Our favourite Canadian culinary books of 2020

Some of the best Canadian-authored cookbooks of the year

What a year it's been.

We're beginning to look back fondly–or as fondly as could be humanly possible–on 2020 and we thought we'd start by focusing on one thing that wasn't drastically affected by the pandemic: food and drink book publishing. And while we did just debut our 2020 holiday gift guide this week, cookbooks definitely deserve a round-up all their own.

From a gorgeous collection of recipes by former Montreal Gazette food critic, Lesley Chesterman to namesake books released by much-loved restaurants Maenam (Vancouver) and Kiin (Toronto), here are ten culinary books by Canadian authors that stood out from the rest of the pack.

Baking Day with Anna Olson by Anna Olson

You know what they say: If you had to enlist just one person to provide you with baking recipes with the rest of your life, place your trust in Anna Olson. If they aren't saying that by now, they certainly should as the long-time Food Network Canada personality and pastry chef's latest book proves yet again that she is the consummate baker.

One thing that sets Baking Day with Anna Olson apart from other home baking-focused books is the way recipes are separated via time commitment. "A Full Baking Day" may not be for the faint of heart, but at least you know what you're getting into. On the other hand, her recipe for hot chocolate Nanaimo bars can be made in just 30 minutes before chilling.

Olson's 120 recipe cookbook (which also offers plenty of preperation and organizational tips) is available for purchase online.

Chez Lesley by Lesley Chesterman

Currently only available in French, Lesley Chesterman's book Chez Lesley offers francophones a glimpse into both her home life and previous multi-decade career as one of Canada's most esteemed restaurant critics. Also a trained chef, Chesterman has never been known to endorse a recipe that doesn't work–be it served to her on the plate or in her own kitchen during the recipe development process.

There are many gems (a la francais) to be discovered in the pages of her book, including many recipes she was either provided by restuarant chefs during her work as a critic and columnist such as the French onion soup courtesy of L'Express' chef Jean-François Vachon as well as others that pay homage to her family tree.

Chez Lesley is available for purchase online via its publisher Cardinal and Amazon.


Flat Out Delicious: Your Definitive Guide to Saskatchewan Food Artisans by Jenn Sharp

Jenn Sharp has spent the majority of her career championing Prairie food culture while connecting consumers with the farmers, producers, and artisans who create Saskatchewan’s sustainable food systems. Her first book is truly an extension of her undying love of all things Prairie food and drink. 

Flat Out Delicious feature profiles on more than 150 local artisans, detailed maps, and travel tips that take readers on a four-month journey through Saskatchewan’s burgeoning food and drink community.

Flavorbomb by Bob Blumer

We'll forgive Mr. Blumer for using the American spelling in his cookbook title since he's long called Los Angeles home. Jokes aside, Flavorbomb: A Rogue Guide to Making Everything Taste Better is a lighthearted cookbook with approachable recipes, great tips and plenty of Blumerisms throughout.

The book starts off with a guide to different key components of creating a dish (acid, salt et al.) before diving into a wide array of recipes that help exemplify Blumer's flavourful mission. Many recipes in the book like the Japanese fried chicken draw inspiration from his wordly travels tied to his popular television shows.

The Hunter Chef Cookbook by Michael Hunter

Inspired by the endless bounty of the land, wild-game hunter and chef Michael Hunter’s The Hunter Chef cookbook features over 100 recipes and butchery guides for everything from large and small game to wild desserts and foraged cocktails.

With this cookbook, the owner of Toronto's popular and meat-forward restaurant Antler Kitchen and Bar proves that he is one of the country's top culinary experts when it comes to all things wild game and butchery.

Kiin by Nuit Regular

We shouldn't pick favourites, but Nuit Regular's cookbook has felt like a highlight of a fairly trying year. If you've had the pleasure of dining at either of her restaurants in Toronto (Pai and Kiin), you'll know that Regular's cooking is something to celebrate.

How lucky then, that we can all take a stab at recreating some of her favourite Northern Thai dishes at home by way of the Kiin cookbook. Featuring 120 recipes, Regular's book is the perfect thing to add to an avid home cook's culinary book collection.

Some ingredients and tools will require searching out, but the result of those extra efforts is two-fold: a delicious meal and a better understanding of Thai cuisine. As Regular sets out to prove in this captivating cookbook–centred around Northern Thai cuisine style–Thai food is so much more than just Pad Thai and Massaman curry...though those are still delicious too.

Kiin is available for purchase online on Regular's newly launched online market as well as Amazon and Indigo.

Maenam by Angus An

Vancouverites have long known that Maenam is one of the best of Thai restaurants in Canada, but the rest of the country? Well, they are likely finding out these past few months with chef and restaurateur Angus An releasing the Maenam cookbook.

Born in Taiwan and raised in Canada, An may not have a deep family connection to Thai cuisine like the aforementioned author/chef Regular does, but he has dedicated his professional life to this way of cooking and that comes through in spades with his first cookbook.

Milk, Spice and Curry Leaves by Ruwanmali Samarakoon-Amunugama

Ruwanmali Samarakoon-Amunugama's enchating cookbook centring around Sri Lankan cuisine is a refreshing reminder that there are still many types of cuisines for a home cook to discover. Milk, Spice and Curry Leaves is a beautiful combination of personal family food memories and traditions interlaced with traditional Sri Lankan recipes.

From the multi-purpose coconut sambal to the warming cashew curry, there are so many dynamic recipes to discover in this wonderful cookbook and we indeed to cook them all.

Take Back The Tray by Joshna Maharaj

In this eye-opening book from chef, author, and activist Joshna Maharaj, readers are offered an in-depth look at Canada’s institutional food systems, why they pose a problem, and what possible solutions are available for future generations. Take Back The Tray comes from Maharaj's first-hand experience in trying to improve these systems over the years and the hurdles that constantly arise.

Maharaj aims to bring health, humanity, and hospitality back to institutional food, while also building sustainability, supporting the local economy, and reinvigorating the work of frontline staff.

Take Back The Tray is available for purchase online.

You Wanna Piece of Me? by Jenell Parsons

Nothing hits the spot on a cold winter night quite like a tender, warm and flaky homemade pie.

Whether you want to serve up sweet and savoury classics like apple and rosemary pie or you’re looking to step up your pastry game with creative creations like bacon cheeseburger pie, raspberry custard crumble, pie pop tarts, or pie poutine, this 100+ recipe cookbook from Jenell Parsons–owner of The Pie Hole in Vancouver–has something for you.

You Wanna Piece of Me? Yes, we do!