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The ‘411’ on cookbook writers

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You’ve probably heard this at least once in your life…someone in your family probably said it while sitting around the table at a big dinner, and it was most likely your mother or Aunt Jean. It goes along the lines of: “You know, someone should really sit down with your grandmother and write down all of her recipes, because (Heaven forbid) the day that she’s gone, you’re going to wish you had all of those things down on paper. Heck! You could even turn that into an authentic [Italian, Asian, German, etc.] cookbook and make a boatload of money.”

Sure that might work, except that most “authentic” grandparents (especially the Italian ones) cook in the “just-a-pinch-of-this and some-of-that and a handful-of-this” measurement style which could possibly be really hard to gauge if you actually were to sit down and record all of their recipes.

Now, the average home cook might manage to get a few of the family favorites down (in addition to some other tips and recipes they have picked up along the way), but could you imagine actually sitting down and writing an entire cookbook?

Obviously this isn’t something that just happens overnight. But just think of everything that goes into writing a cookbook. The perfection of ingredients, the pictures, the grouping of recipes into different categories – it’s a lot. Most cookbooks usually involve a small army that is made up of multiple contributing chefs, the writers, the recipe-developer-testers, the photographers, the printers, the editors, the publishers and then the distributors. (Well, those last four will usually be taken care of by the company you are writing the book for).

Before a cookbook writer starts their process, they have to have a good hook. What will make their cookbook different from the rest? After all, who really needs another classic Italian cookbook or a beginner’s guide to vegetarian eating? Today, most people just turn to the Internet or some social media sites if they are looking for quick information on either how to cook a certain ingredient or how to cook in a different style.

Once they have a new, original and exciting theme for their book, a cookbook writer will usually reach out to a few chefs in their network for help in coming up with the recipes they will write. Most of the time, they will just give them dishes that will fit the style they are going for, and offer guidelines on how to best prepare the dishes. Most chefs tend to cook just like everyone’s grandmother (but without too many formal measurements).

Next in line are the recipe developer and tester. These people are very lucky. They get to take all of the information from the chefs and turn it into an actual cookable recipe, so that anyone who reads the cookbook can apply what’s on the page into practice. They test the measurements they use to see if items such as butter, margarine or a different type of oil will make the recipe taste better, how the order of the ingredients added to a recipe will affect its cooking, and any other factors. They will definitely create every dish a few times, recording the changes they make in each one to ensure culinary perfection!

The next person to come into the picture is the writer. They will take the finalized recipes (from the recipe developer and tester) and write the ingredient list and instructions in a way that is cohesive for readers to understand. Sometimes the recipe developer and tester also serve as writers.

After this comes the design and photography for the book. These are usually done by outside sources, and are recruited either from the cookbook writer’s network or from the publishing company.

Now, the process described above is a basic outline for how many major cookbooks are published. Oftentimes, the same person can play all of these roles before handing their cookbook over to a publisher for printing and distribution.

The cookbook market is actually one of the most over saturated on the market, but it is also one of the highest grossing. Mothers, fathers, at-home chefs and those learning to cook will never give up their love of creating delicious dishes right in their own kitchens. If you can break into the cookbook industry after producing a high grossing cookbook, it can truly be a rewarding and fun career. If you are interested in joining the culinary industry in this always-growing sector of the food world, you should consider starting your career at Star Career Academy. Their professional cooking program will give you the skills and knowledge you’ll need to start writing a cookbook of your own!

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