Wednesday, July 09, 2008

New Flavors for Appetizers: My First Cookbook

New Flavors for Appetizers


I've hinted at it for a long time but finally I can tell you about writing my first cookbook, New Flavors for Appetizers. Since it is now up on Amazon.com it's feels more real than ever. Here's how it all happened. The end of August last year I met with one of the senior editors at Weldon Owen, a publishing house that does lots of branded books. I learned about a new line of Williams-Sonoma cookbooks that was going to be launched in November of this year. They were looking to work with new writers and recipe developers, people who were comfortable with a variety of specialty ingredients and could develop fairly easy to execute recipes.

Not long after my first meeting I was offered a work-for-hire contract. So that means I got paid for developing the recipes and some headnotes (the little description that goes with the recipe title). This is unusual since most writers get an advance and then make more money based on how many books are sold. I was confident the book would be gorgeous, because Weldon Owen has been working with Williams-Sonoma on cookbooks for a long time.

The series is called New Flavors and focuses on ingredients that are becoming increasngly common such as wasabi, smoked paprika, cilantro, pomegranate, etc. All the recipes are organized by season and the photography is bolder and a bit more contemporary than in previous books. The cookbook I worked on was all appetizers. There are several other books coming out in the series, but doing appetizers was particularly fun. I can't imagine what it must have been like to do 45 chicken recipes! It may seem unusual, but I was given a list of recipe titles to work on. In some cases I suggested some changes but almost all of the ideas were really solid as is.

There were 45 recipes and only 8 weeks to get the first draft done. But I only had 6 weeks because I was in Japan for two of the weeks. I took copious notes and lots of pictures to help me document the process. Some days I worked on 4 or 5 recipes. Somehow it all came together. I had two more chances to test and make changes as the manuscript moved through copyediting and photography. This was fortunate because some seasonal ingredients were a bit hard to come by. But if you have to do a seasonal cookbook, the Fall in the Bay Area is a pretty good time to do it.

Since I started in the Fall and finished my last round of revisions in the Spring, I have cooked several of the recipes and served them at parties. I'm glad to say they have been very well received. It seems odd to have to ask for permission to reprint recipes I created, but that's how it works when you create recipes for a client. I do hope you will enjoy the book as much I enjoyed coming up with all the recipes. It will be available in Williams-Sonoma stores in September and in bookstores in November. Oh, and the photo on the cover? It's Buckwheat blini with Smoked Salmon and Horseradish Cream.