Inside Julia’s Kitchen podcast with Matt Sartwell

The podcast Inside Julia’s Kitchen contains interviews with many distinguished and diverse culinary guests, including chefs and authors. Recent episodes include a conversations with Jacques Pépin and Ruth Reichl, and recently the podcast celebrated a milestone: its 50th episode. That conversation features Matt Sartwell, managing partner of NYC’s famed cookbook store Kitchen Arts and Letters.

Kitchen Arts & Letters

In the discussion, Sartwell explains how Kitchen Arts and Letters is different than other book stores and even from other cookbook stores. The store’s location is one key to the difference, as is a well-curated collection including hundreds of books imported from many countries. Sartwell and the staff at KAL work hard to learn the character of the books they sell. They want to know who the book is geared toward – someone just starting out on their culinary journey or a person who has already “gone down the rabbit hole” and looking for in-depth knowledge on a particular subject. 

Sartwell notes that publishers “aren’t always completely bright” when it comes to how they describe the books. He feels that the blurbs that accompany books often promise that it “will be all things to all people,” which actually does a disservice to the book. (Which is why I’m glad we can count on Jenny’s advice.) He also explains that cookbooks can be used just as much for inspiration rather than instruction manuals. Books like Mercados: Recipes from the Markets of Mexico that inspire you to get into the kitchen are magical, says Sartwell. 

If he has one complaint about the abundance of cookbooks that currently exists, it’s that they rely too heavily on photographs. People “have become so accustomed to photographic stimuli” that they often will not purchase a book if it doesn’t have any photos in it – including seminal works like Mastering the Art of French Cooking. 

The conversation gets even more interesting when it turns to Sartwell’s own favorites. As far as recent releases are concerned, he is impressed with Ruffage by Abra Berens and Season by Nik Sharma. One slightly older book he turns to time and again is Cucina Fresca: Italian Food, Simply Prepared by Viana La Place and Evan Kleiman. Listen to the episode to discover the other books Sartwell highlights. 

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