Food52's Cookbook Champion

By Emily McKenna Posted November 10, 2009

Last night at the Astor Center in NYC, Food52’s Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs along with Charlotte Druckman announced the winner of their cookbook contest, The Piglet. Nora Ephron (writer and director of Julie & Julia) made the final call, picking Seven Fires by Francis Mallmann with Peter Kaminsky over Canal House Cooking by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton. But the most interesting part of the evening was a panel discussion that included finalists Kaminsky, Hirsheimer and Hamilton, as well as Hamilton’s sister Gabrielle, the chef/owner of Prune (whose collection of essays is due out next fall) and Peter Meehan, who co-wrote Momofuku with David Chang. That's when things heated up. The panelists debated food photography (“Styled food shots make me furious,” Gabrielle Hamilton said) and the importance of “cookability” (bringing attention to the infamously complicated Momofuku recipes). They also discussed the motivation for writing a book. Meehan suggested that he and Chang were not focused on the commerce end of the equation, to which Gabrielle Hamilton smirked, “Oh, that’s just the ‘David Chang shtick.’” But his comment begged the question: Is writing a cookbook a labor of love (Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton claim they wrote their cookbook for themselves—"We both laughed when our copy editor mentioned the reviews that would come in.") or a way to expand a brand and hopefully make some money? Kaminsky closed the night by saying, “The best food writing should make me want to taste the food.” It’s a fair bet that each of these cookbooks accomplishes this, and more.

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