[Sca-cooks] The Future of Cookbooks

Johnna Holloway johnnae at mac.com
Tue Jun 8 14:37:19 PDT 2010

BEA is the annual Book Exposition for booksellers. It sponsored this  
recently. This comes from a PW newsletter.


Debating the Future of Cookbooks at BEA
Panel discussion shows both sides
by Lynn Andriani
Jun 07, 2010

At a Book Expo where convention-goers walked past piles of printed  
galleys on their way to conferences about e-books, e-readers, and e- 
everything, it was fitting that the panel "The Future of Food Writing  
and Cookbook Publishing" on May 26 featured a mix of old- and new- 
school opinions. Editors, publicists, salespeople, agents, and writers  
involved in cookbooks crowded into a too-small meeting room at the  
Javits Center to hear Fine Cooking editor Laurie Buckle wrangle Norton  
editor Maria Guarnaschelli, New York Times columnist and In the  
Kitchen with a Good Appetite author Melissa Clark, Apartment Therapy:  
The Kitchn founding editor Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan, and Tasting  
Table editor Nick Fauchald, as they considered the state of the  

Within minutes of asking the panel what they thought about crowd- 
sourced recipe site Food 52's recent "online food fight" with Cook's  
Illustrated, it was clear there were some diverse opinions at the  
table. Clark, Gillingham-Ryan, and Fauchald were able to draw on their  
deep experience with online food writing, offering unique perspectives  
on how people learn to cook today, and what role food bloggers play  
(Clark compared them to magazine editors, or "curators"). Although the  
results of the Food52/Cook's Illustrated showdown weren't revealed  
until after the panel (Cook's Illustrated won), Food52 got some love  
from Clark, who noted, "Cook's Illustrated recipes work, but half the  
time they don't taste that good." Is it even possible to say which  
medium--print or online--has better, more reliable recipes? As  
Gillingham-Ryan put it, "Sure, there's a lot of crap on the internet.  
But there's a lot of bad cookbooks."

And then there was Guarnaschelli, the esteemed editor of stalwart  
classics ranging from The Cake Bible to The Joy of Cooking. She said  
she hadn't seen Food52. Regardless: "I don't think you can compete"  
with Cook's Illustrated--or cookbooks, for that matter, Guarnaschelli  
said. Throughout the hour-long discussion, Guarnaschelli made it clear  
that she may not spend a lot of time reading food blogs, although she  
mentioned that she'd recently signed up a book by Goodeater blogger  
(and Cook's Illustrated writer) Kenji Alt. And she may not be a big  
fan of Twitter ("All these people commenting--who cares what they have  
to say? What do they know?") but she knows that some cookbook authors-- 
she mentioned Norton's Rick Bayless--have huge followings. (Clark said  
Twitter is a great research tool: "it's our way to reach out and get  
immediate responses").

By the end of the discussion, Guarnaschelli had taken over, asking the  
other panelists, "How does a cookbook author start a blog?", getting  
an answer, and remarking, "Boy, did I learn something!" The panel may  
not have determined the future of food writing or cookbook publishing,  
but it certainly proved that food writing and cookbooks are a genre in  

This story originally appeared in Cooking the Books, PW's e-newsletter  
for cookbooks.

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