Influential Mid-Atlantic Cookbooks (Part 5)

Watergate Hotel

Watergate Hotel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cooking with the Seasons by Jean-Louis Palladin

I have written several of these posts concerning historical Mid-Atlantic cuisine, but today I am writing a post on one of the most influential modern cookbooks from the region. The chef who wrote this book was not from this region; instead he hailed to us from France where he ran a two Michelin star restaurant before coming here and setting up shop at the Watergate Hotel. This blog is about Jean-Louis Palladin and his book, “Cooking with the Seasons.”

This book is rather large, a coffee table size cookbook filled with breath taking photos by the renowned local artist Fred J. Maroon. The vision of this book has more to do with a French approach to cooking, but with regional and local ingredients in mind. It is an interesting look into modern fusion cooking that has stood the test of time and influenced every major chef in the country today.

Palladin was one of the great mentor chefs to many of the famous and even the not so famous chefs of today which were the up and coming chefs of his time. Palladin died in November 2001 at age 55 from lung cancer, but from 19709 until then, he was the chef in Washington DC and put the region on the culinary map globally as well as nationally with his well earned celebrity status.

There is an old joke in DC about the eating habits of the region: Republicans eat beef and Democrats eat chicken. This joke held true for a long time as most of what the city offered were steakhouses and crab shacks, but now DC has emerged as one of the culinary Mecca’s of the world and it was due in no small part to Palladin.

He was what, we in the industry; refer to as a chef’s chef. That is a celebrity chef who actually works in his kitchen every day. of course this was before the era of the Food Network and all the endorsement deals and product lines and opportunities which exist today for the chef willing to sell his name, but being in the kitchen every day, his influence was more profound on the people who worked for him, and as they graduated to the next stage in their careers, they carried that with them.

The book is an amazing source of inspiration to a chef and holds up even today. The cuisine he perfected in his restaurant was well ahead of its time and would fit in any avant-garde restaurant today. The book is a little pricey today and can be hard to find, but it is a treasure to have in your cookbook collection. The recipes are not easy, they will challenge even a professional chef, but the rewards are worth it.

There has long been a debate about cooking being a craft or an art, this book blurs that line, but does not cross it into the high tech cuisine which looks like someone’s science experiment.

There is a term we use in the kitchen called “Florescent light syndrome,” this is where the dish is an amazing accomplishment from a technical cooking point of view, but you put it before the diner and they can’t identify or relate to what is on the plate. This is the point where the chef has lost touch with the reality of what he is doing, which is feeding people.

Jean-Louis’ never crossed that line, his food was brilliant due to the quality of the ingredients and the execution and skill of the chef preparing it.  It is beautiful and Fred J. Maroon’s photos are amazing, but it is food, not a science project. Check out this book and no matter what region of the world you hail from, this book will inspire you.


About midatlanticcooking

Chef in the Mid-Atlantic region for over 20 years. Painter, writer and traveler.
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4 Responses to Influential Mid-Atlantic Cookbooks (Part 5)

  1. tf141soldier says:

    This was a really good read.

  2. Thank you for following my blog: Sandbag Heart. Your site looks amazing!

  3. Thanks for letting me camp out in your blog for a little while today. I had a great time and tried to leave my campsite as good as when I arrived. I’ll be back!

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