Cookbook of the Week: 'Benu' by Chef Corey Lee

Yahoo Food is proud to present a new weeklong series called “Master Class.” Throughout the year, we’ll visit with some of America’s top culinary talents and share a behind-the-scenes look at the worlds they’ve created. First up, the country’s most revered chef, Thomas Keller of The French Laundry and Per Se. We asked Chef Keller to pick our Cookbook of the Week; he chose Benu by Chef Corey Lee, which will be published April 20.


Photos: Eric Wolfinger

This is the first book on San Francisco’s three‐Michelin starred restaurant Benu and Lee, its chef, who Momofuku’s David Chang calls “one of the best chefs on Earth.” Chang penned one of the forwards to the book; the other was written by Lee’s mentor, Thomas Keller, who Lee worked for at The French Laundry for eight years. 


Noteworthy: One fascinating section of the book is called “Haenyo,” and it features photos of the legendary South Korean female divers of the same name.  (“Haenyo” in Korean means “sea women.”) “They are living emblems of Korean cultural heritage and embody the resilience of its people and, in particular, the strength and self-sacrifice of its women,” Lee writes.

The Team: Lee, who Keller writes is “always searching, pushing himself forward even as he embraces the past.” Photographer Eric Wolfinger, who also shot David Kinch’s Manresa cookbook and contributes to Food & Wine magazine among others, provided the images.

The Cuisine: The food at Benu is highly influenced by Asian cuisine — specifically Korean, as that’s part of Lee’s heritage — but rooted in modern American cooking.


Must-See Dishes: Normally in Cookbook of the Week, this section reads “Must-Make Recipes,” but this book is not meant for the home cook. In fact, it’s not meant for any cook. As Lee writes, “There are recipes, but this is not a book intended to be cooked from. It is meant to archive and share with you something that our team works so tirelessly to execute every day. Food is an ephemeral form of expression, and I want to document some of our hard work.” Look for the rainbow-bright Spring Porridge with Sea Urchin, the Joan Miro-esque Pig’s Head with Lentil Hozon and Bonji, and the Salt and Pepper Squid that’s placed on a squid ink-dyed chip in such a way that it looks like white moss growing on a tree branch.

Who Should Buy It: Those who appreciate cuisine at this level, and the kind of artistry that Lee brings to every dish he creates.

Check out these other Cookbooks of the Week from Yahoo Food:

Steven Satterfield’s Root to Leaf

Curtis Stone’s Good Food, Good Life

Gabrielle Hamilton’s Prune