The Piglet cookbook contest

Smitten kitchen vs. small plates

Since we are confident that our readers love cookbooks, we wanted to make certain that people are aware of Food52‘s Piglet contest. It’s a bracketed tournament of cookbooks, where they choose 16 notable cookbooks from the previous year and have them square off for the Piglet trophy. They ask a top food writer or chef to judge between two cookbooks. The winner goes on to a contest against the winner of another two-cookbook contest (think of the NCAA basketball tournament). Each contest has a different judge. The contest takes place over the course of 3 weeks, with a decision published each weekday.

We find this contest fun for a number of reasons:

  • It reveals as much about the judges as the cookbooks, since each judge must write a full review of their decision. It’s immediately apparent which judge takes the job seriously and which doesn’t – and the ones that don’t definitely lose some stature in the eyes of the community. Ina Garten, for example, took a lot of grief last year when she chose The Mozza Cookbook over Cook This Now when she apparently didn’t test recipes from Cook This Now and gave it only a superficial review.
  • People can choose to vote on whether the judge got the decision correct. Most of the time the vote goes with the judge, but in some cases it definitely goes against the judge. In the Garten decision, for example, the vote was 41 disagreed and only 17 agreed.
  • If you’re interested at all in buying one of these books, it’s an excellent way to read solid, indepth reviews (we will be adding links from the book pages on EYB).

In 2012, Alice Waters judged the last two books standing, Momofuku Milk Bar and The Art of Living According to Joe Beef. She chose the latter book as “Appropriately, the decision between who wins the Piglet award this year between  Joe Beef and Milk Bar came back to crack, and ultimately, I would rather be building a garden from a den than to be an addict.” You can read the review here to understand this fully.

The current contest is still in its first bracket, here are the results to date.  (Look in the right-hand column for the decisions that have already been made).  There already has been one controversial decision, where Asian Tofu beat out Jerusalem. It should be fun to see what else comes down the road.


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  • TrishaCP  on  February 16, 2013

    Other than Melissa Clark, I have to say the reviews have been disappointingly awful through the first round. My personal preference, but I want more evidence that reviewers are actually cooking from the books they review. And they shouldn't be reviewing books they already personally owned prior to Piglet. (Especially, when that book wins! This happened at least once this year, and the reviewer did not disclose that fact in their writeup.) I think the Piglet would benefit from more standardized guidance, even if it means they don't get as many high profile reviewers because of the time involved. (Though when Nigella was a reviewer in the past, she tried multiple recipes from both books, so it is possible to find big names that would take their decision seriously.) Maybe it was fine to be more casual when they started the competition, but I don't think it is ok anymore as it is better known. Nothing against Asian Tofu, but that result was crazy….seriously, the reviewer couldn't find sumac in NYC?

  • Queezle_Sister  on  February 17, 2013

    This was fun to watch last year — I had forgotten about it. Thanks for the heads up.

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