Famed baker Flo Braker dies at 78

 Flo Braker

We just learned the sad news that baking legend Flo Braker has died at the age of 78. The San Francisco Gate reported that Braker died of complications following a fall. 

Braker wrote several popular cookbooks, including her 1984 debut, The Simple Art of Perfect Baking, as well as the award-winning Sweet Miniatures  and The Baker's Dozen Cookbook. She also wrote a baking column for The San Francisco Chronicle for over twenty years, retiring in 2012. In 1997, she was inducted into the James Beard Foundation's Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America. She was a charter member of the IACP and served as the organization's president. 

The talented baker inspired home cooks and aspiring professionals alike. "She was so exacting in the way that she wrote her books and the way she explained baking," said Celia Sack, owner of Omnivore Books in San Francisco. "Whether in person or in writing, if felt like she was there holding your hand."

Shakeup in aisle five


In news that sent shivers down the backs of grocers across the US, and to a lesser extent Canada and the UK, Amazon announced today that it is buying Whole foods for $13.7 billion USD. When the news hit, stocks of major grocery chains like Kroger and Walmart dropped several percentage points.

The reason these food retailers - and their stockholders - are concerned is that Amazon has been trying to break into the food business for some time, and now has a jump start by acquiring Whole Foods' hundreds of physical locations. When they made the announcement, Amazon noted that  Whole Foods stores will continue operating under that name as a separate unit of the company. John Mackey will stay on to lead Whole Foods, which will continue to be headquartered in Austin, Texas.

It will be interesting to see how Amazon's low price model will impact the Whole Foods franchise, which is focused on high quality and organic foods. The grocer's sales have been flagging recently, partly due to a dustup about overcharging customers in New York City and more competition by discount chains like Aldi and Walmart, which have been expanding their organic and 'natural foods' selections. 

Bittman's back

Mark Bittman

Prolific cookbook author, respected food columnist, and EYB Member favorite Mark Bittman made waves when he left The New York Times back in 2015. He bounced around a bit following his departure, with a brief stint at the vegan meal-kit company Purple Carrot and a major move to the West Coast. Even though he still thinks leaving the NYT was the right move, he's been itching to return to the world of regular food writing. That itch has been scratched, as Grub Street announced today that Bittman would begin writing for both its website and New York Magazine

The author briefly discussed the reasons he left his longstanding gig at the paper, noting that while he loved writing The Minimalist food column, he didn't feel the same way about the opinion column he penned. He was circumspect about other conditions that led to his departure, saying only that he left for many reasons, "some of which I've written and talked about, and some of which are going to have to wait a bit longer."

Bittman recently moved back to the East Coast, landing at Glynwood, which he hails as "a wonderful, inspiring, and smart sustainable food-and-farming nonprofit near Cold Spring." While he may have given up weekly food writing when he left New York, Bittman didn't give up cookbook writing. His How to Bake Everything came out last fall, and he's working on a revision of How to Cook Everything Vegetarian that's due this fall.

He's already written his first column for Grub Street, and is ecstatic about his new role. Bittman has never been shy about his beliefs and will definitely sprinkle politics into his posts about food. "I want to write about cooking again, daily cooking, the kind of thing I think I do best, and I want a place to rant about food, justice, and the future of humans," he says. 

A sneak peek at Rose Levy Beranbaum's upcoming book

Rose Levy BeranbaumFans of Rose Levy Beranbaum have become better bakers thanks to her exquisite and thorough baking books, starting with Romantic and Classic Cakes, the groundbreaking The Cake Bible, and 2014's The Baking Bible. Rose is not content to rest on her laurels, however, and is busy working on another project titled Baking Basics. She recently posted about the photo shoot for the book on her blog Real Baking with Rose

She takes us inside the whirlwind four-day shoot in Manhattan's Flatiron district. The assistant to the stylist for The Baking Bible, Erin McDowell,  is stepping up to do the styling for the new volume. Erin also has a baking book coming out this fall under the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt imprint, called The Fearless Baker.

It's always interesting to see the behind-the-scenes work that goes into every cookbook. In the four days of the shoot, most of the recipes had to be made on site, making for some long days (and some well-fed office staff). Today's books feature so many gorgeous photographs that it is difficult to remember the days when only a few, if any, recipes merited such treatment. Now it is expected that most of the recipes will have a stunning picture to accompany them.

Judging from the sneak peek that Rose posted on her blog, Baking Basics will be another stellar cookbook. She piqued my interest with the name of one of the recipes, Japanese Milk Bread. Rose did not mention when we could expect the new cookbook, but there are plenty of recipes to keep us busy until the book hits the bookstores. We have the complete collection of Rose's recipes - from her cookbooks and blog as well as recipes in magazines and newspapers - indexed in the EYB Library

Grant Achatz is working on a new cookbook

 Aviary Cocktail Book photo

Over 500 EYB Members have a copy of Alinea by Grant Achatz on their Bookshelves. Alinea  was one of the first books to bring molecular gastronomy to the masses, written by a groundbreaking chef who continues to push boundaries in the restaurant world. Now Achatz is working on another cookbook, although this one isn't based on the restaurant, but rather on Achatz's Chicago cocktail bar, Aviary.

Achatz and his team are eschewing the traditional publication route, choosing to fund the book through Kickstarter. They are partnering with designers Allen and Sarah Hemsberger, who are overseeing the layout and photography. If those names seem familiar, that is because Allen ambitiously cooked his way through every recipe in Alinea and documented the project on the website (and later self-published book) The Alinea Project.

The reason the Aviary team chose this route is because of the constraints placed on authors in the traditional publishing model. On their Kickstarter page, the team notes that most drink books are thin volumes with few pictures and explains that due to profit concerns, a cookbook's "photography, design, layout, recipe structure, and printing quality are intentionally compromised." The Aviary team want their book to be on par with works by Thomas Keller or Alain Ducasse, which they describe as "fat, heavy, beautiful books".

By using the crowd-sourcing platform, the teams believes they can "work unconstrained by design and printing limitations" to offer a higher quality product. The description of their goal is as follows: "Beautiful pictures will show you the finished product. Recipes will be scaled for a single drink or, where appropriate, batched for a party. We'll even explore rare products, antique selections, and clever culinary techniques that can set your drinks apart."

There is more to the choice of crowd sourcing than simply having more creative control, however. Achatz and partner Nick Kokonas aim to completely disrupt traditional cookbook publishing. They note that most restaurants and chefs usually do not make much, if any, money on their cookbooks. Between recipe testing, photography, and design, the authors barely break even, an outcome they hope to avoid. "We will do our best to document how we do all of this so other restaurants and chefs can simply skip the publishers," Kokonas writes. "It's akin to a music deal - those have largely died - these will, too. Let's give them a shove over the tracks."

The minimum pledge to receive a copy of The Aviary Cocktail Book is $60 USD plus shipping and is only available to select countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and United Kingdom (shipping charges vary by country). A signed copy of the book is available to US customers only for $110 USD. They intend to open up to all international orders once the preorder process is complete (May 31); the project already exceeded its Kickstarter goal. 

Photo from The Aviary Cocktail Book Kickstarter page

James Beard chef and restaurant awards

cookbook collage

Yesterday the James Beard Foundation announced the winners of its chef and restaurant awards. Previously they announced the nominees and semi-finalists, with many contenders from across the United States competing in various regional and national categories like Best Chef Midwest or Outstanding Restaurateur.

You might recognize some of the chefs and restaurateurs who have written successful cookbooks, like Michael Solomonov of restaurant Zahav in Philadelphia, who was named 2017's Outstanding Chef and Corey Lee of Benu in San Francisco. This year's Outstanding Restaurant is Topolobampo, located in Chicago and helmed by veteran chef and author Rick Bayless.

Other winners already in the EYB Library include Marco Canora, Best Chef: New York City who has written several books; Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton, Best Chef Northwest winners and authors of Around the Fire: Recipes for Inspired Grilling and Seasonal Feasting from Ox Restaurant; Hugo Ortega, who wrote Hugo Ortega's Street Food of Mexico, and Steven Satterfield, author of Root to Leaf: A Southern Chef Cooks Through the Seasons

The 2017 Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America inductees include Evan Kleiman, Suzanne Goin, Roger Berkowitz, Michael Nischan, and Rajat ParrNora Pouillon of Restaurant Nora in Washington, DC took home the Lifetime Achievement Award. One name to be on the lookout for is this year's Rising Star Chef of the Year, Zachary Engel of Shaya in New Orleans. Engel was also named in Forbes' 30 Under 30 spotlight in 2017, so it is not a stretch to imagine a book deal floating his way soon.

JBF announces 2017 media award winners

 cookbook collage

At a gala held this evening, the James Beard Foundation announced its 2017 James Beard Media Award winners. This year will definitely go down as the Year of the South in American cookbooks. While Deep Run Roots was the runaway winner in the IACP awards, Ronni Lundy swept the JBF, winning in the American Cooking category as well as receiving the coveted Cookbook of the Year honor for her book Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes

Other EYB Member favorites snagged awards too. Dorie Greenspan took home the title for best Baking and Dessert book with Dorie's Cookies, and Meike Peters won the General Cooking category with Eat in My Kitchen. The latter book is currently the focus of the Cookbook Junkies cookbook club. 

Naomi Duiguid's Taste of Persia won the International category, and the Photography award went to Naomi Pomeroy's Taste & Technique. The Single Subject winner was Nick Haddow's Milk.Made. : A Book about Cheese. (Don't forget to enter our contest for your chance to win a copy of Milk.Made. plus Melts: Over 50 Delicious Toasted and Grilled Sandwich Recipes  AND some Cabot cheese!) 

See all of the 2017 winners on our James Beard Foundation Awards page

Seeds of Peace

We here at Eat Your Books love to spread the news of how food brings the world together in offering hope through gathering around the table to share food along with experiences. 

Earlier this week, I shared our worldwide promotion on #CookForSyria which is raising funds to help children affected by the conflict in Syria. My hope in sharing books that focus on the food and people in the Middle East is to bring a greater understanding of this area of the world through their food, culture and traditions. 

Joan Nathan, whose new book King Solomon's Table is out this month, shared on social media her involvment with Seeds of Peace. This organization brings together young leaders from across the United States to acknowledge and move beyond stereotypes, prejudices, and mistrust of others. Their camp in Maine creates rare and powerful opportunities for them to truly listen to each other's stories and experiences. Listening and understanding is the first step to bringing change.

For 24 years, Seeds of Peace has worked with youth from communities in conflict around the world. Seeds of Peace is committed to growing its US programs now more than ever. As these young leaders courageously sit down at the table together, the hope is that their new weekly post #Recipes4Peace inspires us to invite someone with a different perspective to our table.

"Breaking bread is a good start to building bridges." Joan Nathan and Micaela Varricchio curated this project and a host of amazing chefs took part. A new recipe is going to be posted every Friday for the next few months. The first recipe is from  Joan's  "King Solomon's Table: a Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World." A promotion on this title will be come soon but for now you can download her Double-Roasted Lemon Chicken (click through to the link which will take you to a download option where you can save each week's recipe). 

Other chefs contributing include José Andres, Mario Batali, Massimo Bottura, Giada di Laurentiis Bobby Flay, Pati Jinich, Aglaia Kremezi, Mourad Lahlou, Yotam Ottolenghi, Alon Shaya, Nancy Silverton, Christina Tosi and Alice Waters.

For more information on this program or to make a donation, visit Seeds for Peace.



The world's 50 best restaurants of 2017

 cookbook collage

The annual ranking of the World's 50 Best Restaurants has just been revealed. For the first time in several years, a US restaurant tops the list. Daniel Humm and Will Guidara's Eleven Madison Park moved up two spots from last year to claim the title of World's Best Restaurant for 2017.  The 2016 winner, Osteria Francescana  led by chef Massimo Bottura, slipped to second place.

Spain's El Celler de Can Roca also fell one place to claim the number three spot on the list.  The biggest mover in 2017 was Dan Barber's Blue Hill at Stone Barns, which rose an impressive 37 positions to land at number 11 in the rankings. The highest new entry award goes to Alléno Paris au Pavillon Ledoyen, located in Paris, France, which clocked in at 31. Daniela Soto-Innes of number 40 restaurant Cosme in New York is the only woman on the list. 

Turning to the specialty awards, Heston Blumenthal won this year's Lifetime Achievement Award while Dominique Ansel nabbed the title of Best Pastry Chef. Ana Roš of the restaurant Hiša Franko in Slovenia was named Best Female Chef.

Many restaurants on the list will be familiar to EYB Members from the cookbooks of the chefs who lead the eateries. A large number of those titles are published under the Phaidon imprint. Remember that EYB Members receive a 30 percent discount on books from Phaidon; visit the special EYB page to receive these great savings. You can also learn more about the books from chefs on this year's list on the Phaidon website

Several of the stunning Phaidon cookbooks from top 50 chefs on this year's and previous lists are indexed, including Mexico from the Inside Out by Enrique Olvera, D.O.M. by Alex Atala, Mugaritz by Andoni Luiz Aduriz, Noma by Rene Redzepi, Osteria Francescana by Massimo Bottura, Fäviken by Magnus Nilsson, Coi by Daniel Patterson, and Peru: the Cookbook by Gastón Acurio. El Celler de Can Roca is currently being indexed.

Non-Phaidon published books indexed on EYB include Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook by Daniel Humm and Will Guidara, Alinea  by Grant Achatz, Origin  by Ben Shewry of restaurant Attica in Australia, and several books by Alain Passard of Arpège in France and Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin in New York. Relæ: A Book of Ideas by Christian Puglisi is being indexed now. 

Ina Garten announces a new show

Cooking for JeffreyLooking for a good new cooking show to watch? Keep your eyes on Food Network, because Ina Garten has just announced that she's working on a new show that will air on the cable channel. It appears that the series, titled 'Cook Like a Pro', is already in production and will likely premiere in May of this year.

Garten, author of last year's blockbuster cookbook Cooking for Jeffrey (nominated for a James Beard award), shared the news via Twitter earlier today. She captioned a photo with "Fun today filming with Lidey for my new series 'Cook Like a Pro' on @FoodNetwork!"

There has been no official announcement from the network, nor did the chef elaborate on what to expect from the show. There may be clues in the photo Garten shared on Twitter, however. The picture includes the chocolate chevron cake she posted on Instagram earlier this month, in which she uses a simple technique to achieve sophisticated results with the cake's icing. Perhaps that contains a hint of what's to come in her new show. 

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