Ain’t Gonna Be No Proposal

Grand Central Publishing Acquires Harold Dieterle Book Project Based on Toqueland Posts

Harold Dieterle (photo courtesy Perilla restaurant)

I haven’t even met Amanda Englander and she’s already made a liar out of me.

After two recent posts about the book concept Harold Dieterle and I had devised for a forthcoming project, Harold Dieterle’s Kitchen Notebook, I promised to keep you all posted on the proposal process. But that won’t be happening because Amanda, an editor at Grand Central Publishing, swooped in and bought the project, sans proposal, based on the idea, the blog posts, and on her and the company’s enthusiasm for Harold and what he does. We couldn’t be happier: while it’s always a useful exercise to write a proposal, the notion that we get to jump right in and start writing the book is incredibly appealing.

The way this all came together, with a series of phone calls and emails between Amanda and our agent, David Black, brought up a little fact of publishing life that I always find amusing: It’s very common to sell projects to an editor without having met her or him. Every once in a while you engage in a series of face-to-face meetings with editors or perhaps entire conference-rooms full of publishing and marketing executives at various houses, but it’s just as, if not more, common to sell the book to somebody you’ve never actually met, which is kind of funny when you think about how intimate the editorial process is. Amanda and I spoke for the first time just a few minutes ago (we hit if off – whew!) and she, Harold, and I will meet over coffee some time in the coming weeks.

Herewith, the publisher’s announcement:

Grand Central Publishing is delighted to announce that it has acquired world rights to HAROLD DIETERLE’S KITCHEN NOTEBOOK by Harold Dieterle and Andrew Friedman. The book, tentatively scheduled to be published in Fall 2014, was acquired by Amanda Englander from David Black at David Black Literary.

HAROLD DIETERLE’S KITCHEN NOTEBOOK will feature approximately 100 recipes based on the new American influences found in Dieterle’s food, each with one “star” ingredient or preparation highlighted on a notebook page that shares an essay on that component and more recipes and tips for using it.

Harold Dieterle is the chef-owner of Kin Shop and Perilla restaurants in New York City. Dieterle was the winner of season 1 of Top Chef. Andrew Friedman  is a prolific cookbook collaborator who has worked with chefs such as Alfred Portale, Laurent Tourondel, and Michelle Bernstein. He is also the founder and chief contributor to Toqueland.com.

As I’ve mentioned before, this is the first collaboration I’ve set up with a publisher since launching Toqueland; Harold and I look forward to giving readers a glimpse into the entire writing and production process, from now through the book’s publication in 2014.

Andrew

 

Inside the Writer’s Studio

A Working Session Reveals Where the Chef Ends and the Collaborator Begins 

[Editor’s Note: In this post, the second of a two-part series about working on a cookbook proposal for Harold Dieterle’s Kitchen Notebook, we take you inside a working session. – A.F.]

Harold Dieterle, left, and Andrew Friedman, at Morandi restaurant, NYC

The other day, I shared a little about how the idea for my next collaboration, Harold Dieterle’s Kitchen Notebook, came about. If you haven’t already, I suggest you read that post before reading this one, to familiarize yourself with the book’s concept and structure.

Today, I thought it might be interesting to take you inside an actual working session, for two reasons: (a) to demonstrate how a cookbook takes shape, from inception to publication; this is the first collaboration I’ve taken on since relaunching Toqueland earlier this year, and I plan to track its every development here, and (b) after the confusion left in the wake of some recent newspaper stories about collaborating, I thought there’d be nothing like pulling back the curtain on the process to help clear up how things actually work, at least between one chef and one collaborator.

Two of the most important components of a cookbook proposal are the sample recipes and text. Herewith, the genesis of some material, in three steps:

STEP 1:

Harold emails me a recipe for a dish.

Here is the recipe for Ricotta Cheese, Acorn Squash Tempura, Truffle Honey, Sunflower Seeds, and Grilled Bread, exactly as it was received:

Tempura

All Purpose Flour 1 cup

Soda Water 1 pint

Put the flour & soda water in a bowl; mix vigorously with a whisk, then strain & reserve.

Acorn Squash- peeled, sliced 1/4in thick 1ea. / about 16 slices

Truffle Honey 2T

Sunflower Seeds-toasted 3T

Grilled/toasted Sourdough Bread- ¼ inch thick 8 slices

S&P tt **

Extra Virgin Olive oil 4 T

[** “tt” = “to taste”]

Preheat deep fry or large pot of oil to 350f. Coat the acorn squash slices in tempura batter. Remove excess batter and place in the oil for about 2 minutes or till golden brown. Remove from oil, season generously with salt & pepper and lay on paper towel.

To The plate;

Place 2 slices of bread on each plate drizzle each slice with olive oil, place ricotta cheese on each slice. Next drizzle truffle honey over the cheese, sprinkle sunflower seeds over the top. Finish by laying squash tempura over the top.

[NOTE: Harold also sent along his recipe for homemade ricotta and ways to vary/use it, all of which has been edited below. In the interest of space, I’m not including his version here; suffice it to say the level of detail and description was comparable to what you see above.]

STEP 2:

We conduct an interview based on the recipe.

Here’s the audio of our interview about both the dish and the ricotta cheese. I’m presenting the full, 7-minute dialog here for those interested in how all elements find their way into the text that follows, but you might well get the gist after a minute or two.

Harold Dieterle Interview – ricotta (April 13, 2012)

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Eureka!

After Months of Brainstorming with Harold Dieterle, A Cookbook Concept Emerges

[Editor’s Note: In this post, the first of a two-part series, we take you inside the process of developing of a new book project. This piece describes how a concept is devised; the follow-up, which I’ll run on Friday, will take you inside a working session, complete with audio of an interview and an illustration of how a chef-collaborator relationship works. – A.F.]

Right in Front of Our Noses: Everything We Needed to Know was Locked in Here (photo copyright by Andrew Friedman)

Every so often, somebody pondering a book idea asks me for advice. One of the questions that inevitably arises is how long it takes to write a book proposal, the document that literary agents circulate to editors and publishers in hopes of setting the project up with a publishing house.

“Writing a proposal only takes a few weeks,” I say. “The variable is how long it takes to come up with a concept.”

With very few exceptions, even the most well-known culinary celebrities need a solid concept to convince a publisher that their book is viable. Oh, sure, if you’re a big enough television star, you might be able to sell the flimsiest of ideas, or even enter into a blind book deal, with the idea to come at a later date. Generally speaking, though, a concept will make or break one’s publishing prospects.

I’ve collaborated on projects where the concept was evident from the get-go, restaurant books being the most obvious examples, along with those that grew directly out of a chef’s area of specialization, such as Go Fish, which Laurent Tourondel and I conceived while he was the chef of the posh seafood temple Cello. In cases where the concept isn’t as turnkey, my main goal is to come up with a concept that bridges what a particular chef does in his or her restaurant kitchen(s) with what home cooks do in theirs. Sometimes the answer reveals itself quickly; others it can take several frustrating months

As mentioned a few months back on this site, Harold Dieterle and I have been engaged in a sporadic dialogue about a possible cookbook project since last fall. It’s been a long and winding road: At first, we were going to write a Thai book since Harold has such a passion for it. But we succumbed to the commercial limitations of that notion, switched gears, and decided to write a more general cookbook. To put it in restaurant terms, we went from focusing on what Harold does at Kin Shop to what he does at Perilla.

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The Toqueland Ten: Harold Dieterle

In the First Post of a New Recurring Feature, the Chef of Perilla and Kin Shop Shares his Favorite Ingredients, and Why They Make the Cut… 

Harold Dieterle (photo courtesy Perilla)

Harold Dieterle and I are in the early, kicking-it-around-in-coffee-shops stage of conceiving a book project that we hope to write together in the near future.  (Read a little about our backstory here). Originally, Harold wanted to do a book about Thai food, but we recently decided to write a more general cookbook putting forth the style of food he serves up at Perilla, which draws on American, Thai, Italian, and other influences… in other words, his own personal brand of that thing we desperately need a new name for: contemporary American cuisine.

The challenge at this stage of the process is coming up with what I refer to as the “bridge” between what home cooks do and what chefs do. One exercise I use to help get to the core of what a chef is all about on the plate is to ask him or her to name ten favorite ingredients and explain the choices. (Writing this post, it occurred to me that this is a revealing thing to do with any chef, so I’ll be sharing more Toqueland Ten interviews soon, and indefinitely.)

Herewith, the inaugural list, from Harold Dieterle:

1. SALT. Hadn’t heard this one before, and at Number 1, no less. Of course, salt might be the most important ingredient, but a favorite? Not only does Harold appreciate salt (“It’s what it all starts with,” he said.), but he enjoys using different salts for different purposes: Kosher salt on meat; fine sea salt on roasted fish; coarse sea salt on raw fish, and so on. He also has a special fondness for the ceremony of presenting whole roasted fish in a salt crust to a table of guests, and the cracking and portioning that follows.

2. CRAB. “When I was a kid on Long Island, we used to go crabbing,” says Harold. “On vacation, my parents would pick out restaurants based on which ones had crab on the menu. They always made me order from the kids’ menu in our hometown, but on vacation, they insisted I treat myself to the adult crab dishes. There’s just not another protein that makes me so happy.”  His favorite varieties, in order of preference: (i) King, (ii) Dungeness, (iii) A tie: Blue and Snow, (iv) Stone, and (v) Peekytoe…. 

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