Cookbook store profile: Featuring "the cookbook store" in Toronto

The Cookbook Store

Recently we began to offer an EYB feature highlighting independent cookbook stores. Now you can discover (or get reacquainted with) a store near your home - or plan a new target destination when you travel.

And to make this as strong a feature as we can, we're asking our members to help us. We already know of many great stores, which we keep an ongoing list of  (you can view them here), but we'd love to learn about more - especially those treasured by our members. So please share the names of independent cookbook stores that you know, love, admire, or are just plain crazy about. Add a comment to this posting, or email us at info@eatyourbooks.com with the name, address, and owner (if you know it). We'll do the rest.

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This month we've traveled to "the cookbook store," located on  850 Yonge Street in Toronto, Canada - a "bricks and mortar" store with thousands of culinary and wine titles. And they are especially proud of their program of hosting both local stars and cultural icons from the cooking world - including  Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Giada de Laurentiis, Anthony Bourdain, Bill Granger, Elizabeth Baird, Monda Rosenberg, Anne Lindsay, Lucy Waverman, Bonnie Stern, Paul Bocuse, Anton Mosimann, Nick Malgieri, Martha Stewart and Julia Child.

We started our Q&A with store owner Alison Fryer discussing being a "brick and mortar" establishment:

EYB: The Cookbook Store was set up before online bookstores dominated the market.  How have you tried to compete in the new trading environment?

Since we opened in 1983 we have always tried to make our store a community where you can not only buy books but also meet and discuss culinary ideas with authors, chefs, and those passionate about food. It creates and fosters a new generation of cooks, both for home and professional kitchens. At the same time we want to inspire and reinvigorate those who have been cooking for a while. To see people's faces light up with enthusiasm and passion when they meet their culinary heroes, such as Thomas Keller or Julia Child, or engage with an author such as Magnus Nilsson, Alex Atala and our own Canadian talent such as Mark McEwan, Michael Smith or Lynn Crawford. It's being a part of the magic. None of this you get in an online experience.

EYB: Why do the customers in your store prefer to come to The Cookbook Store?

We first, and foremost, love people. You can't be in  retail and not be a people person. Plus we get to work with food, wine, and publishing industries - what's not  to like! We engage with the culinary world and connect it to the public in a meaningful way. For example, yes we can host Ferran Adrià for over 500 people but we also hold knife skills classes for those who are just starting out. Both are equally important and I think our customers look to us to engage with them beyond the cookbooks. Of course we draw on over 30 years experience, we have had chefs, food stylists, cookbook authors, on staff; we currently have a very knowledgeable person on staff who is vegan; people trust us to recommend a book that will fit their needs. We really just talk food all day long!

EYB: Do you specialize in any particular areas of cookbooks?

We obviously can't be all things to all people but we try, we sell just as much of Muffin Mania ( an iconic self published Canadian cookbook) as we do the latest chef book. So we try to keep a broad spectrum of books.

EYB: What are the big sellers at The Cookbook Store?

Today? This week? Last month? Gosh it changes but at this time of year January focuses on healthy food, simple dishes. So: Plenty, Grain Power, One Good DishGramercy Tavern, For the Love of Soup, Tartine No 3.

EYB:  What type of books do you like to cook from yourself?  Do you have a favorite cookbook of all time?

I'm more of a classics person sprinkled with new ideas and I tend to focus on authors rather than specific books. I do keep a large collection of Canadian books as they sadly tend to go out of print faster. My list would include Marcella Hazan, Deborah Madison, Lucy Waverman, Julia Child, Dianne Rosen Worthington, Nigel Slater, Nigella Lawson and then David Tanis, Canal House, Ottolenghi, Yvette Van Boven. I think I'd better stop!

3 Comments

  • rachelnz  on  1/20/2014 at 12:31 PM

    Down here at the bottom of the world (New Zealand) we do have some cookbook stores but not in the provinces. However, in Napier where I live we are lucky to have a very good independent book store which has an excellent cookbook section and always seem to have the best of the latest releases or can them for you - Beattie and Forbes (http://www.beattieandforbes.co.nz). For any book lover visiting the area it is well worth a visit. Beattie and Forbes, 70 Tennyson St, Napier, New Zealand ph + 64 (06) 35 8726.

  • boardingace  on  1/20/2014 at 7:44 PM

    I love these interviews! I agree with the owners; creating a community with knowledgeable staff and fun, inspiring experiences is probably a big part of their success!

  • TheSeasonalGourmet  on  2/21/2014 at 1:36 PM

    I was very saddened to learn today that The Cookbook Store will be closing it doors after 31 years. They are having a closing sale starting on February 22nd, 2014. http://www.cook-book.com

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