Thesedays, for many its a TV chef, like Nigella Lawson or Jamie Oliver.
Mine is a cook and food history writer named Claudia Roden.
Claudia awakened a passion in me for food history and documenting regional cuisines linked to their ethnic and cultural heritage.
Claudia Roden's goes to great lengths to introduce the histroy of every kind of cuisine on which she has completed recipe research.
If you are looking for glossy food photographs you may well be disappointed. Only her most recent publication, The Food of Spain, includes any food photographs whatsoever.
I began by purchasing The Book of Jewish Food. This not only enabled me to explore some of my own cultural food heritage, but also gave me an overview of the history of Jews beyond and within Europe, complete with all the specific regional food variations.
I loved it so much, I then purchased A New Book Of Middle Eastern Food.
Then her older Mediterranean Food and most recently awaited the release of her Spanish one.
My copies of Claudia Roden's books have even been lent to chef friends, wanting new inspiration and a chance to master a few classics.
Her research method is to go to a region and get word out amongst good cooks that she wants to learn from them and document their recipes. She then tests them at home on her family and friends.
Each of her recipe books have taught me how to put together restaurant quality food, I can prepare quickly and easily at home. To my joy, friends then want these recipes and begin making then too.
Nigella Lawson has occasionally acknowledged Claudia Roden as the source of some of the dishes she has cooked on television.
Until I discovered Claudia, my tabbouleh, lacked that certain zing of its Turkish restaurant counterparts. I had no idea where to begin making kofte or kibbeh. I had never made an orange and almond cake and her Mediterranean lemon chicken had not yet graced my table, let alone beans stewed with garlic, onions and carrot in tomato.
If you love food and love to cook, you too may fall in love with Claudia Roden's cookbooks!
Indeed I loved her work and inspiration so much, I even spent an entire evening surfing Claudia on the Web. Claudia Roden is my food idol!
BBC radio, have recently conducted a wonderful and informative interview with Claudia Roden, detailing her fascinating heritage and path to becoming one of the world's leading food writers.