The Magician and the Guide

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

One is an internationally admired French chef working at the height of his powers at his own restaurant in Georgetown. The other is a heralded young Italian chef whose inspired cooking attracts customers to a hotel dining room in Tysons Corner. One is rotund and mischievous, the other lean and earnest.

Michel Richard, 58, and Fabio Trabocchi, 32, each driven by a desire to please diners with elegant cooking, have come out with cookbooks they hope will reach an audience beyond their dining rooms. Richard's large-format, highly stylized book, with its introduction by Thomas Keller of the French Laundry, highlights the innovative techniques that have made Richard famous. Trabocchi's tidy, more modestly designed effort is a tribute to the food of his childhood and to a culinary culture that has all but disappeared.

Peter Kaminsky, the writer who helped both Richard and Trabocchi turn food-speak into prose and who has eaten his way through both books, might be the best judge of the difference between them. "Michel is Miles Davis," Kaminsky says. "He has confidence in everything, pitch-perfect technique, and he likes to surprise you with the food and the ingredients. Fabio has great training, a great palate and great technique. He's gastronomized a regional home cuisine, and he's done it wonderfully."

Food section contributing writer Judith Weinraub spoke with each chef about his book.

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