What it's really like to write a cookbook

Jessica Battilana

If you've co-authored five cookbooks with five different chefs, writing your own cookbook should be a piece of cake, right? Not so, says Jessica Battilana. She has worked with temperamental chefs and tight deadlines before, but writing her own cookbook proved to be a much more difficult task.

Writing a cookbook with chefs meant Battilana had to act as a self-described "Full-time Pain in the Ass." She notes that it was her job to "badger them with questions about pan dimensions; to hound them for plausible substitutions for dried wood ear mushrooms; to rush at them, measuring spoons in hand, to ensure that a pinch is only a pinch. Behind their backs, I've rolled my eyes when their recipes casually called for a Vitamix, a chinois, or any other of a dozen tools that the average home cook most likely doesn't have."

So when it came time to pen her own cookbook, Battilana thought it would be a breeze. She discovered that while she didn't have to deal with the issues described above, a new set of issues cropped up to take their place. Her home kitchen turned into a chaotic mess, recipes that she had made many times before confounded her when she was trying to get the measurements just so, and her family got tired of eating the same dishes over and over. Plus, as Battilana found out, she was a pain in the ass to herself. She says "I thought it impossible that I'd end up being harder on myself than I'd been on the chefs I've worked with, the ones I'd cajoled and badgered with questions. Turns out I was wrong about that, too."

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