LaRousse Gastronomique is simply one of the best cookbooks ever written. It is heavy on French classical cuisine, but it is loaded with all of the basics. Want to make a white sauce? Here is where you find out how. Want to make a Christmas fruit cake? Here it is with instructions for proper ageing. Make your own bitters. It's all here. Every chef I have ever worked with in a restaurant, kept a copy at hand. And used it every day.
The Gold Cookbook
by Louis deGuey with a forward by Oscar of the Waldorf
This is THE great book of classical fine American cooking with a large, large number of regional recipes included. It is out of print so look for it on Amazon or, even better, on abebooks.com. A simply wonderful cookbook with information not usually found in a lot of cookbooks, such as cuts of beef, shown on the cow, all the right ways to cook every type of fish, and much more.
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking Here it is. Marcella Hazan's best book, Now you can make Italian sauces the right way without reverting to the bottles on the supermarket shelves. All the best foods of Italy and I found her approach easy to work with. Yes, she teaches you the right way to make pasta by hand, and it is work. But everything else Italian is here too.
Chez Panisse Cooking Another great book. Paul Bertolli was Alice Waters' executive chef at Chez Panisse for many years and co-authored this book with Waters. Bertolli is one of the world's leading and most creative chefs. Chez Panisse is credited with being one of the prime creators of modern western cuisine. Even if you have never eaten at this food Mecca, you can create the food at home.
Chez Panisse Vegetables This book reflects Alice Waters' total devotion to fresh food. She pioneered in helping local public schools start their own organic schoolyard gardens to provide the schools' cafeterias. Here is how vegetables ought to be cooked.
Japanese Cuisine by Chen Shiu-Lee
Finally, a Japanese cookbook that has recipes of the food I learned from my Japanese housemate. Real Japanese. The book is beautifully illustrated, has lots of how-tos and simply wonderful recipes. It is out of print but available used for under $3.00 from