This isn't the kind of recipe book home cooks should expect to actually make much from, unless they're extremely skilled and ambitious, and have a lot of spare time and a well-equipped kitchen. (It would also help to have perfect eyesight, because the recipe text is in small, black print on a taupe background.) Unlike Jean-Francois Piège's previous English-language cookbook, At The Crillon and At Home, in which home-style recipes were given equal billing to dishes served at the Michelin two-star Les Ambassadeurs, where he was then working, this volume doesn't have many "quick and easy" options.
That's not to say those recipes don't exist. If you opt for commercially cured meat, rather than the home-made stuff that Piege calls for, the ham, butter and gherkin sandwich would be a simple and elegant hors d'oeuvres, as would be the salt-cod brandade cromesquis and smoked cod's roe tartlets with cucumber and elderflower. Almost all of the other recipes are much more complicated.
The book, however, is inspirational. The photos - of raw ingredients and the finished dishes - are beautiful, and the flavour combinations inventive.
The elements, taken by themselves, aren't that difficult, but when you need five or more of them for one dish, the entire recipe would take some time to execute. It would be easy enough for the home cook to take individual elements from the recipes, such as the almond and sea salt sable (from the upside-down cherry tart), fromage blanc vinaigrette (in the dish of lightly smoked mackerel with crispy-soft chips) and Brussels sprouts purée (veal sweetbreads with savagnin jus) and incorporate them into desserts, salads and main courses that are already in their repertoire.
Chicken with brioche stuffing, chicken liver and fig-leaf vinegar condiment, tender turnips and figs and fresh hazelnuts sounds like a delicious (but complicated) roast chicken dish, and it would be great to have someone else make the crisp-tender calf tongue with capers, spiced crunchy vegetables, fromage blanc and roasted peanut oil for a dinner party.
Other tempting dishes include rack of Limousin lamb with crispy-soft couscous, lime-cilantro curry and cooking juices; langoustines cooked in black currant leaves with black currant extract, Provencal almonds and wild pepper; hen's egg marinated in soy sherry with milk curd, bonito confit, home-grown vegetables and pounded anchovies in aged vinegar; milk curd with a caviar topping, potato straws, chives and shallot powder; and peach flower with red currant-raspberry jelly and verbena ice cream.