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Required Reading: Benu, the Book

An elegant—and hilarious—cookbook 


Five years after opening Benu, his lavishly lauded, Michelin-starred SoMa restaurant, Corey Lee brings us Benu, the book. Published this month by Phaidon, it’s a thick, austerely beautiful volume that channels the low-key but insanely refined elegance that characterizes its namesake. The restaurant’s greatest hits are present and accounted for: Lee’s faux shark fin soup, the fin a triumph of hydrocolloid gel, is here, as is his thousand-year-old quail egg.

But Lee’s book comes with a disclaimer: Benu, he writes, is “not a book intended to be cooked from.” Instead, it’s “meant to archive and share... something that our team works tirelessly to execute every day.” Professional chefs, Lee explains, would be capable of executing his recipes, but wouldn’t want to: “So much of cooking at a high level is being original, so why would you want to replicate recipes from a different restaurant?”

As for nonprofessional readers, Lee is hilariously blunt: “You’re not going to cook out of it,” he says. “I don’t know why you’d even want to.” What you will want to do is slowly thumb through the pages, dreamily imagining the food you’ll never make.


Originally published in the April issue of San Francisco

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