When an art photography giant like Taschen goes into cookbooks, you know that something interesting is going on in the colourful world where good food meets glossy paper. Modernist Cuisine, self published on the web in April last year by “food scientists” The Cooking Lab and hailed as an instant classic, has been adopted by the renowned German publisher who translated it into German, French and Spanish and published it with a new cover and its famous super-high quality paper.
It’s not “just” about recipes: this much was clear at the Paris CookBook Fair, whose third edition just hosted in Paris brought together approximately 90 publishers, as well as authors, chefs and foodies. With the best 1,000 books of 2011 on display along the hottest new items, the event produced a dazzling parade of cookbooks that belong in the library next to Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Mapplethorpe, rather than the kitchen shelves.
“Often cookbooks are bought not to be used, they are not ‘driven by the kitchen’; recipes are virtual tours of the world, it’s like reading travel stories even if you know you won’t make the trip”. Thus spoke Edouard Cointreau, one of the great names in the realm and French spirits and founder of Gourmand International, the organisation behind the fair. “You may choose one or two recipes and make them your specialities. For the rest, it’s like travelling through your mind, guided by the book”.
England’s Papadakis is another publisher who crossed the line. Traditionally dedicated to architecture, decorative arts, science and natural history, it made its first trip into the realm of food with Teatime, a sumptuous journey through London’s 50 best tearooms. “It’s a cultural as much as a culinary book, a way to explore different interpretations of tea”, says Alexandra Papadakis.
Visual Recipes, self published by the Finnish photographer Marina Ekroos, presents entire recipes through single photos. Each shot depicts a dish as raw ingredients, intermediate step and the final product. Food Landscapes, by English photographer Carl Warner (published by Abrams Image), transforms food into urban and countryside scenery. Its unique style earned Warner the privilege to design the 2012 Cookbook Fair poster.
The younger Edouard Cointreau, who shares his name with his father and with the creator of the world-famous liquor in 1849, is happy with the response of the industry: “Publishers such as Kornmeyer used to be habitués of the Frankfurt fair, then left it to establish a presence here: it’s a recognition of how we became the hub of the cookbook rights market”.
A few heads were also turned by Table Manners: a Culinary Review of Hospitality in Antigua and Barbuda, by Jaine Conley and Gulliver Johnson. “This is an absolute wonder of a book”, the younger Mr. Cointreau says almost to himself. “Food is culture”.
“The cookbook market is healthy and growing 5 to 10% a year in most countries”, adds his father. “In China, the number of titles published has increased by 30% every year for the last ten years”. What turned some cookbook into art book, according to the older Mr. Cointreau, is “the strong demand for quality: even as book get more expensive, they sell well”.
Next to him as is talks is Chocolate Collection, by Frank Ziegler, published by Germany’s Mattahes. “This book has made sensation all over the world”, says Mr. Cointreau. “Maybe you are never going to use chocolate in such creative fashion; but so what? You are buying the possibility to do it”.