Getting creative in the kitchen without a recipe

Kitchen Creativity
Unlock your creative potential with the help of the world’s most imaginative chefs

Review by:  Linda Kissam
Photographs by Andrew Dornenburg

Ever wish you could pick the brains of experienced chefs to see how they do what they do? Kitchen Creativity: Unlocking Genius – with Wisdom, Inspiration, and Ideas from the World’s Most Creative Chefs gives you that opportunity in 427 wisdom packed pages. Author Karen Page introduces the reader to dozens of famous chefs, pulling out of them the creative side of culinary success.  It’s an interesting journey into understanding what makes notable chefs…well…notable.

I review all kinds of cookbooks.  This is not one of them. Instead Kitchen Creativity is a guide to innovative cooking without using recipes. It asks you to think beyond the recipe. It will inspire you to re think how you put a dish or meal together.  It reminds you why basics are important to getting to improvisation and eventually to cooking like the world’s best chefs.

On page 58 David Bouley (Bouley, New York City) hands out the tip of the book, “You won’t become a good chef by following a recipe.”

Author Karen Page: Photographer Andrew Dornenburg

Throughout the book, author Karen Page shares  quotes from important chefs. In example on page 17 she quotes Thomas Keller (French Laundry), “The most important thing for a chef to know? Seasoning…How to use salt…Salt really is what enhances flavor.” She then spends several pages explaining how to season.  For every chef “tip” given, Karen backs up the thought with a lesson in how to reach success using that angle. “Our water is the secret weapon of this place” says Mark Levy of Baltimore’s Magdalena at the Ivy hotel. On page 114 Author Karen then explains why a fresh in-house filtration system often is the difference between good and great. Who knew?

Kitchen Creativity pulls from the wisdom, tips and tricks of more than 100 top restaurant kitchens.  It is based on four years of focused research.  With dozens of in-depth interviews, unique photos by Andrew Dornenburg, Kitchen Creativity shares the path to culinary invention in areas like creating new dishes, desserts, and drinks. Learning to use seasonal thinking and how to create complex yet balanced layers of flavor lead the way to creating your own new dishes. If you’re a history buff you’ll enjoy the true stories behind historic dishes like nachos, Pad Thai and Buffalo Wings. Truly fascinating.

The book is broken down in to three primary paths: Mastery (the acquisition of knowledge and experience); followed by Alchemy, (the understanding of flavor synergy); and finally Creativity (the personal magic that brings it all together). Is it an easy read? Nope, it IS a fascinating read.  Step by step the building blocks of culinary creativity come together.  In some ways it’s like going back to school and having to learn the “new math.” What was once cooking by route memory and recipe, moves aside to allow your creative process to become more intuitive.  In other words you may have to suffer a bit for the art of it all.  But it’s a path worth walking.

Kitchen Creativity
Unlocking Genius – with Wisdom, Inspiration, and Ideas from the World’s Most Creative Chefs
Karen Page, Photography by Andrew Dornenburg
Little, Brown and Company, 2017
427 pages, Hardcover $30.16/ Kindle $16.99

2018 Gourmand World Cookbook Award (U.S.) for Food Writing

Named one of the best cookbooks of 2017 by numerous media outlets, from Forbes to The Washington Post, leading to’s ranking as the #2 best book of 2017 in the non-recipe category of “Memoirs and Books About Food”

A copy of this book was provided to the reviewer but in no way affected the final review.


Find this content useful? Share it with your friends!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *