Skip to Main Content

Culinary Arts: A Guide to the Literature (April 2016): Home

By Jeffrey P. Miller and Jonathan Deutsch


This bibliographic essay originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Choice (volume 53 | number 8).


Culinary education has flourished in recent decades.  From the modest beginnings of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in New Haven, Connecticut, as a vocational training school for veterans returning from World War II, professional culinary programs have grown to number more than four hundred in the United States alone.  Beyond culinary certification, many community colleges, proprietary schools, and universities offer associate and bachelor's degrees with the requisite coursework across the curriculum.  Culinary education programs frequently integrate aspects of related fields such as hospitality management and nutrition, and food preparation is typically required in those courses.  Because culinary education can extend to disciplines as far ranging as design, psychology, chemistry, and microbiology, students in such programs seek out resources in all parts of the library, not just the sections reserved for cooking and recipes.  Indeed, one of the wonderful things about the study of food is that as an academic subject it incorporates all five senses and draws on nearly every discipline in the academy.

The growth of the culinary education industry parallels the growth in modern food culture that began in the second half of the twentieth century.  Modern food culture is often attributed to four major developments of the first half of the twentieth century: the significant growth of personal wealth beyond the upper classes that began in the 1920s; the end of Prohibition in 1933; the exposure of soldiers, during World War II, to European cuisine; and the rise of the middle class, and corresponding increase in leisure time, during the immediate post-World War II era.

By the time Prohibition ended, people were ready to learn about good beer, wine, and spirits, so there was a flood of cocktail recipes as bartenders attempted to make the poorly made illegal liquors of Prohibition into a palatable product.  At the same time, regular food columns were beginning to appear in newspapers around the United States.  The first widely distributed food column was by Clementine Paddleford, whose column in the New York Herald Tribune was syndicated nationally.  Paddleford was notable for her interest in American cuisine, as distinguished from continental cuisine that until then was considered the most desirable form of cookery in the United States.

During World War II, most restaurants were exempt from the rationing that affected the home cook.  With many women in the United States moving outside the house and the kitchen, their customary domains, and joining the workforce for the duration of the war, people on the home front got in the habit of eating out regularly and trying dishes they usually did not make at home.  Gourmet Magazine began publication in 1941, and its glossy, colorful pages spurred more interest in the topic.  Later, in the 1960s and 1970s, Gourmet was joined by numerous other cooking magazines, among them Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and Cuisine.

Television also was—and continues to be—a major contributor to the widespread interest in culinary arts.  From I Love to Eat, James Beard’s short-lived but influential show—which aired on NBC from 1946 to 1947—to today’s Food Network and Cooking Channel, television has been an influential tastemaker for aspiring cooks.  The doyenne of television cooking for at least three decades was Julia Child.  Child’s beginnings were literary rather than performative.  Mastering the Art of French Cooking, her seminal work, written with Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck, was published in 1961 and has been in print continuously ever since.

Today’s student of the culinary arts benefits from a broad reading list.  Though volumes directly related to culinary technique—i.e., those the Library of Congress classes TX—form the backbone of the literature, works in areas such as applied food chemistry, food production, consumption, culinary nutrition, consumer behavior, memoir, history, sociology, and anthropology have a place in the literature as well.  Much of the current work in culinary arts offers cultural perspectives, and multidisciplinary approaches abound.

An essay of this length cannot be exhaustive, nor even really representative, not least because every regional or national cuisine has its own extensive literature.  This essay focuses on Western cuisine and includes only titles available in English and of interest to those studying culinary arts—broadly understood—in North America.  Excellent titles in culinary arts come from both popular and academic publishers, and this list includes representatives from both.  Culinary arts is a constantly evolving field with seemingly endless possibilities, and readers should consider the present essay a starting point for understanding food, cooking, and gastronomy.

Jeffrey Miller is associate professor at Colorado State University, where he is program coordinator of the hospitality management program.  Jonathan Deutsch is professor of culinary arts and food science at Drexel University.

Acknowledgment: Thanks to Erica Hope and Otitoyeni Olatunji for research assistance.