It’s rare to find a cookbook that does more than instruct you on how to make food. In The Beauty Chef by Carla Oates, readers are in for quite an experience. My first impression of the book was that it’s pretty- a white, hardbound 343 pages with beautiful photography. Sounds good, right? Maybe that’s enough to make you want to look up more about the book, but would it convince you to buy it? Maybe not. But continue reading, because I’m pretty sure I’ll convince you otherwise.
The Beauty Chef is in a genre of its own. While it’s filled with more than 150 nutritious recipes, Ms. Oates delves into the science behind the ingredients she’s chosen and explains how good gut health is inherently tied to glowing skin unparalleled by expensive beauty creams, botox, and serums.
I’m not typically a fan of reading introductions, as they’re often reiterations of what’s to come later in the book. The introduction in this book is different-it’s informative and quite frankly, very interesting. Ms. Oates begins with an explanation about how “glowing skin is…a reflection of healthy cells and general well-being occurs when you balance your gut and feed your body nutrient-dense food.” She goes on to talk about how health issues of her own led her to seek out alternative treatments, instead of the steroids and harsh medications prescribed by her doctors. She found these answers in a comprehensive understanding about nutrition, and how natural remedies like the foods we put into our bodies can directly combat things like fatigue, disease, and mood imbalance.
One of the most fascinating parts in the introduction is a breakdown about the side effects different foods can cause, like inflammation, dairy, and fat. With my own GI (gastrointestinal) issues, I know nuts cause me immediate distress; what I didn’t know is that I might be able to reintroduce macadamia nuts (my absolute favorite nut in the world) into my diet if I soak them in water and ACV (apple cider vinegar), because that will turn them from an inflammatory to anti-inflammatory food. A similar phenomenon happens with meat, and how many people can’t eat it because most steaks are grain-raised and not grass-fed. It might seem like minutia, but the chemical composition in what we eat can have a huge impact on how our body is (or isn’t) able to digest it.
Have I piqued your interest yet? I know by this point into the intro I was hooked and I hadn’t even reached the recipes. A few pages after the introduction, readers will find “Glowing Kitchen Tips,” a list of nearly twenty suggestions to step-up your kitchen game. It includes everything from a discussion about the benefits of drinking filtered water, to DIY beauty hacks (like, rubbing papaya skins on your face dissolves dead skin cells).
Right after these tips you’ll find “Beauty Nutrients,” which is a comprehensive table of twenty-four nutrients, why they’re good for you, and where you can find them. To me, this is one of the most useful things in the whole book. Too often health gurus tell you to “use this, use that,” but don’t explain why. Ms. Oates breaks down every single element and explains in great detail why biotin is an important nutrient in a healthy diet, and without it, dermatitis and dandruff might result (and no one has time for either of those!). It’s also really nice that there’s a whole list of possible options to find these nutrients, because if you’re not a fan of animal products to get your zinc from, you might still be interested to know that you can find it in pumpkin seeds (but if you have difficulty digesting those, soak them first).
Okay, now for the nitty gritty of what’s actually in the book. I’ve talked about almost everything except the recipes themselves. There are about 150 recipes that cover the following categories: breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, sides, desserts, baking, drinks, and fermentation. As a busy millennial, I’ve never spent much time learning about fermentation. I thought it only existed in pickle jars and kombucha bottles, but this book taught me that it’s a process that can be done ahead of time (great if you’re always on the go and can’t cook every night), and it immensely helps with regulating digestion.
This is a pretty well-rounded cookbook, as it doesn’t focus too much on any one kind of dish. To put the pretty pictures to the test, I tried out three different recipes to see if they tasted as good as they looked.
Sweet Potato Latkes With Goat Cheese Cream, Sautéed Spinach, and Poached Egg (p. 60)
This was one of my favorite recipes. I’d say the latkes were the consistency of hashbrowns (if you’ve never had a latke, which is normally made of potato). The spinach balanced out the egg yolk and zing of the goat cheese cream. I’d give this recipe 4.5/5 stars, just because it was a little tricky to get the latkes to stick together using ghee (great alternative to butter for us who are lactose-intolerant and/or sensitive).
Sweet Potato & Beetroot Chips with Matcha, Lime, & Chili Salsa (p. 131)
This was a really easy to make recipe-just cut up some vegetables and mix some salsa! My “chips” didn’t quite turn out like the photo, in that they were more soggy than crunchy after they were done baking…but I’m going to try the recipe again next week and tweak the temperature and thickness of the slices. I’d give it a 4/5 stars because it’s a really healthy alternative to having potato chips to snack on & the salsa gives the veggies an added bold flavor.
Roasted Asparagus, Tomato, Olive, Garlic, & Lemon (p. 196)
Yum, yum, yum! This is going to be one of my new go-to’s for dinner parties. Super simple preparation, bursting with flavors, and how pretty does it photograph?! I’d give this recipe 5/5 stars.
Overall, I’d highly recommend this cookbook. After reading it cover to cover, I can’t wait to try more of the recipes inside. I will note that some of the ingredients might be difficult to find because the author is based in Australia, so some of the recipes call for things like buckwheat groats and black glutinous rice, which might be a little tricky to find in American grocery stores. That being said, the internet is a wonderful place to find many of these harder to find ingredients, especially if you’re intrigued to try something new. I’ll note that I’ve got black rice on my “to find” list, as it’s the “only rice that contains anti-inflammatory anthocyanins.”
I’d say this is a great book to gift the beauty guru that has every high-end face cream available, but can’t figure out how to stop her random breakouts. It’s also a great addition to anyone suffering from ailments that can’t (or would preferred not to) be solved with modern medicine. Finally, it’s a great gift to give yourself because at the end of the day, we’re all trying to have more energy and eat healthier, so why not start with a guide that teaches you how to be beautiful inside and out?!
I received this book complimentary on behalf of the publisher, but all thoughts and opinions in this post are my own. All photography featured in this post is my own; please seek permission before copying or reproducing the images.
Score Card: Cover Art 5/5 | Content 5/5 | Ease of Read 5/5
Book Stats: Title- The Beauty Chef by Carla Oates
Genre-Cookbook (measurements are in Australian tablespoons, which is 20ml, not the US standard of 15ml; very important for baking, mentioned on table of contents)
Page Count- 343
Binding-Hardcover (color photography and recipes inside)
Spoonie Adventures in Books, Beauty, & Bullshit
I'm a twenty-something year old recent law and business school grad living with a chronic health condition. Follow along on my shenanigans.