Top Secret Recipes Step-by-Step
Top Secret Recipes Step-by-Step: Secret Formulas with Photos for Duplicating Your Favorite Famous Foods at Home isn’t just a fun idea for a cookbook; it’s also a portrait of how, and what, we choose to eat.
Todd Wilbur calls himself “America’s #1 food hacker”, and he’s made a career out of dissecting recipes from favorite chain restaurants. This copiously illustrated (multiple photos per dish) volume has 125 recipes, 75 of which are new, and 50 of which are improved from previous versions. As Wilbur explains in the Introduction, he’s been doing this since 1987, and he took all his own photos for the book.
The publicity makes a big deal out of how it can often be cheaper to recreate favorite dishes at home, but I would never use that as a reason to do so. After all, even if you’re saving money, you’re spending more time when you cook for yourself or others. I can see making one of these dishes, though, to know more about what’s going into the food you eat out or create a favorite flavor when you’re nowhere near a franchise.
Recipes covered include appetizers, main dishes, sides, and desserts from such chains as Applebee’s, Cheesecake Factory, Chili’s, KFC, PF Chang’s, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, and Taco Bell. Some I’ve never heard of or visited (including Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Cafe Rio, The Capital Grille, and Rubio’s). Others are represented by just one signature item, such as Auntie Anne’s pretzels, the Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwich, the Cinnabon cinnamon roll, Domino’s pizza, Ikea’s Swedish meatballs, Mrs. Fields cookies, and Olive Garden salad dressing.
It’s not all restaurants, either, with recipes for a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor, Cracker Jack, Twinkies, a version of Gatorade, Pepperidge Farm Milanos, and a couple of Girl Scouts cookie flavors (but not Thin Mints). Most seem achievable, although the recipe for Dippin’ Dots does require liquid nitrogen. All the entries have Easy, Medium, or Hard ratings, and that one’s one of the Hards, along with Samoas, Hostess Cupcakes, the Outback Bloomin’ Onion, and Starbucks cake pops.
I think the first recipe I’m going to try — because I get cravings and they’re not always available — is the McDonald’s McRib (although I’m not sure I want to puree pork with liquid smoke flavoring). Followed by the Panera Bread Broccoli Cheddar soup, which seems more like food.