famous Salmon Cornets (which you can now make at home). If you want more finesse in your cooking and kitchen, this is a great place to start.
The recipes here are things that I would make for dinner parties or if I was trying on a new technique. After all, White Truffle Oil-Infused Custards with Black Truffle Ragout and Lobster Consomme on Gelee, while triumphant-sounding, is beyond my usual budget and time allowance for a work week dinner. However, you will learn a ton just reading the book - there's the mushroom lady, the restaurant itself and a ton of new things to try in your own kitchen such as vegetable cuts, cooking lobster, blanching and straining.
Ad Hoc is Keller's "casual family-style" restaurant that serves a single menu every day and the cookbook is most definitely the more approachable of the two. I like his list of tools to have in the kitchen, how to cut a chicken into 8 and 10 pieces and his simpler recipes such as Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Tarragon, Meatballs with Pappardelle. There are lots of helpful hints along the way here too - the only protein you do not let rest, why you should buy whole fish versus fillets and what kind of dish to serve salad in.
There is much to learn from both of these books. Work your way up from one to the other. Refine your methods and ingredients.
You will be a better cook for it.