Book Review : Straight From The Line

pictured above : my version of Jason Lynch's Swiss Chard with Chilies and Bacon

I was contacted by Able Sense Publishing to review Chef Jason Lynch's new book - Straight From The Line.

I was given a paperback copy of the book, some wicked fridge magnets with quotations from the book, a couple of stickers and a digital e-book version of Straight From The Line.

Having worked in the restaurant industry most of my adult life, and also, having met Jason in person on a number of occasions, I was curious to see what a book written by the chef of one of the world's top 20 winery restaurants would look like.

The first thing I noticed was the deep rich black cover with a photo of Jason's hand sprinkling flaky sea salt on three fat raw scallops. I love the design continuity to the back cover where you again see the scallops, seared in a pan, all steamy and golden. The design and overall look of the book is clean and masculine - there will be no tomfoolery here folks.

Originally I thought I'd be more likely to review the e-book since I read it in one afternoon and loved it. User friendly and visually beautiful with options to bookmark recipes, I can see myself referring to it often, however, at the end of the day, I still love a real, hard copy, turn-the-paper-pages book. 

The title, Straight From The Line, speaks volumes about the author and the recipes. Jason pulls no punches, keeps it simple and tells it like it is. I love in particular, in reference to celebrity chefs talking about what sets them apart, this line:

'Cut the crap boys. What makes a good chef is the team we surround ourselves with, and what we learn from them.' (p13)

Jason says, 'I've always been reluctant to do a cookbook. I still consider myself in my prime... I'm still at my stove the majority of the time.' (p10) I love that. I also love that he dedicated the book to Allen 'Al' Edgar Logan, who was 'dedicated, hard working and by far the best dishwasher I have ever seen in all my years in the kitchen'. (p12) Jason and Al worked together for 16 years - practically unheard of these days in the industry. If only more chefs and owners realized the importance of the team, and not just the few at the top. I'm certain there'd be more restaurants full of loyal staff that actually gave a shit about the business.

He breaks down some practical issues and is unapologetically direct about it. No, you're not a chef. You don't have a fully stocked industrial kitchen. You don't have a full staff to help you make one dish. But what you do have is an ability to buy the best ingredients you can get your hands on. The ability to choose simple recipes that are high on flavour and low on processed bullshit. The ability to surround yourself with people you care about and share a great meal with.

I found it interesting that he addresses the issue of shopping local. Yes. Locally produced food is awesome. But let's get real. We live in Nova Scotia. You can't always get what you want, especially in the winter. He acknowledges that most families are going to buy the majority of their food from the chain grocery stores but he gives some advice on how to make better choices. 'While I believe we should all buy local when we can, I find there isn't a lot of advice geared for when the only option is the chain grocery store - and sometimes it just is.' (p70)

Straight From The Line is chock full of colour photographs shot by Halifax-based freelance photojournalist Jeff Harper. Lots of hands-on close-ups make you feel like you can dive right in and start slicing up roasted beets or crack the spine of a lobster with a butcher knife like a pro.

I've only made one of the recipes so far - Swiss Chard with Chilies and Bacon. The recipe is listed as a side in the book but I took it a step further and tossed in some hot spaghettini. Oh my goodness yum. Like a souped up Aglio Olio I will make it again for sure. 

If you're interested in reading the direct and honest thoughts of a world-class Nova Scotia-based chef, while browsing some great food porn and possibly making such dishes as Gnocchi à la Parisienne with Blue Cheese and Herbs, Chocolate Polenta Cake or String Bean Harissa Salad with Toasted Pecans, then I definitely recommend checking out Straight From The Line.

To purchase the paperback or e-book version of Straight From the Line please click here.

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