where the writers are
Know When To Fold Them - Writing A Cookbook

 I fit the cliché that I enjoy perusing cookbooks whether or not I plan to cook or bake. Let me gaze upon the pictures. Let me imagine a groaning board and a white-gloved waiter at my back about to refill my glass. I'm not sure I would say that meal preparation is half the fun of a meal - but it is still a lot of fun.

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Chef Anita Lo & Writer Charlotte Druckman on Cookbook Writing

By Maryann Yin

In preparation for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving dinner, amateur chefs around the country are consulting cookbooks for ideas.

For a side dish with a Japanese-Mexican fusion spin, try the “Roasted Kabocha and Maitake with Bitter Chocolate” recipe listed on the bottom of this post.

The recipe comes from Anita Lo, chef/owner of the Michelin star-rated New York City restaurant Annisa. We spoke with Chef Lo and her writing partner Charlotte Druckmanabout their cookbook collaboration project Cooking Without Borders.


A = Chef Anita Lo

C = Writer Charlotte Druckman

Q: How does a chef approach the cookbook creation process?
A: I’ve been trying to write this book for literally decades. I came up with the idea for this book in the early 90′s. You get an agent who can help you sell the book; you don’t necessarily have to have an agent but I did. You write a proposal. Hopefully someone buys the book; hopefully it gets several bids and you decide who is going to support you the best for what you want to do. I’ve been trying to write it myself for a billion years and realized that I just didn’t have the time. I ended up hiring a writer, Charlotte Druckman who is very talented and smart. I think I wrote a good portion of it, but the rest of it we sat down and sort of dictated what to write for the head notes and choose some recipes.

Q: How does one approach writing a cookbook? Is it about being technical and giving exact directions?
C: The first and most important thing is to come up with a focus and structure. In this case, my priority was not only to distill Anita’s culinary point of view, but also to find out what matters most to her, and what she wanted her cookbook to convey. That goes beyond the food. The recipes become examples of how she thinks and of her collective life experiences (in and out of the kitchen). They allow you to show readers who she is and what she values without your having to tell them. Once you’ve figured out what the book’s mission statement is, you want to, as a writer, get ‘The Voice’ down. The way that Anita expresses herself verbally is as important as the way in which she does that on the plate. I don’t want it to sound like me; I want you to read it and say, ‘That’s Anita.’ But, at the same time, the tone needs to match the content. Anita is a serious Chef (I capitalize that to distinguish it from home cook or even a chef-in-training or a chef who is just starting out) and her restaurant isn’t some casual brasserie. So, you don’t want something that sounds too colloquial; still, you want to feel as though Anita is speaking to you.