In My Last Supper: The Next Course, author Melanie Dunea's sequel to her first book by the same name, the pedigreed photographer rounds up a new crew of 50 high-profile chefs and includes a recipe from each in the book's appendix.
The main draw here is the same as in her first edition: Stunning, large-format photos presented in her attention-grabbing style. (It's nearly impossible to beat the photos in her first book, like this shot of a naked Anthony Bourdain).
This somewhat toned-down edition makes a great holiday gift for either the estate lawyer or the chef-obsessed food groupie on your list.
Don't expect an instant Paula Wolfert cookbook classic. This coffee table book is a conversation-starter with plenty of visual appeal. Dunea asks each chef the same six questions: last meal on earth, the setting, the drinks, the music, the guest list and the cook. How long their answers hold your attention depends on the chef.
Roy Choi's response involves a hired assassination (he would hand a tacquero a 9 mm handgun and be "done with this stage"), while Wolfgang Puck's wants alcohol on his deathbed ("Drinking would be very important"). Both scenarios were far more interesting than Rachel Ray's EVOO-studded answers.
Ray also happens to be the only chef in the book who either didn't answer every question or whose answers Dunea didn't include in full. Does it matter? Not particularly, but it illuminates our one complaint with the book: Halfway through, the six questions begin to feel stale.
Perhaps it would have been more interesting if Dunea started with "What would be your last meal?" and allowed the chefs to veer off into spontaneous conversational directions -- more of a classic newspaper interview than what sometimes comes across as an impersonal email exchange or a 5-minute phone chat.
Some answers, like those from Paul Bocuse, appear to be headed that way, even if the questions have not been revised in print. Asked who wold prepare his last meal, Bocuse replies: "The food would be cooked in a wood-burning fireplace. You know, with a chimney, you can cook anything. Voilà. Bon Appétit!" (Does that means he's doing the cooking?)
No matter, as the photographs and many of the chefs' answers keep the coffee table intrigue high. The more detailed and individual the response, the greater the interest.
It's no surprise that a meticulous chef like Albert Adría includes a very specific order to his final beverage list, yet curiously he doesn't name beer brands or specific (expensive) wine vintages as most chefs do ("cold beer to start, a Negroni, one glass of sherry, Rosé Champagne, a gin and tonic").
Michael Symon's dream dinner calls for a different chef to cook each course, a burger from Bobby Flay and suckling pig and chicken with fries and salsa verde from Jonathan Waxman among them. It sounds like a great last supper, and one that we can actually make (at least partly) thanks to the inclusion of one recipe from each chef.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Which gets us to a question we hope Dunea will answer in the third edition of My Last Supper, should there be one: How exactly do the rest of us go about arranging a sequel to our own last supper?
[More from Jenn Garbee @eathistory + eathistory.com