TORONTO - Lynn Crawford has a penchant for cookbooks.
The chef, who hosted "Pitchin' In" on Food Network Canada and recently appeared on "Top Chef Masters" as a contestant, just loves cookbooks.
"I'm an avid cookbook collector. I have thousands of cookbooks. It's a real passion of mine and I can't stop," she says.
"But I have to stop buying because I'm running out of room in my home, and they're up at the cottage and they're here at the restaurant."
She's had to resort to piling some in milk crates, she says during an interview at Ruby Watchco, the restaurant she launched in 2010.
When Andrea Magyar, her editor at Penguin whom Crawford described as a foodie, asked her if she'd like to do a followup to her cookbook "Lynn Crawford's Pitchin' In," she jumped at the chance.
"Writing cookbooks, I'm finding out, is an absolute pleasure. I love it," Crawford says.
In "At Home With Lynn Crawford," she focuses on favourite recipes to cook at home "because a lot of people ask me, 'Chef Lynn, when you're at home what do you make?'
"The difficulty with writing a book is that you're limited to 200 recipes," she adds. "It's a great repertoire of recipes that are chef-inspired but also home-inspired. I was thinking about family and friends when I was making this cookbook.
"There's a few chef tricks in there, of course, that hopefully will guide you along. But it's simplicity and I think that that's where all of us need to cook well at home, just keep it really simple and keep it fresh and keep it fun and keep it delicious and, I mean, what's wrong with that?"
The recipes were tested and photographed in Crawford's home by the same women who worked on the first cookbook: Lora Kirk, who is also sous chef at Ruby Watchco, along with photographer Kathleen Finlay and Sasha Seymour, who was prop and food stylist.
Crawford, formerly executive chef at the Four Seasons Hotels in Toronto and New York, says the experience was a lot of fun. "Really everything in the book, we shopped for, we prepped, we cooked and then we ate."
Flipping through the volume, she points to a cutting board and a platter, an ingredient, a finished dish. "We grilled the lobster on the barbecue downstairs, there's the pepper mill, the fleur de sel." The photo on the cover is her home kitchen.
Her father's steak marinade and her mother's split pea soup are in the book, along with lasagna and a recipe for Mince and Tatties, a family favourite that Crawford enjoyed growing up in Richmond Hill, Ont., north of Toronto.
She recalls it being a treat to watch her parents throw lavish dinner parties.
"You'd be polishing the silver and you'd help out, the lovely china that came out from the cabinet and the wine's being chilled, those little hors d'oeuvres that went out when the guests were arriving. I just remember all those things.
"Growing up in the '70s and '80s, there were also different food trends — the vol-au-vent, the puff pastry, I mean come on! Isn't that hilarious? And the devilled eggs.
"I just wanted it to be a real representation of family. Hopefully it will become your family favourites."
Crawford has dedicated the book to her mother.
"She's my biggest fan. She's always been so supportive. Having a daughter that's a chef, one's family life is not always maybe what you'd have hoped. Your daughter is always cooking Christmas Day for how many other families.
"I've travelled a fair bit, I work long hours, so it's been hard to spend a lot of quality family time in previous years," she says, adding that her lifestyle now allows her to have more balance in her life and spend time with her mother.
Crawford is hard at work on her third cookbook, though she's mum on the subject matter. She's hosting an hour-long "Pitchin' In" holiday special and is a judge on "Chopped Canada," slated to air on Food Network Canada this winter.
"It was very exciting being asked to be one of the judges. I think it's a great show. I really do. I watch it myself, the States version. The set is absolutely gorgeous. The competitors who stepped up to the plate, what talent. It's a great energy, great premise for the show. I'm really looking forward to it. And great judges," including Chuck Hughes, Roger Mooking, Michael Smith, Susur Lee, John Higgins, Vikram Vij and Anne Yarymowich.
"All has been terrific and I love every minute of it, all the different avenues that my career has taken me."
She's inspired by a new generation of young chefs making their mark.
"I've been very lucky. My career's taken me around the world and I've cooked around the world and I've cooked for many people and I've been lucky enough to have worked with a lot of great chefs, but it's nice to come back home to Toronto and know that we're a world-class city serving world-class food."
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version incorrectly stated that Lynn Crawford was a contestant on "Top Chef Canada" when in fact it was "Top Chef Masters."