It takes a rare personality to prompt others to state that they make "Anthony Bourdain look like an altar boy," but that is precisely what Jacques Pepin has said about Hell's Kitchen restaurant owner Mitch Omer. And after reading through Damn Good Food (Borealis Books), one can easily see why. Omer has done some hard living, from struggles with bipolar disorder and OCD, work as a bouncer and a roadie, gastric bypass surgery, and stints in rehab. These moments are detailed throughout Food as casual openers to chapters or in sidebars between the recipes he has served up over the years. With the help of co-author and local food critic Ann Bauer, he ties together his life with the food he loves. Recipes include his mother's coleslaw, his wife's favorite lemon ricotta hotcakes, and his hugely popular homemade peanut butter. It should come as no surprise that those who play the hardest know how to eat.
Sat., Dec. 19, 1 p.m., 2009