chef at Boston’s Toro. One of the publisher’s photographers
mentioned to Kiester that he had a friend who was thriving
with two restaurants in Boston and had an “infectious person-
ality to match.”
Again, a book deal was born from a good meal. “We tried
Jamie’s food, which is distinctive and delicious, and we signed
him, because we believed in him as a chef and visionary,” Kiester
says. Page Street released Bissonnette’s The New Charcuterie
Cookbook in 2014, and though Kiester acknowledges the
book’s niche appeal, he says the book “did better than expected”
and has strong backlist potential.
After Artisan executive editor Judy Pray met Sean Brock at
a party in 2010 and chatted about Southern cuisine, Brock, chef
at Husk in Charleston, S.C., mailed Pray the ingredients to his
Hoppin’ John recipe, the dish that “changed his life as a chef,”
according to Pray. “Making and tasting that dish made me
even more eager to work with him,” she says.
The recipe became the “emotional heart,” Pray says, of
Heritage, which was released by Artisan in October 2014 to
much critical acclaim, and which has now sold more than
55,000 print copies. It was awarded the 2015 James Beard
Award for Book of the Year in American Cooking, and the IACP
Julia Child First Book Award.
Here’s what it takes to break out a regional
chef to a national audience
BY CLARE SWANSON
From Iron Chef to MasterChef to Top Chef, there’s no shortage of national media attention for kitchen rock stars and those clamoring for the title. Food Network personalities, big-time bloggers, and now You Tubers continue to dominate the cookbook bestseller list. But cookbooks by regional chefs from across the country are also climbing the charts and winning awards
along the way. We spoke with publishers about how they put
hometown culinary heroes on the map.
A Matter of Taste
For many publishers, finding the next big cookbook author
happens in much the same way as finding a great new local
restaurant: word of mouth. A few years ago, Peter Cohen,
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Barnes & Noble rep, who lives in
Philadelphia, had been talking up Michael Solomonov’s modern
Israeli restaurant, Zahav, to Rux Martin, the editorial director
at her eponymous imprint at HMH. In September 2013, Martin
decided it was time for a visit.
“It felt like the whole house went down to Philadelphia,”
Martin says. “We had an amazing feast, and that, from our end,
Year, also winning in the international category,
and has sold more than 34,000 print copies to
date, according to Nielsen BookScan.
Martin points to a particular sensory element
that is unique to cookbook acquisition, one that
is invaluable when committing to an author
without an established national platform.
“[Tasting] was an incredible advantage,” Martin
says. “It’s very risky to preempt [a book by a chef]
whose food you haven’t tasted.”
Will Kiester, publisher at Page Street in
Salem, Mass., also found an author on a col-
league’s recommendation—Jamie Bissonnette,