point“Ma Gastronomie” is a cookbook/biography by the great French chef Fernand Point (1897–1955).

Charlie Trotter says, “If someone said to me I could only have one cookbook, this is the one.”

Thomas Keller says, “I believe Fernand Point is one of the last true gourmands of the 20th century. His ruminations are extraordinary and thought-provoking. He has been an inspiration for legions of chefs.”

Keller told Charlie Rose (video below) that Point is the one chef, either living or dead, that he would like to meet. Every new employee at Keller’s restaurants, French Laundry and Per Se, has to read the book.

It’s more his feeling about food and his love affair with food…His point was you need to take ownership of what you do. Treat it like it’s yours and one day it will be. Have a true dedication and a true commitment to cuisine and that will elevate you beyond others.

In the book, Point emphasizes craft and subtlety over efficiency and style. He defied traditions where he felt that the traditions did not serve the cuisine. Escoffier On Line has a review with some quotes from the book:

  • The cuisinier loses his reputation when he becomes indifferent to his work.
  • La grande cuisine must not wait for the guest; its the guest who must wait for la grande cuisine.
  • Inattention never pays off in the kitchen.
  • When one thinks of la grande cuisine one cannot think of money; the two are incompatible. La grande cuisine is extremely expensive-but that does not mean one cannot do very good cooking with inexpensive ingredients.
  • Every morning the cuisinier must start again at zero, with nothing on the stove. That is what real cuisine is all about.
  • Cookbooks are as alike as brothers. The best is the one you write yourself.
  • For a chef to be respected his superiority must not be in doubt. He must excel in everything; including pastry cooking and purchasing.
  • In all professions without doubt, but certainly in cooking one is a student all his life.
  • The best cooking is that which takes into consideration the products of the season.
  • Wines that are too old are not suitable for cooking. Fire cannot give them back the strength they have lost.
  • One of the most important things that distinguish man from other animals is that man can get pleasure from drinking without being thirsty.
  • Success is the sum of a lot of small things done correctly.
  • If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony.
  • Every country, every region, has it's local specialties about which it's rash to say, they're not very good, because nature supplies every taste.
  • As far as cuisine is concerned one must read everything, see everything, hear everything, try everything, observe everything, in order to retain in the end, just a little bit.

Looking for a copy? It’s been out of print for a while, but the book will be revived in June 2008 by The Rookery Press.