News & Politics

Interview: Cookbook Writer Peter Kaminsky

Fabio Trabocchi and Michel Richard each have new cookbooks out. Meet the writer who worked with them both.

Cookbooks from two top chefs hit bookstores this month. From Citronelle’s Michel Richard comes Happy in the Kitchen , a look at his impish culinary artistry. And from Maestro’s Fabio Trabocchi there’s Cucina of Le Marche, celebrating the cuisine of his native region on the Italian coast.

While the books are as different as the chefs, they share a common denominator: Peter Kaminsky, the writer who translated their ideas into words.

What’s it like to write in someone else’s voice? I used to work at the National Lampoon , and that was parody. I think of this as parody without the joke.

What was each like? Fabio is intense. On first meeting he’s not easy to get to know. But we went to Italy together, and he wasn’t guarded at all—just this guy from Le Marche who had a dad who was a truck driver. He has a wry, man-of-the-people sense of humor.

What about Richard? I think Michel could have been a great Hollywood producer or a politician. He has a very sophisticated sense of people. He’s able to fit in anywhere. His food is, yes, whimsical and light and creative, but it’s as intellectual as anything. Mozart is as intellectual as Bach, but one’s light, and the other’s heavy.

Did you get to kick back with them? Michel came to my house in Brooklyn. We went all around the neighborhood, and he made friends with all the storekeepers. Then he made an amazing cote de boeuf. He decided to stay over, and he refused to use an extra bedroom—one of the grand chefs of the world, and he slept on the couch and was happy.

How about Trabocchi? One Sunday I visited where he lives in Virginia. He made ducks and shrimp and foie gras—an extraordinary meal in a dinky kitchen. It impressed me how great chefs rarely break a sweat with that stuff.

What’s your favorite recipe from Cucina of Le Marche? The umido, which is kind of the Le Marche pot-au-feu—a wonderful winter dish.

Happy in the Kitchen has some pretty complicated techniques. Listen, this isn’t a book that you’re going to pass out to Brownie troops. Not everybody needs a beginner cookbook.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.