Where Do Chefs Stock Up on Cookbooks?

For the November issue, I interviewed a bunch of local chefs about their favorite cookbooks (I found, among other surprises, that Vidalia's Jeff Buben loves the Weight Watchers cookbook. Go figure.) Most of them keep around 400 books in their collection, but a few–like Bob Kinkead–have shelves groaning with over 1,000 titles. So where do they get 'em all? Buben heads to the Olsson's on 19th Street for their "usually intelligent selection" (and incidentally, all Olsson's stores are discounting cookbooks by 15 percent through Thursday). You already know about Amazon and B&N, but here are a few lesser-known places. 

Online Barton Seaver of Cafe Saint-Ex says that "if you want to spend $25,000 on a book, here’s your place." But the used book clearinghouse also stocks Elizabeth David volumes for five bucks, and countless other culinary titles for really cheap. 

Jessica's Biscuit (  Equinox owners Todd and Ellen Gray's e-bookstore of choice offers current culinary titles at big discounts, plus a wide variety of rare and used cookbooks.

Used Book Stores

Second Story Books: Here's the starting advice Blue Duck Tavern's Brian McBride gives all of his cooks: "Never buy new cookbooks. Go to used bookstores and yard sales and pick up two or three for the price of one." McBride's a fan of the Second Story branch in Dupont, which always seems to be having a sidewalk sale. (2000 P St., NW; 202-659-8884).

Wonder Book and Video: Zest chef/owner David Jones, who wins the award for biggest collection (1,500 books and counting), scours what's "probably a 100 foot section of used cookbooks" at this Frederick superstore for bits of history and arcana: Playboy cocktail guides from the '70s, Better Homes & Gardens how-tos from the '50s, housekeeping manuals from the '20s. (1306 W. Patrick St., Frederick; 301-694-5955)

Public Libraries

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library: The largest branch of the DC public library is right around the corner from Minibar and Cafe Atlantico, and chef Katsuya Fukushima loves to browse their "humongous" selection of cookbooks. His favorite part? Paging through editions of the Time-Life Good Cook series. "It's one of my favorite, most fun-to-read lines. Everything from basic stuff to charcuterie and candymaking." (901 G St., NW; 202-727-0321).

Charles E. Beatley Central Library: Circle Bistro's Brendan Cox hangs around the main branch of the Alexandria public library.  "They actually have the Jean-Louis [Palladin] cookbook, which is hard to find and out-of-print and really expensive when you do find it. I spent two months renewing that one until they told me I couldn’t do it any more." (5005 Duke St., Alexandria; 703-519-5900)


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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 Logan Circle.