One or more of a trio of books published recently may be of interest to those who are studying or teaching some aspect of the culinary arts.
The first is the long awaited book of advice and recipes by the doyenne of area cooking teachers. Marie-Therese Colonna. Mushrooms in the Bath and Avocados in Bed was written by Madame Colonna with Bronnie Fisher. Printed privately, it is on sale at the Kitchen Bazaar and through Madame Colonna's school in Falls Church.
Madame Colonna knows her own mind, and speaks it, which adds to her charm and provides an extra fillip of entertainment during her classes. It should come as no surprise when, in the introduction, she writes: "In every country there is good cooking and bad cooking (and perhaps medium), and that settles that." She continues, "Students come to me for a course in French/international cooking and what I teach them for in class, is what I have tried to include in this book."
The recipes have been tested for popularity as well as for technique by those who have attended her classes in Falls Church over the past 20 years. They are sensible but taste-sensitive as well and not intimidating. They form a collection that will be used often by cooks who want to present family or friends with something special.
While Madame Colonna has recotnized some realities of modern life as they related to food preparation, she has no interest in trying to compromise on questions of taste. "Young Americans don't know what they don't know," she said at lunch recently, then paused to weight the merits of a sauce hollandaise (it passed). "They are marvelous pupils. They want to learn. They objey. But they don't always think. It's far easier to teach a woman with taste how to whip egg whites than to teach taste to the person who knows only technique. I've encouraged them to think about taste, to use their imaginations uithout changing a recipe too much.
"When I look back the progress over 20 years has been incredible. I think I've accomplished something. Now they send me their daughters."
Two talented women, Elayne J. Kleeman and Jeanne A. Voltz, have performed a notable service by compiling a guide they call How To Turn a Passion for Food Into Profit (Rawson, Wade, $9.95). In essence, it is a "how to" book: how to cater, how to run a cooking school, how to organize a mail-order food business, how to win cooking contests. There are other subjects as well, all presented with information gleaned from people who have succeeded in what the authors call "food-related careers." Anyone who is considering setting up one of these cottage industries -- or is in business already -- should read this book. It's full of ideas, suggestions and impressive accomplishments.
A more limited subject, Starting a Small Restaurant, is thoroughly examined by author-restaurateur Daniel Miller. His paperback work is published by the Harvard Common Press for $6.95. This is a splendid book -- cautious, thorough and gilded with flashes of lively good humor that never would be found in a food industry operations manual. Miller is practical, but his common sense is mixed with a sizable (and welcome) dash of idealism. He covers such major factors as equipment, menu and staff, and goes on to discuss the less obvious, but equally important, psychological aspects: the change of life style your restaurant will demand and what personality traits are necessary for success.
Scattered throughout the book are a series of comments and quips, such as this: "One of the more hostile expressions in American life occurs on menus: 'No Substitutions.' It is the antithesis of a fine restaurant." Or this: "If business is slow and you want someone to walk into your restaurant, just sit down to eat. Within five minutes, someone will interrupt you."
"Starting a Small Restaurant" is an insider's guide to a business that usually is learned by great trial and even greater error. Don't leave home (for a restaurant kitchen) without it.