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Thoughts on Producing a Cookbook

December 28, 2011 | Food for Thought, Informational

The day has finally arrived! I’ve finished testing and photographing 120 recipes for the cookbook project I’ve been working on for the past 6 months. As I begin final editing, I find myself reflecting on the process and looking back to those things I didn’t really expect about producing my first cookbook.Let’s start with the biggie – how much weight I’d gain. Maybe it’s because my book features recipes from top chefs all over Colorado, and hence there’s a greater volume of rich ingredients, but this book has put 5+ pounds on me. On a five foot tall person that’s a full size. Fortunately, my trainer, Dana, has a plan for me that starts January 1st.The amount of butter and heavy cream I ended up using was staggering. It’s one thing to read create a single recipe, but for the entire book, I used over 12 pounds of butter and over 13 quarts of heavy cream, half and half and whole milk. Don’t panic – I’ve clearly outlined in the more decadent recipes how to cut fat and calories. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something rich for a really special meal – splurge on something like the Lobster Mac ‘N Cheese! I never thought ahead of time about how many dishes I’d have to wash. David Liebowitz recently pointed this out in a blog post as well, and he’s right. While the “glamorous” part of the job may be cooking and photographing, the cleanup is just as big a part. He’s smart and wears gloves – I can’t stand them, so can’t wait for a special manicure to help my cracking hands and seriously ugly nails.I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the food styling and photography – and a bit overwhelmed at times by how much work it added to my project. Yes, it’s true that I asked to photograph for the book after I’d already negotiated the book contract itself. But I’m not sure I calculated that it would basically double the amount of work – for every hour spent cooking I spent an equal amount of time styling and shooting and editing photos. I loved every minute of it – much more than I thought I would.I never imagined just how sick of looking at food I would become – even though my puppy Ellie always waited patiently for every morsel to fall. I just couldn’t bring myself to throw food out, even when my refrigerator and freezer space was completely overtaken. I mean, I volunteer with an organization that works to end childhood hunger, so how could I toss perfectly good food? I fortunately came up with a plan to utilize assistants, serious home cooks who joined me for a day of cooking and photographing. They prepped dishes, held reflector cards and scrims, and washed dishes – and I could never have finished the project so quickly without their help. In return I sent them home with the food from the day for their families. I think we were all happy with that deal. Well maybe everyone except Ellie.So now that I’ve taken down my photo studio in the corner of the family room (I never knew until I started this project what great light shines on that little southwest corner of my house), I’ve got a few things on my list that need attention – my office needs an overhaul, my cookbooks are in serious need of some organization (that includes adding the rest of my collection to Eat Your Books, a cool website that indexes recipes from your books so you can search in one online place), I have year-end expenses and taxes to deal with – and finally, I have time again to cook what I want and blog about it. I’ve been limited in my time allotted to cooking for myself with all of the cooking for the book, and I’m excited to get creative again and to share new things with you. Thanks for being patient while I worked on the book. I promise you the wait will have been worth it!


4 Responses | TrackBack URL | Comments Feed

  1. Michelle, I can’t wait for the cookbook to come out. I know it will be fantastic. Thanks for letting me help for a day. I had lots of fun in your kitchen and behind my camera. Hugs to sweet Ellie. Kirsten


  2. Congratulations Michele. What a major accomplishment. I’m sure it will be a great success. Can’t wait to see what lies in store for you this year!


  3. I don’t know if there is something wrong with me or not, but I love a sneak peak at your set up. I would rather look at your equipment and props than your closet. I love to see what pan your baked something in, (because a light pan is different from a dark finish), or what skillet you used to get that maillard (my new word I just learned). I love the input of what you do to set up for a photo shoot. So to get a peak at your props was very exciting to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love the recipes, but I think what you chose to cook it in is just as important. Thanks for the peak.


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