Marriages: Est Est Est Cookbook
By Donovan Cooke and Philippa Sibley-Cooke


This is a book I've been searching long and hard for on eBay. Most copies were selling for US$300 or more, so when I saw it up for bid for less than a third of that, I hit "buy it now". It's by English chef Donovan Cooke and his then-wife Philippa, and showcases the food served in their then-restaurant, Est Est Est, in Melbourne, Australia, in the late 1990s. Cooke was, for several years, chef of The Derby Restaurant at the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

The book starts by chronicling a day in the life of Est Est Est, with the text accompanied by grainy black and white photos. The long day begins at 8am, when one of the cooks arrives to let in the man who needs to repair the sous vide machine. Est Est Est is not open for lunch, but by 10am all the staff have arrived to begin dinner preparations and to get the food ready for one of Cooke's other restaurants, Luxe. After working quickly and steadily throughout the day, the staff get ready for the controlled mayhem that is typical of a busy and popular restaurant during dinner service.

While I'm glad I didn't pay US$300, I'm also glad to finally have the book. The super-large font used for the dish names is annoying, but the photography makes up for it. Cooke's classical French training is obvious - he worked for three years with Michel Roux at the Waterside Inn, in Bray, Britain, then as head chef of Marco Pierre White's Harveys restaurant. But at the same time, the food is very modern Australian. Categorised by season, the recipes include gazpacho with tian of crab, cucumber spaghetti and avocado mousse; roasted yabby tails with apple, celery and confit tomato salad and fennel bavarois; pithivier of slippery jack and pine mushrooms with sauce madeira; roasted veal sweetbreads with fresh truffles, compote of onion and honey-truffle vinaigrette; and pineapple, mango and passion fruit sorbets with tropical fruits and pineapple wafers.