Favorite Cookbooks: Isaac Mizrahi Recipe

Fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi shares his favorite cookbooks with us.

Favorite Cookbooks: Isaac Mizrahi

I've been bursting at the seams anticipating this latest cookbook list. Many of you are familiar with New York-based designer Isaac Mizrahi, his list of accomplishments is wide-ranging and impressive. Any attempt by me to communicate them to you in one concise sentence is futile (I spent the last twenty minutes trying) - his illustrated timeline does a much better job. The thing I love most about Isaac is the way he weaves many different creative layers into his work, life, and creations - color, texture, design, film, publishing, fabric and photography. And while you might be familiar with Isaac from his television appearances, documentary, collections, or his new web show, what you might not know is that he knows his way around the kitchen.

ISAAC'S COOKING STYLE (in his own words):
I don't know where my passion for food comes from. I was a really fat kid and food was central to my happiness and neurosis. When I was eleven or twelve I remember falling in love with the word 'saute' and I began to saute things in my mom's kitchen. On Saturday mornings I would cut mushrooms and vegetables and saute them in her non-stick pans with vegetable oil. Sometimes I think I got into cooking through my love for the words. When I moved out of my mom's house I got a set of Le Creuset cookware in blue from Macy's Cellar along with the two volumes of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I would just cook things - I still use the Creuset. I had a close friend who was married to the most divine French guy who made cooking seem really easy. He used to make fruit tarts in a snap and I always envied that skill.

I wouldn't know what to call my cooking style. Sometimes it's hit-or-miss but mostly it's plain, plain, plain. I think the best things are the plainest. The best thing I make is mint chocolate chip ice cream with fresh mint that comes from my garden in the summer. I'm also really good at fruit tarts now. I use Jacques Pepin's recipes for doughs, which are FLAWLESS. All his recipes are FLAWLESS. I might call my style "When a Jew Relaxes He Can Cook Okay."

I also have a terrible confession to make. My knives are not sharp enough and I don't know what to do. I've taken them to places to have them sharpened, I've tried to sharpen them myself with different sharpening machines and it's not possible to ever get them to be as sharp as when you first buy them. Anyway, I've given up, my knives are dull, and I'm ready to replace them all (which is a shame because real chefs are not supposed to replace their knives. I ADORE my ovens which are the electric Wolf ones that have the beautiful Russian blue enamel inside and the heavy, heavy doors and the perfect convection feature. Sometimes I think I'm not worthy. I hate my dishwasher, a Kitchen-aid. There, I named a name. When I was a kid my mom had a fabulous one that lasted as though it were new for thirty years. The one I got is a lemon. In fact, most of the appliances I got in my kitchen three years ago were lemons and I had to have maybe seven out of nine of them replaced. It was a crazy, crazy thing which I owe to the basic decline of quality. I have the greatest ice cream maker on Earth. It's a giant Italian job, I think the name of it is Lello. It's huge and it weighs two tons and will only make a small quantity of perfect ice cream, maybe one and a half quarts, if that, at a time.

FAVORITE COOKBOOKS (the ones Isaac turns to most for inspiration):
- Jacques Pepin: La Technique / La Methode. Out of print which I like to rub in people's faces. I own his Complete Techniques which is the same thing only better, in one new, easier volume. I just think he's the greatest teacher and greatest recipe writer.

- Mark Bitman: How To Cook Everything. Which has replaced Fannie Farmer for me. His recipe for Hollandaise is the easiest and most fantastic recipe. Coming from someone who was baffled by Hollandaise for years because, wonderful as Julia Child is, her Hollandaise recipe is so confusing and crazy. To tell you the truth, a lot of her recipes are - though I attribute my ability to cook to her books and to the confusion surrounding certain recipes. One has to cook her things a few times to work out kinks - you develop technique because of the mistakes and the crazy ways recipe come together in some of her earlier books. The ones she made with Pepin though are flawless and that one called Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home is a national treasure.

- I use Lidia Bastianich's books till the pages are no longer legible. She is a goddess of a certain kind of Italian food that I adore. I also love Marcella Hazan's book, the first most basic one. I developed my own INCREDIBLE fritata repertoire from her basic recipe.

- I use Lindsey Shere's Chez Panisse Desserts book like crazy, THAT BOOK IS A MASTERPIECE ! ! ! I love Dave Pasternack's book about fish and I think anyone who can cook fish beautifully is a poet. I WORSHIP Nick Malgieri's book called How To Bake. Anything I've ever baked from that book works to perfection. And I must say the best chocolate cake on Earth comes from little old Fannie Farmer. I went through EVERY DAMN chocolate cake recipe and it's still the best. Fannie Farmer does rock.


To keep up with Isaac, check in with him on his new show or through his blog . THANKS again Isaac, for sharing your favorites (and not-so-favorites) with us!

Related links:
- Isaac Mizrahi NY
- Isaac's blog
- Browse Isaac's article archive

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Here’s another vote for The Chez Desserts cookbook. PERFECTION!


I like this article….Usually I prefer to buy my favorite cookbooks from Books Online store at lowest prices…..!


You can find some inexpensive copies of La Technique by Jacques Pepin at http://www.alibris.com. Just get the paperback version.


I love this site and I really loved Isaac’s post. As an added attraction, but in the “misery loves company” category, I have to add that I, too, HATE my kitchen aid dishwasher, and have often thought the same thing about my mother’s (same brand) that lasted for years, vs mine, which was a piece of junk from the first day. So glad to know I’m not alone in despising it!


What a fun read! Thank you. I have Nick Malgieri’s How to Bake, and Julia Child’s Baking with Julia. Now I’m very interested in the other books he mentioned.

Sally McEntire

I didn’t know he had a blog – but of course! Cool!


What a lovely post, I enjoy hearing about people out there in the public eye who adore cooking as we all do.

noble pig

I loved this post. I am a librarian-writer and used to be a cook on a farm out East in MA, and I too think I got into cooking partially because I love the words. Heidi, fun book to read: Fried Butter: a Memoir by Abe Opincar

monster librarian

As an avid cook book collector (and cook!), I was attracted to this site. Alas (or happily — not sure which) instead of curbing my addiction, I buy another book every time I visit this site. I love every one recommended here, but soon will need to add on to the house to be able to store them all. : )


I’ve been a fan of IM’s work for ages-but I never knew that he was saavy in the kitchen, too! Thanks for this post-it’s good to know he’s such a renaissance man, and nice information on his current projects.


Isaac, please try the MAC Santoku knife. You will find it shockingly sharp. And it will stay that way for a long time. I have had mine for over two years now, and have only had it on a steel. Granted, it no longer cuts me when I just barely touch the edge (as it did for about the first year, so be VERY careful with this knife), but it still goes through everything I INTEND to cut as though it were still new. I am serious about how sharp this knife is…. Be VERY careful. But you will be VERY pleased.


I have always found Mr. Mizrahi to be talented and adorable. Such a treat to find him here. Once, I acquired a Rachel Ray magazine purely by accident; don’t know how it happened, really. But a page was devoted to what Isaac ate in a day. I loved him for being on Weight Watcher’s and to admitting that most of his alloted “points” that day came from peanut M&M’s…v


Oh, wow! So, he’s not only inspiring in every other thing, but I find myself wanting to print this off and stick it inside a cabinet door. He has such a way of putting things that shows his excitement and love of living.


Just gotta say first that I stumbled upon your spot a month ago, signed up for e-mailings and am never disappointed.
You’ve got great recipes and mostly, you inspire me to try new things (the baked artichoke dip, caramelized tofu). The photographs show fabulous food design done with great style–love this most recent one (table “cloth” of newspapers, are those pastel chocolate coated oreos??, the checker design made with the jellied fruit squares, and are those black and white Jordan Almonds??…it’s a tea time with an Easter/Alice in Wonderland feel.
Now, about Isaac Mizrahi. I am so pleased with myself for having at least 5 of the cookbooks he mentioned on his list. It’s nice to see that someone else (especially someone who is well known and respected) is gleaning inspiration from some of the same books I own. I’ve never tuned into Mizrahi but because of your profile, I will.
Once again Heidi, thank you for the knowledge and inspiration.

Stephanie Schutt

Oh I’m going to have to quote him profusely on “…anyone who can cook fish beautifully is a poet.” LOL. Love that line!

Asata Reid, Life Chef

I know this is the wrong spot, but I just made a pot of your Lentil Soup and one of your vegetarian Split Pea soup. BOTH were to DIE for! I froze most of it for later in the week, but we have already tried them both and they were delicious. The lemon zest and smoked paprike are just the right Je nes sais quoi in the split pea. I had ordered three cans of the smoked paprike mild, medium and hot, and was not sure how to use it all up. NOW I KNOW!Thanks for your great recipes. I look every day to see if you have posted a new one.

Elizabeth H

not bad


I am really enjoying this series of posts. Just as the books on someone’s bookshelf says something about who they are (or how they want to be seen at least), the cookbook’s on someone’s shelf say something about what what food is to them (or how they want it to be.)
On an unrelated note, am I though only one who is underwhelmed by a lot of Bittman’s recipes? Most of the things I have made from his books have just turned out serviceable, always missing that special something… maybe it’s just me.

joe apple

What an interesting and surprising profile! It is always fun to find out that you share an interest with someone you wouldn’t expect.

Deborah Dowd

Too fun and fabulous! I love Mr. Mizrahi and this post was a wonderful read.


Gosh, I have four pairs of his shoes from Target (pronounced Tar-jay in a French accent) in my closet . I never knew he loved cooking as well. What a multi-talented and passionate soul. As always, thanks for the great info on your blog !

White On Rice Couple

In Australia and am not familiar with this man but this sounds intriguing to me… Is this a cookbook he has put out??? I tried looking it up on Amazon and Abebooks but not luck… any suggestions? Thank you, Vida x


What great narrative tone! Now all I want to do is go and make a beautiful fruit tart…and maybe after that, drown myself in the Jacques and Julia Cook at Home, which I agree is satisfying stuff for sure…


Great piece on Issac. It is always fun to read someone elses favorite book lists. Your photography is incredible by the way.


My Kyocera ceramic knives are outstanding. My other ‘good’ knives don’t thrill me at all anymore.

Cynthia W

The idea in the book for the recipes and show , are very new and nice and the cuisines are flovoured which satisfy the mind and also it is best in the taste and nutritious,I love the food.


Simplicity is my thing — or at least, in my ideal thoughts of myself, it is. In reality my recipes tend to become more complicated than they need to be, so Isaac in his own words felt like things I needed to be reminded of. And I’m looking forward to delving into his list of books — I am guessing that’s a good place to find a “voluntary simplicity” cooking style.
the other thing I love about these columns is the stories. Narrative really brings the details of our lives together, and I love getting the story behind these faces.

Becky And The Beanstock

I loved the article- it’s so fun reading about Issac. These book lists have been really great.


i love this feature! Isaac Mizrahi is the kind of person who should annoy the crap out of me, and yet I love him.. His responses were so funny and smart! I wouldn’t have pegged him for a cook.
michelle @ Us vs. Food

Michelle @ Us vs. Food

He’s so vibrant and passionate and alive, this guy! He makes me want to cook and cook and cook until my kitchen becomes heaven!


It just all looks so good.I just can’t decide what to try first.


What a delightful “Favorite Cookbooks” list! I’ve been a huge fan of Isaac’s for some time now and it’s a pleasant surprise to see him featured on your site. 🙂


I am such a huge fan of his and even more so now.
These profiles are teriffic!


This is not about your manically CAPS-using cookbook author, amusing as he is.
This is about your olive-oil crackers recipe. Again. I’m obsessed with them. I introduced them to my friend Dawn, and now she and her son are as obsessed with them as I am.
Also your curried egg salad. I hate mayonnaise, so this is the first egg salad I have ever eaten. I want to make it all the time now. And eat it on olive oil crackers.


What a great post Heidi!! I had no idea he enjoyed cooking!! I am still drooling over Le Creuset cookware, maybe one day I’ll actually get to own a set!! I”ll have to check out Fannie Farmer’s chocolate cake!!


I loved him anyway and now I love Isaac even more now that I know we worship the same cookbooks. He’s so right about the Pepin/Child cookbooks and Bittman and Marcella Hazan’s first and Nick Malegri well he’s right about everything.


I just had to comment and say how much I enjoyed reading Isaac’s list. He’s so smart about cooking and really knows his stuff!

Julie O'Hara

Isaac is fabulous, thanks so much for this.
I agree, Pepin’s doughs are flawless, and Chez Panisse Desserts is a Masterpiece (especially the ice creams). I’ll have to pull out Fanny and give that chocolate cake a baking.


I have had a crush on Isaac since I saw Unzipped over 10 years ago I think. His recommendations are spot on, particularly on Jacques Pepin, who I secretly wish was my dad. I’d appreciate him more than Claudine for sure!


I caught wind of Mizrahi’s love of food via his appearance on Iron Chef and it is so great to hear more about it. I love how he expresses his love for cooking!


I love Isaac even more now that I know he also adores Lidia. I grew up watching her shows and found both her and her food to be amazing.
I’m enjoying these profiles you’re doing, Heidi!


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