Cortney Burns and Nick Balla: TOP TEN BOOKS


Photo by Tommaso Boddi

Since making their name with the beloved Bar Tartine in San Francisco, Cortney Burns and Nick Balla have not rested on their laurels. This week the duo transformed their experimental Japanese restaurant, Motze, into Duna, a Central European restaurant in the city’s Mission district. Loyal to local produce and to made-by-hand techniques, Burns and Balla infuse their culinary craft with global influences picked up from their travels. Balla lived in and traveled extensively throughout Hungary and Japan, Burns in Nepal and India. Lucky for San Franciscans, the wound up back in the U.S.. They received a James Beard Award for Cooking from a Professional Point of View for their 2014 book, “Bar Tartine: Techniques & Recipes.”

Below are Cortney Burns and Nick Balla’s favorite books, available to purchase individually or as a set.


The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

Sogyal Rinpoche
This book helps explain what it means to live and die. It expresses how to gracefully move through these phases, act as an aid to others, and be balanced internally. It is the essential guide to how to peacefully navigate the many phases of life.
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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Patrick Suskind
I love this morbid and mischievous book! The story traces how a man commits murder by indulging in his greatest obsession: his sense of smell. It’s about passion, desire and doing whatever it takes to experience perfection, in this case, the ultimate perfume. But does this all equal happiness? The book explores and uncovers the drive for the unattainable.
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White Noise

Don DeLillo
This book explores the notions of self-sabotaging humans, a result when society is faced with a lack of control or leadership. It is a book for our time from our time about the potential to self-destruct. It challenges readers to be aware of their surroundings and the subsequent downfall that unfolds when we are not careful about how we engage with the world.
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Infinite Jest

David Foster Wallace
Reading this book is like walking around with the neurons of someone else’s brain. It’s a not so brief look at the world as seen from inside of the multifaceted mind of a brilliant man.
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97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement

Jane Ziegelman
This is a great glimpse into early immigrant life in New York City seen through the lens of food and cohabitation.  It gives a picture of where we came from and how we have become the fusion culinary culture we are today.  For me, it feels as though I’m seeing the world through my grandparents' eyes as they traveled from Poland and Lithuania through Ellis Island, finally settling in Chicago. It helps paint a picture of my personal past.
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The Art of Eating

M.F.K. Fisher
Sexy, profound, inspiring. M.F.K. Fisher taught me to see food, gastronomy and entertaining in a new light. I am forever grateful for her lessons.
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A Brief History of Time

Stephen Hawking
In order to comprehend complicated ideas, I often need them to be broken down into bite-size pieces of information. This book helped me to grasp huge metaphysical concepts by providing manageable explanations I could wrap my head around and delve into.
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Food and Fantasy in Early Modern Japan

Eric Rath
This is the best book I have read about Japanese culinary history.
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Gregory David Roberts
From every angle of love and life, Shantaram is a love story through and through. It's a book not to be missed, and hard to put down.
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Dining with the Maharajas: A Thousand Years of Culinary Tradition

Neha Prasad
This narrative is a glimpse into the dining culture of Indian royalty. History meets the kitchen here and the recipes are a glimpse into an often shrouded and fantastical world.
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