This article posted on Bon Appétit’s website yesterday sheds some interesting light on the job of ghost-writing and co-authoring books with chefs and other celebs. It was fun to see a number of friends included in the piece! I’ve never ghosted a cookbook–contributing to the book’s content without direct attribution–but have co-authored a few that are akin to projects mentioned in the article.
I can’t agree more about the sentiment that one of the top benefits of working on chef/restaurant books is the learning experience. There is always so much to glean while working at the elbow of a great chef. In my intro to the Rover’s cookbook I worked on with Thierry Rautureau, I referenced the collaboration as a “culinary refresher course,” and in conversations I often called it my grad school program, on the heels of my La Varenne education.
Oh, and I absolutely echo David Joachim‘s description of having to watch the chef in action to capture how the recipe comes together and put it on paper later–so many chefs rely on their instincts and inspirations rather than written recipes. But it’s hard to make a cookbook from of the ephemeral, creative cooking-in-the-moment that chefs do. “The trick comes in freeze-framing that creative spirit long enough to record the moment for future reference, for your reference,” is how I put it to readers in the Rover’s book. Then I went on to explain our rhythm of working together a few days a week in the restaurant’s kitchen, Thierry cooking, me madly typing away on my laptop (which I always wrapped in a sheet of plastic first thing in the morning–pro tip!). Back home I’d write up drafts of the recipes and test them all in my pretty-much-average kitchen.
It took a ton of time, that project, but I loved every minute of it and I’m proud of the book it produced (sadly out of print but still in circulation through various used-book outlets). And it came with a not-insignificant bonus: a diet of amazing French cuisine with Thierry’s distinct flair for those months we worked together. My friends were particularly fond of being guinea pigs for that project!