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Tournament of Cookbooks

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Food52, a website and online community launched about a month ago by Amanda Hesser (ex–New York Times food editor) and Merrill Stubbs, celebrates the "unsung heroes" of the food world: home cooks. There's a growing database of user recipes as well as weekly contests where readers submit recipes; Hesser and Stubbs choose the ones they like best, which they prepare and post on the site as a video or slideshow. Over the course of 52 weeks, the community will vote on its favorites, which will eventually be published in the Food52 cookbook.

Food52 celebrates cookbooks too. Next week Hesser and Stubbs and their writer-friend Charlotte Druckman will launch a new project called the Tournament of Cookbooks, a sort of NCAA championship for 16 of the best cookbooks of 2009. Contenders include everything from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller to I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci. Judges are food writers, bloggers, chefs and other pros—including F&W’s own Gail Simmons and Grace Parisi—as well as noted foodies Gwyneth Paltrow and Nora Ephron. “We thought a sports-like tournament would be fun, with two books competing in each round,” says Hesser. “Rather than have the judges tell readers why they do or don't like a cookbook, we want them to articulate what makes one book better than another.”

The 17-day contest begins next Wednesday; the Food52 community can vote on whether they agree with the pronouncements. A party and panel discussion will follow in early November at NYC's Astor Center, where readers can hobnob with authors and judges, and maybe catch a glimpse of the winner's Piglet Trophy.

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