COME OUT OF
A slate of new cookbooks are using extraordinary photography
to entice consumers. By Kris Wilton
Gorgeous food imagery is everywhere these days, from the newsstand to the bookstore to the blogosphere, as epicu- rean culture basks in its 15 minutes of fame. Magazines and newspapers treat restaurateurs like celebrities, Top Chef draws millions of viewers each week, “foodie” has
entered everyday vocabulary, and there are thousands of Web sites devoted to food, cooking, entertaining and dining.
Food has become such a popular topic that new cookbooks need
something special to make them stand out. Luckily for book publishers
and editors, the attention and care paid to the production of culinary
books has attracted not just food photographers, but those with backgrounds in portraiture, lifestyle and even documentary work.
Three recent cookbooks in particular rely on unexpected photography to
tempt buyers. “I think it’s important to bring something that people can’t
get anywhere else, such as great narrative voice,” says editor Rica Allanic
of Clarkson Potter, publisher of numerous cookbooks including Momofuku
Milk Bar. “That coupled with fantastic photography can make a really different experience from grabbing a roast chicken recipe online,” says Allanic.
Though millions of recipes are available on the Internet for free, consumers are still willing to spend money on beautiful, photo-rich cookbooks. “These books continue to have value for consumers because
they’re objects,” says Rodale’s Shannon Welch, the editor of My Last
Supper: The Next Course, photographer Melanie Dunea’s second book
about chefs explaining how they
picture their last meal. Welch notes,
“I don’t know how many people
“While you can read a Stephen King
novel on your iPad and you’re not
really losing anything in terms of
experience, with a book like this it
really is about the printed edition,
seeing those photographs on pa-
per and being able to engage with
the book as an object.”
Though each of the 50 chefs in
Dunea’s book provides a recipe,
cooking might be beside the point.