Cookbook collaboration: How it should work

Dieterle & Friedman
Andrew Friedman is a highly regarded cookbook collaborator and on his website, Toqueland, he's just finished a fascinating two-part series on how to create a unique cookbook. Admittedly spurred on by the recent controversy about cookbook collaborations, he presents the opposite story - how a good working relationship can produce a valuable and unique cookbook.

Harold Dieterle, the winner of Top Chef's first season and current owner of two successful restaurants, approached Friedman looking for some help in writing his first cookbook. Dieterle needed to do it the old-fashioned way - starting with the need for a concept and proposal to sell to publishers, and then learning how to write the book for a general audience.

The two-part blog details the process, starting at the beginning when the main goal was to come up with an attractive concept that bridged what Dieterle did in his kitchen with what home cooks did in theirs. Two obvious approaches were immediately discarded -  apparently restaurant cookbooks are no longer popular, and "Chef X cooks at home" is too generic. After several frustrating months, the idea hit:

"And then, one night, while poring over Harold's recipe lists at home, something hit me, a series of related ideas that followed one after the other in quick succession, like a line of mental dominoes tipping each other over: Each of Harold's dishes has one or two elements that really put it over the top, and (this was the key observation) might have multiple applications in other dishes. What if, I thought, we wrote a book in which we presented recipes for fully formed dishes on one page, and on the facing (opposite) page isolated the most potent and/or versatile element of the dish, wrote an essay about its charms, and offered a number of ways to deploy it?"

With the approach and title, Harold Dieterle's Kitchen Notebook, determined, the blog continues to detail how this concept was fleshed out. There are some great tips along the way; especially in Part II, where Friedman details the collaboration procedure on one recipe, Ricotta Cheese, Acorn Squash Tempura, Truffle Honey, Sunflower Seeds, and Grilled Bread. There's a 7-minute video where the two discuss the raw form of the recipe, and then an explanation and presentation of the necessary revisions to the recipe to make it home friendly and have Harold's voice. Then there's the accompanying detail of one ingredient, Homemade Ricotta.

This is a fascinating read and one that highlights why collaboration can be especially valuable when writing cookbooks.

1 Comment

  • ellabee  on  5/16/2012 at 12:38 PM

    This, because of its specificity, is the most interesting of all the discussion of cookbook collaborations so far. But the post makes it sound as if the controversy has to do with objections to the idea of cookbook collaboration; my impression is rather that what sets people off is when collaborators ("ghostwriters") are insufficiently acknowledged.

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