Top Chef’s Eric Adjepong Is Writing Not One, But Two Books
His cookbook celebrating the foodways of the West African diaspora and a children’s book come out in 2022.
Anyone who's written a cookbook knows that the process—from recipe development to cycling through edits—is a huge undertaking. For Eric Adjepong's publishing debut, he's raising the stakes by writing not one, but two recipe-filled books due to be released in the fall of 2022.
Sankofa, the chef's first cookbook with Clarkson Potter, is a collaboration with food writer and A Hungry Society creator Korsha Wilson that will focus on the lasting impact of the transatlantic slave trade on the food of the Southern U.S., Caribbean, and South America. The second deal, with Penguin Workshop, is for a yet-to-be-named children's book that will also explore the culinary storylines of the African diaspora, peppered with kid-friendly recipes and visuals.
"The children's book is a love letter to my daughter, really," says Adjepong. "She's two, so she's at the perfect age to be a sponge." The chef had yet to come across a children's book that talked about the food he grew up eating, and realized that writing one could encourage a new generation of kids to pursue the culinary arts as a viable career path.
While Sankofa, a Ghanaian word that translates to "it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot," and the children's book are each meant to stand on their own, they are inextricably linked. "I feel like every musician's first album is usually their best because they have all this knowledge and experience to share," Adjepong says. "There's so many stories to tell, and this has been years in the making."
In the coming months, the chef hopes to travel to Ghana with photographer Joshua Kissi to capture images for the book, but also do some R&D. "I really feel like I have the Avengers team with these book deals," Adjepong says, laughing.
As for the storytelling in Sankofa, teaming up with Wilson felt like an obvious choice. "She did a piece for The New York Times when I did my dinner at Craft with Tom Colicchio," he says. "You know when you meet somebody for the first time and it feels like you'd met before? We clicked." The pair met up later at the Philadelphia Chef's Conference where Adjepong says Wilson was "kind of finishing my sentences with the idea for the book, which I was looking for someone to help me write."
While Adjepong has spent much of his career reading and researching how food has made its way through the diaspora through the slave trade, he intends for both books to feature his personal takes on traditional West African dishes. Part of this involves flexibility. "I'm not going to expect anyone that's not in Ghana or the Carribean to grow cassava or red beans," he says, "so we'll address tradition while exploring substitutions in the footnotes."