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Dana Cowin
Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen: Learning to Cook with 65 Great Chefs and Over 100 Delicious Recipes
Ecco / Harper Collins
US Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 978-0-062-30590-9
Publication Date: 10-14-2014
310 Pages; $24.99
Date Reviewed: 11-09-2014
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2014

Index:  Non-Fiction

One hardly expects the introduction to the first cookbook by the editor of Food & Wine magazine to begin, "I am going to be honest: I am not a great cook." In fact, that's not a line I'd expect to find in any cookbook, which makes it especially refreshing here. From the title on, Cowin had me on her side.

That's only half the battle. She promises not just cooking lessons from master chefs, but cookable recipes from them, and a few life lessons along the way. Having lived with the book for over a month, I'd have to say she delivers on all counts. And, while there is nothing that will change life as you know it, there are plenty of recipes in here that will make it more delicious, and enough wisdom dispensed with enough humility to keep you well fed and perhaps even well-behaved for a sconce.

To be honest, some of the recipes do feel pretty life changing when they are on the plate (or in the bowl). The first thing I made was something I've never even thought of attempting, Pear + Brown Sugar Upside-Down Cake. No cake has ever emerged from my kitchen that didn't start life in a box, so this was an adventure for me. While it might seem like it would be complex, Cowin breaks it down clearly and crisply and it is eminently makeable. Mine turned out looking a bit different, but that was just because it had extra-caramelized sugar which was, to be sure, extra delicious. The vanilla and almond extract gave the cake, which was light and fluffy, a real, bought-it-from-the-bakery taste.

So I'm sold, and go back to square one, page one, where I find an engaging introduction in which the writer admits to not being a good cook, and happens to be in the enviable position of being able to do something about it. The prose voice that Cowin takes on carries through the recipes, the asides and the book. Moreover, she does a fine job of bringing up the life lessons in an understated manner, so you can take them of leave them. No matter what you decide with regards to them, so long as your memory is working you're likely to find them popping up at useful times, whether you’re cooking or not.

'Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen' lets Cowin make the most of her position as the editor of Food & Wine. The recipes follow an easy to handle format, and the photography is great; both helpful and enticing. The recipes are, for the most part pretty low on ingredients, or are broken down in such a manner that they feel pretty low on ingredients. She follows them up with tweaks, tips and talk from the 65 chefs. This all served up in the manner of a human-friendly, smart tech manual. There's a bit of how-to here that makes the kitchen seem fun and unintimidating – and the life lessons as well.

I've found a few staples already in 'Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen,' and more than a few useful overall tips. But where 'Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen' really excels is in that most basic requirement for any cookbook. Cowin inspires even the most timid and disinterested cook to get in the kitchen and start cooking with recipes that ensure success and bring you back for more – both in the kitchen and on the table.

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