Where Do All Those Books Come From in Restaurant Libraries?

Where Do All Those Books Come From in Restaurant Libraries?

the Albert interior.jpg

“Scott showed up with a few boxes one day,” says Justyna Chrupek of the day she found out about the project that would take over her life for the next 18 months. Her assignment: Gather 3,500–4,500 books for a new hotel. Scott Greenberg, her boss, is the CEO of SMASHotels and behind the science-inspired Hotel EMC2, which opened in Chicago last May, and its New American restaurant, the Albert, named after you-know-who. “In my head, this was a simple, easy project,” says Chrupek, Greenberg’s executive assistant. “I had no idea.”

The straight-forward assignment of gathering old science and math books took on a life of its own, turning into a massive project and tallying up 12,000 books. The Albert, helmed by chef Brandon Brumback (previously of Grace and Blackbird), has shelves 40 feet high in the air stuffed with old algebra texts more visually stunning than the glossy collection of copper pots hanging just below.

MGM_National Harbor PR
The Voltaggio Brothers Steak House… plus literature!

Robb Scharetg

The Albert isn’t the only new restaurant opening up with its very own library either. The Voltaggio Brothers Steak House in Oxon Hill, Maryland has 120 linear feet of modern classics, gathered by architectural firm Design Bureaux with bulk seller Books by Foot, along with other decorative knickknacks, like seashells and figurine book stops, to create the look of a study. In their library bar, there are tufted wingback chairs, where you can crack open John Grisham’s The Firm or the trivia set Schott’s Original Miscellany while waiting to order your 45-day dry-aged steak and oysters Rockefeller with smoked shoyu. And New York City’s cocktail bar Library of Distilled Spirits is dedicated in both name and form to the books with 300 cocktail and beverage texts decorating a 16-by-20-foot wall. Beverage director Kyle Tran, a vet of Chicago’s The Aviary, serves more than 1,000 different spirits, all catalogued in a house encyclopedia over several volumes, which are nestled in between those old cocktail and whiskey books.

There are even booksellers whose specialty is building out collections for restaurants, bars, and hotels. Thatcher Wine of Juniper Books in Boulder, Colorado has earned a national reputation doing so. He’s worked on projects for The Tennessean Hotel in Knoxville, The Four Seasons Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi, and Wolfgang Puck’s Cut in New York, which features futuristic all-white books set off by squiggly neon pink lights. His most famous project is the NoMad Library Bar for Will Guidara and Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park in New York. It has seven bays of books lit to glow with their own themes: food and drink, New York, mind and spirit, France, and music. “The one requirement they put for the music section was to include books about The Rolling Stones,” says Wine. His own favorites include a 1910 Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, and Knickerbocker’s History of New York. It took him three months to build out the 3,500 collection for the space.

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The Library of Distilled Spirits has over 300 beverage texts.

Courtesy of Library of Distilled Spirits

Back in Chicago, the Albert library took about 17 months—and almost every waking minute of Chrupek’s time—to complete. “We bought the books by the pound,” she says. “I got my entire family, my kids and my husband, involved [transporting the books]. I worked nights and weekends.” Originally, the idea started out as buying only science and math books, as a reference to Hotel EMC2’s theme of scientific understanding. But soon she and Greenberg figured out that they would need to expand their scope, adding art books, literature, and more.

Chrupek scoured small bookstores, art fests, and library sales non-stop. She worked with the Open Books Organization, a non-profit that sells donated books to raise funds for literacy, and they helped sort books for her. Greenberg and Chrupek set up a design “lab” for mocking up bookshelves and figuring out how they would look in the dining room and the rest of the hotel. “We tried to set up shelves with eye-catching titles,” says Chrupek. Forty versions of The Joy of Sex are mixed in the bookshelves along other titles, like an Introduction to Electrodynamics.

“There isn’t one person who hasn’t come into the restaurant and stopped and started pointing,” says Greenberg. “They start a conversation.”

“It’s a Harry Potter-ish variety,” he says. “From the first to second floor, it appears that the stairs are built out of bookshelves. As you travel up the stairs, you’re walking inside columns of bookshelves that seem to be floating in the air.” With more and more reading done on soul-sucking glaring screens or social media scrolls, little collective memory to speak of, old books, do indeed, seem like magic.


“Chef’s Table” Star Jeong Kwan Makes Mushrooms Taste Absurdly Good

“Chef’s Table” Star Jeong Kwan Makes Mushrooms Taste Absurdly Good


Jeong Kwan is one of the best chefs in the world. This would be notable by any metric—the best in the world!—but is all the more notable because Jeong Kwan is a Buddhist nun who lives in the Chunjinam hermitage in the mountains of South Korea. If you want to taste her temple food—it is hard to overestimate the degree to which you should try to make this happen—you’ll have to head east, to Seoul, and then 169 miles south, to the hermitage, where she cooks for her fellow nuns and for the guests who have been coming more frequently now that the secret of her culinary genius is out.

Except in June, when Kwan came to NYC. It was only her third trip since 2015, when Eric Ripert, who met Kwan while studying temple food in Korea, invited her to cook a temple-style luncheon at his Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Bernardin. That luncheon led to her feting in the New York Times, and on the Netflix series “Chef’s Table.” In short, it made her a star.

Which is why we’ve gathered—me, Kwan, and Ripert, plus Kwan’s entourage, plus Ripert’s regular staff, plus our camera crew—in the kitchen at Le Bernardin’s private dining room, where she’s about to cook for some 60 of the city’s food VIPs in honor of the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. We’re here to watch Jeong Kwan doing her thing, live and in action. And we will, we’re going to, just as soon as the kitchen stops flooding.

There was a mishap having to do with the dishwasher. It was making noise, see, and we tried to quiet it—things went poorly. Unsurprisingly, Kwan is wholly unruffled by the ordeal, exhibiting a kind of calm that I can only imagine comes from meditating a minimum of four hours each day. The food she is going to cook, after the mopping—a 20-minute setback, which is nothing, in the scheme of our lives—is by now a global legend. It’s life-changing food, food worth pilgrimaging across the world for, with subtlety and depth that comes not only from seasoning, though there is plenty of that, but also from the literal passage of time: soy sauces that have been aged for years, or for decades; long-fermented vegetables; fruits grown at the hermitage garden—all her food is grown in her garden—and dried in sun. Kwan’s food has more than flavor, though. It has purpose. Hers is temple food: food conceived and prepared not just to fuel the body, but to steady the meditative mind.

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Kwan’s shiitake mushrooms were just one of the dishes she served at her Le Bernadin luncheon in June.

“The practice really starts when they go to the garden and they plant the seeds and they cultivate the soil,” says Ripert, a practicing Buddhist himself. “They have a relationship with the seed.” In addition to being entirely vegan, temple food is made without garlic or onions, which can be a mental distraction (they’re thought, inconveniently, to stimulate the libido). Temple food should be nourishing both physically and spiritually; you should feel good when you eat it, but you shouldn’t crave the stuff.

In the kitchen, Kwan’s connection with her ingredients is obvious: She handles them slowly and deliberately, scoring the caps of her hermitage-grown shiitakes (dried for three days, then rehydrated) and massaging the seasonings into the grooves, the five-year-aged soy sauce and the fermented berry juice and the time-sweetened salt. It’s an act not just of meditation, but of communion, she explains through her translator.

“Cooking, for her, is an act of truly finding herself, and the mushroom also needs to find itself,” the translator says. It’s the ultimate collaboration, her and the mushroom, moving together toward their final form. She braises them, slowly, with chestnuts, gingko, and jujubes, and, just by the change in their shape, she can tell when they’re done. Then it’s time for phase two: She wraps the mushrooms and their accoutrements, the chestnuts and the jujubes, in a pumpkin leaf, then steams the tiny parcels. Despite my natural resting state of low-grade panic, there is the sense, watching Kwan, that we have all the time in the world.

And let it be said: The mushrooms, they are exquisite. Infused with positive energy—there should always be harmony, Kwan says, between the person cooking, the person eating, and the ingredients—they are meatier, woodier, and deeper, somehow, than any mushroom I’ve had before. We are not all Buddhist nuns. And, yet, there is a lesson here for even the least spiritual among us: We can all cook, if not meditatively, then mindfully. And we all should, at least sometimes, if the mushrooms will taste like these.

19 Easy Pasta Recipes We Make for Emergency Dinners

19 Easy Pasta Recipes We Make for Emergency Dinners


It’s 7 p.m. on a Monday. You’re opening and closing your fridge and cupboards, hoping that a meal will appear if you click your heels three times. When you don’t want to wait for delivery or go to the grocery store, there’s one thing you probably have on hand to make: pasta. Everybody has that one pasta dish they make when they’re desperate, but it doesn’t just have to be butter and Parmesan. (But it totally can be—we’re into that, too.) We polled Bon Appétit staffers to find out what easy pasta recipes they make when they’re scrounging for scraps in the kitchen, and hopefully it’ll inspire your next weeknight dinner to be just a little better. There’s no shame in the emergency pasta game.

Ways to Eat More Vegetables

Add more greens and beans to your pasta.

Michael Graydon & Nikole Herriott

“I doctor up a jar of pasta sauce with ground sausage or beef, random veg, can of garbanzo or cannellini beans, and a box of salad leftovers. I toss that with pasta scraps, aka all the random shapes we have in the cupboard mixed together. Nothing fancy.” —Amelia Rampe, assistant food editor

“My go-to is fake pesto-ish sauce: leftover spinach, avocado, olive oil, garlic, and lemon if it’s around. Blitz it all in a blender and then smother on whatever pasta.” —Carolina Mesarina, assistant to the creative director

“I brown any leftover butter I have to achieve a richer, nuttier sauce, then add some garlic and lots of spinach and cook those down. I’ll throw in a bit of Parmesan to thicken the sauce right before serving. I’ll eat it with spaghetti, topped with red pepper flakes and some extra fresh Parm.” —Jill Baughman, digital recipe editor

“I’ve been into throwing onions, lots of garlic, and kale into a pan and cooking that down and then adding it to some orzo and Pink Lady apple chunks. Apple adds a nice crispness (in flavor and texture) and acidity, which helps balance out the richness of garlicky kale and caramelized onions.” —Kate Fenoglio, design production associate

Grown-Up Butter + Cheese Sauce

Like Cacio e Pepe, but evensimpler.

“I start by emulsifying butter into pasta water and then toss long strands of pasta in the sauce until it’s completely coated. I then squeeze fresh lemon juice—and sometimes even microplane some zest on there—all over and add toasted breadcrumbs.” —Elizabeth Jaime, visuals editor

“I’ve started keeping stuffed pastas in my freezer at all times. I’m obsessed with an agnolotti filled with braised meats (that Andrew Knowlton turned me onto), and another that’s stuffed with prosciutto, both from Eataly. I buy a lot at a time, then freeze them on a parchment-lined sheet tray (so they don’t all stick together), then transfer them to a freezer bag. Then they’re always waiting when I need a quick dinner. I just cook them in boiling water, toss them with butter and Parm, and that’s it. Painfully easy and unfailingly delicious.” —Meryl Rothstein, senior editor

“All in one pan: butter, garlic, red pepper flakes, tender herbs like parsley or chives, anchovies, and salty cheese. Toss with bucatini and or some long shape—never flat pasta!—and add way too much black pepper.” —Andy Baraghani, senior food editor

“Lemons are my number one improve-any-meal ingredient, so I always have a few lying around. My go-to desperate pasta recipe, inspired by one of Melissa Clark’s, involves blanching and caramelizing a batch of lemon slices and then mixing them in with spaghetti, Parmesan, butter, chili flakes, whatever fresh herbs I have lying around, and pasta water to emulsify. It’s not exactly a nutritional powerhouse, but it is a tasty weeknight meal in a pinch.” —Julia Black, associate web editor

“I sauté some zucchini and shallots or garlic, then immediately add a ladleful of pasta water into the pan. I emulsify about 1-2 Tbsp. of miso paste into—sometimes with a little butter for richness—and finish with chives and Parm if I have them. It’s salty enough without the cheese, and could even be vegan without the butter.” —Alyse Whitney, associate web editor

Put an Egg On It

Silkiest Carbonara
Yes, we have a way to make carbonara easier for a weeknight.

Alex Lau

“My husband has perfected a pork-free carbonara that we throw together when we don’t have anything in the house or someone needs a bowl of warm feelings. While pasta is boiling, separate 2 or 3 egg yolks into a bowl and grate lots of Parm over them. Whisk together. When pasta is done, reserve a cup of pasta cooking liquid, then drain pasta and return it to the same hot pot. Mix in butter and about half of the pasta water, then add yolks and cheese and mix with more water until it’s creamy and emulsified.” —Carla Lalli Music, food director

“Fusilli with garlicky kale or spinach (that’s probably been wilting away in my fridge all week), lots of olive oil, and a fried egg for good measure. And red pepper flakes. And Gossip Girl reruns.” —Emily Schultz, associate social media manager

Freezer Raid

In a pinch, you could use frozen broccoli in your pasta.

Alex Lau

“I always have frozen Sun Noodle ramen and frozen stock for a good quick ramen base. I go kitchen sink style with whatever vegetables are around (I like zucchini and radishes) and a soft-boiled egg” —Brad Leone, test kitchen manager

“I turn to my freezer in times of need with a bunch of veg—broccoli, asparagus, green beans, corn, and carrots sautéed in ghee—and a Trader Joe’s Chicken Chile Limeburger. I toss it with pasta and top it with a sunny-side-up egg.” —Sam Siegfried, editorial business assistant

“I thought my aunt invented this genius pasta when I was a kid, so I make it sometimes for comfort: seashells and peas. Small shell pasta, frozen peas, butter, and garlic powder. That’s it.” —Claire Saffitz, senior food editor

“I boil Jovial brown rice gluten-free pasta—you wouldn’t know it’s not wheat!—and throw it in a pan with olive oil, chile flakes, anchovies, and garlic. Toss in some frozen peas, sprinkle with Parm or pecorino, and make quick dinner happen.” —Chris Morocco, senior food editor

Add Some Crunch

Breadcrumbs make any pasta dish better.

Michael Graydon & Nikole Herriott

“I always have panko breadcrumbs in my pantry and a carrot of unknown age (but probably at least a week older than it should be) in my crisper drawer. Dice and sauté the carrot, mix in with whatever shape of pasta, add olive oil, lots of panko, salt, lemon juice, and a fresh herb if it exists. I wouldn’t serve it at a dinner party but it fills me up and is just easy and totally fiiiine.” —Carey Polis, editor, bonappetit.com

“I go simple with olive oil, garlic, anchovies, red chile, and maybe a splash of red wine vinegar. I add whatever greens I have on hand (like kale or chard) and chopped almonds for crunch. Oh, and pre-grated Parm is always in the freezer to sprinkle on at the end. —Eleanor Park, test kitchen contributor

“The ultimate no-cook pasta uses hand-crushed canned tomatoes, drained and rinsed white beans, whatever hardy green you have on hand (spinach or arugula works), garlic powder, red pepper flakes, a drizzle of olive oil, a splash of pasta water, and Parm. Top it all with panko or toasted baguette crumbs. It takes like 13 minutes to make, including pasta cooking time, and you can make it in one pan.” —Alex Delany, assistant web editor

20 Essential Tips to Make You a Better Cook

20 Essential Tips to Make You a Better Cook


I have worked at Bon Appétit for six years, which is longer than I’ve worked anywhere. But before I got here, I went to cooking school and then spent 15 years working in restaurants—first as a line cook, then as a kitchen manager, and later as a general manager. People often ask me if I think the expense of cooking school was worth it, and the truth is that if you end up at the right restaurant, you’ll learn more working alongside professional cooks in a week than you’ll get out of a month at school. Don’t get me wrong! I have no regrets about going to cooking school, but my most-ingrained kitchen habits were adopted while I was on the job. Here are a few of the lessons that stick with me to today, no matter whose kitchen I’m in.

1. Resist the urge to stir or flip food constantly. You need it to make contact with the pan, and for the pan to be on the heat, to actually cook anything.

2. Wrap cheese in fresh plastic wrap every time you use it or else it won’t be properly sealed.

3. Never dump the contents of a pan onto a plate or platter. Only hacks do that. Use a serving spoon to dole it out.

4. You can never have enough dish towels.

5. Make a list before you start cooking.

6. Store meat and fish on the bottom of the fridge so they don’t drip juices on anything below them.

7. Clean as you go.

8. Don’t cook for anyone when you’re sick.

9. Never throw water on a grease fire.

10. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.

11. Make sure you have white vinegar in your kitchen.

12. Be nice to the person who cleans up after you.

13. Un-excellent ingredients will never make an excellent meal.

14. Waste is a sign of poor training, laziness, and lack of skills.

15. The best way to tell if something is cooked is to taste it.

16. Hot fish is overcooked fish.

17. Sometimes you have to clean the ceiling.

18. The best place to be is in the kitchen in the morning before anyone else gets there.

19. If you see a single pantry moth, everything must go.

20. You’re better off serving okay food in a great, welcoming, fun environment than giving people amazing food with a frown on your face.