Tracy Russell, chef-owner Iron Horse Hotel & Restaurant

Tracy Russell is the chef-owner Iron Horse Hotel & Restaurant

Chef Tracy Russell moved to Blackwater, Missouri, in 2014 to run the 132-year-old Iron Horse Hotel & Restaurant. Inspired by his native New Orleans and his upbringing in Umbria, a region of central Italy, his menu blends Southern, Cajun and Italian flavors with some local favorites. The restaurant opens for the season on Easter Sunday, at which time you can enjoy the gnocchi al pesto – potato dumplings tossed with fresh basil pesto, Romano cheese and pine nuts – or the Creole shrimp with fluffy white rice, among other dishes, in the bespoke space. Amid the Iron Horse Restaurant’s stone walls, pressed-tin ceiling and ornate furniture reminiscent of a bygone era, Russell chose three cookbooks that have impacted him. –Kasey Carlson

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan (1992)

“Italian food in Italy is quite different than Italian food here in the States. [Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking] is a great book to get real traditional Italian food fit for the American palate.”

The Pasta Bible by Jeni Wright

The Pasta Bible by Jeni Wright (1999)

“I love pasta. There are so many things to do with it, and this book incorporates almost every traditional Italian pasta there is. And most Americans will eat anything if it’s in pasta.”

A Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman

A Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman (2014)

“[A Passion for Baking] has inspired me to start baking quite a bit more – [especially] desserts for the restaurant. It’s pretty up-to-date, but it’s simplistic. You don’t need to have an engineering degree to figure out how to bake a cake, how to do a soufflé – that sort of thing. If you can read, if you’ve been in a kitchen and can follow directions, it’s a good book.”

Iron Horse Hotel & Restaurant, 101 Main St., Blackwater, Missouri, 660.846.2011, ironhorsehotel.com