The Next Chapter

The Pastry Nerd recommends three tasty cookbooks

The Calgary-based neuroscientist-turned-baker reviews tawâw by Shane M. Chartrand with Jennifer Cockrall-King; Mi Cocina by Rick Martínez; and Anna Olson's Baking Wisdom by Anna Olson.
Composite image of three cookbooks and a Black man in a black denim apron and black shirt.
Calgary-based Saïd M'Dahoma recommends 3 tasty cookbooks with simple recipes. (CBC Books, Saïd M'Dahoma)

The Next Chapter contributor Saïd M'Dahoma, also known online as "The Pastry Nerd," is a French Comorian neuroscientist-turned-baker based in Calgary.  

When M'Dahoma found himself longing for the delicious French pastries he grew up with, he began to teach himself how to bake and cook. He learned that the common thread between his academic past and his love of food was the unique science of creating pastries.

"I think what I really love about making pastries, it's how precise they are, just like in science in my previous career. But also what I love about it is sharing. When you make a beautiful cake and you get to share it with your friends and family and enjoy that time together, it's one of the most beautiful things that can happen in a room.

"I really love sharing my stories with people." 

He stopped by The Next Chapter to recommend three cookbooks which represent varied cultural cuisines and easy-to-follow recipes.

LISTEN |The Pastry Nerd recommends three tasty cookbooks:

tawâw by Shane M. Chartrand with Jennifer Cockrall-King

Composite image with two panels. On the left: a book cover of a white plate with food and an orange handprint on it, on a wooden table. Light green text overlaid. On the right: a man in a grey and white shirt, hands folded, standing in front of four long sticks and a blue sky.
tawâw is a cookbook by chef Shane M. Chartrand, right, written with Jennifer Cockrall-King. (Ambrosia, Hilary McDonald)

"Chef Chartrand is a Plains Cree chef in Alberta who, I quote, 'cares about making a difference in the lives of others through good food that honours and highlights what indigenous cuisine really means.'

"Through this book you get to know Shane's journey from his upbringing in Alberta where he used to hunt with his family to becoming a chef at his own restaurant. In the book, you can find lots of tasty dishes like elk tenderloin with grilled oyster mushroom – I just made it last weekend and it was delicious! Or bison strip loin with celeriac cream and apple onion relish. The sweet and savoury trick on that dish was marvellous.

This cookbook is a nod to Indigenous food and culture that I believe every food enthusiast should have.- Saïd M'Dahoma

"This cookbook is a nod to Indigenous food and culture that I believe every food enthusiast should have. Unfortunately, I didn't know enough about Indigenous food and Indigenous ingredients. I learned about so many ingredients that are not really highlighted in traditional food cuisine.

"For example, I had never met anything with elk before and it's gamey, it's tasty and with a good berry sauce it's absolutely amazing."

Shane M. Chartrand is an executive chef at SC Restaurant in Enoch, Alta. Chartrand was born to Cree parents and raised by a Métis father and Mi'kmaw-Irish mother. He spent his career exploring the diverse cuisine and stories of Indigenous peoples across Canada, culminating in this collection of over 75 recipes. 

Jennifer Cockrall-King is a Canadian food writer who lives in the small community of Naramata, in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley.

Mi Cocina: Recipes and Rapture from My Kitchen in Mexico by Rick Martínez

Mi Cocina by Rick Martínez. Book cover shows a selection of Mexican food on bowls and plates on a pink tablecloth. Headshot of the author/cook.
Mi Cocina is a cookbook of Mexican cuisine from 32 states in Mexico by Rick Martínez. (Clarkson Potter)

"We Canadians love going to Mexico during the cold days but with this book, you'll get Mexico right to your place. Rick Martínez is a Mexican American classically trained chef who visited all of Mexico and tested the best dishes the country has to offer. He compiled his versions of all those dishes in this beautiful book. You can find recipes to make your own tacos from scratch, all the famous Mexican salsas, but also more traditional dishes that I used to enjoy when I was in Mexico, such as carne asada or grilled meat.

"There was a dish that I really loved when I was in Mexico for my PhD exchange, which is called pescado a la veracruzana and it's a grilled fish basically with peppers. So you can't imagine how happy I was when I saw a version of this dish in Rick Martinez's book and was able to do it myself." 

Rick Martínez is a cook, teacher and online personality currently based in Mazatlán, Mexico. He hosts the series Mi Cocina and Sweet Heat on YouTube and weekly cooking classes for the Food Network Kitchen.

Anna Olson's Baking Wisdom by Anna Olson

Anna Olson's Baking Wisdom. Book cover shows and blonde white woman in a light green apron, twisting dough in a kitchen and smiling.
Anna Olson's Baking Wisdom is a collection of baking recipes by pastry chef and host Anna Olson. (Appetite by Random House)

"The final book on my list is by Canadian pastry chef extraordinaire Anna Olson and it's a book that I really enjoyed most of all because while baking is right up in my alley, this is something that I really enjoy and I always like to see what other pastry chefs make and bake from there at their home.

"It felt really nostalgic to me as it contains many desserts that I grew up eating in France: cream puffs, pies, bread, cookies — everything is in it.

It felt really nostalgic to me as it contains many desserts that I grew up eating in France.- Saïd M'Dahoma

"If there is one thing that you should try from this book, then test the recipe of one of my favourite desserts, the Parisian flan. It's very difficult to find in Canada and I don't understand why because it's a really tasty and easy dessert to make. 

"I really love the book because it's really detailed so if you're an amateur baker and you're afraid of baking for the first time, everything is detailed. Anna Olson clearly wants to make sure that you will succeed when making those pastries.

Anna Olson is an Ontario-based professionally trained pastry chef. She is the author of nine bestselling cookbooks including Baking Day and the host of Food Network's Bake with Anna Olson.

Saïd M'Dahoma's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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