Cookbook ghostwriters – the secret behind the sauce

The French Laundry cookbook

Some time ago there was quite a kerfluffle about cookbook ghostwriters (here’s the blog we wrote to refresh your memory). Rachael Ray, in particular, took great umbrage. The Chicago Tribune has brought the subject up again in an article called Hidden Ingredients,  but this time they’re highlighting some great chefs who aren’t afraid to look for help.

To begin, they discuss Thomas Keller’s collaboration with Michael Ruhlman. Keller needed help writing, noting, “Working 12 to 14 hours a day, six days a week, and trying to write a book at the same time? It’s a little questionable,” Keller says. “I’m also a person that realized the things I’m good at and the things I’m not good at. … And I don’t know how to write cookbooks.”

And Ruhlman took over the Cyrano role:  “Like culinary method actors, these writers do whatever it takes to crawl into a chef’s head – or at least under their toque – to find, not just their voice, but their ethos. At the same time, some are charged with the equally challenging task of ensuring that the recipes being adapted to a consumer kitchen don’t turn out half-baked.”

The article continues on to discuss other fruitful collaborations including David Joachim and Kevin Gillespie. It’s a fascinating insight into a world where egos can run high – but great chefs’ desire for perfection can run even higher.

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