A few weeks ago the latest book by chef Luke Mangan landed on my doorstep and I was pretty excited. I like Luke’s cooking and admire his firm grasp of cuisines worldwide. Alas I also hoped he’d lifted his writing game.
Nine ears ago I reviewed his first book, At home and in the mood, for the Eat Streets website. I liked the book as the review shows but my editor toned down the final par where I canned the execrably banal copy because she said I sounded ‘jaded’.
Anyhow this new one, dazzlingly titled Sharing Plates, is similar in many ways. There are plenty of great sounding recipes but this time they’re less accessible for home cooks and serve more as a branding exercise for his many restaurants. And the writing is just as banal.
The intro sees him click straight back into the groove he established in book one:
A little taste of everything, for just about everyone, for just about any occasion
Look, I don’t think for a minute Luke is sitting at his computer bashing this drivel out – there’d be a ghost writer doing it, but someone’s signing off on stuff like this:
There is something truly satisfying about sharing good food at a table with family and friends.
Puhleeze. We should have a drinking game where every recipe intro that suggests sharing the food with friends involves a shot of tequila and we’d be too rat-arsed to eat a thing.
But Luke, when are you going to tell me I should use seasonal produce, just in case that wasn’t already a given? Phew, it’s there in the intro to the snacks and salads chapter, along with that other irritant, a sentence beginning with ‘For me’.
For me, this way of cooking probably stemmed from growing up in a household that relied on buying ingredients according to what was cheap and readily available.
None of this matters, of course. Luke’s a celebrity and, in today’s risk-averse publishing environment where every author needs to bring their own legion of fans, that’s all that counts.
Most of the recipes I won’t bother with because they’re hugely convoluted but they do make me want to visit his restaurants. And the few simpler ones I’ve marked I’ll write about as I try them. That salted chocolate honeycomb was from this book and it’s fab.
So Luke, mate, Mango, King, I love you, I don’t know you, but I love you. You’re a legend. I just can’t stomach your writing. Hugs!