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FrontRunners: Lost In Translation

Karen Cakebread

If nothing else, readers of Alain Ducasse’s encyclopedic Grand Livre de Cuisine (Les Editions d’Alain Ducasse; www.alain-ducasse.com) will acquire a heightened appreciation for the complexity and artistry of the master chef’s creations. The massive tome (1,080 pages, $250) is the first of the four volumes in Ducasse’s compendium to be translated into English. (The other three, available in French, focus on desserts and pastries, bistro and brasserie fare, and Mediterranean cuisine.) Dazzling on perusal, book one presents 700 detailed recipes, alphabetically organized by primary ingredient, from acacia through zucchini, and accompanied by photographs and directions for finish and presentation. Closer inspection, though, offers insight into the rarefied realm occupied by Ducasse’s cuisine. Consider a rendering of roast asparagus, in which the recipe’s first line instructs to “Let the bone marrow pipes warm up to room temperature for 2 hours.”

Reminders of French roots linger throughout this translation (“Cut ham, preferably with a knife”), but amateur chefs with patience should be able to proceed to a recipe’s conclusion and replicate the tastes of Plaza Athénée at home, given enough time and bone marrow pipes.

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