Monday, May 17, 2010

The Perils & Panic of Writing a Cookbook

You read that right my friends - I'm writing a cookbook.

Correction: I've written a proposal to try to convince someone to hire me to write a cookbook.


Nah, I don't really mean that. In fact, I'm super excited to have even gotten this far. I thought it might be fun (i.e.: cathartic) to write it all down and put it all out there so that you can see what the process is like and lend me a hand through it because peeps, I don't think this is going to be easy.

Two years ago, I came to the realization that I am really, really good at teaching teens & tweens how to cook. I figured that the best way to get my skills out to the masses (because good heavens, someone has to teach these kids to cook!) was through a cookbook. I'm a little old-school and it seemed like the best plan of attack. So I started doing some research on how the process works.

Step One: Write a detailed proposal (approximately 50-100 pages-holy cow!) detailing the concept, your credentials, testimonials, outline, recipes to be included, sample chapter, & sample recipes.

I started the proposal just shy of two years ago.

For real.

Last spring, I took a class at the local community college on proposal writing - THAT was interesting. Truthfully, I stalled a bit on the proposal and didn't really get going in earnest until late fall 2009. In November, I took a class (specifically on cookbook proposal writing) that was absolutely amazing and extremely helpful. From there, I started pushing things into high gear.

I finished the first draft and hired an editor to take a look so that I could be sure to send out my best work. The editor was friendly and knowledgeable, but had a few unexpected delays. *sigh*

I started to get antsy. After attending a great lecture at BlogHer Food in September, I remembered a real pro on the panel and hired her to take a look ($$$) and give me her opinion on my work.

Ah hem - My voice is good, but I don't have a national platform. Without a national platform, it's impossible to get a contact.


What to do, what to do...

In my life, I've had one motto, thanks to my sister-in-law Mo: "What's a cup of water when you're drowning."

I got in touch with the amazing author who taught the class I took in the fall and asked her opinion. Bear in mind, this is a woman with mucho experience, but with no billion-visits blog, tv show, or the like. Just someone who is excellent at what she does and put out an admirable cookbook. And she said not to be afraid (I'm paraphrasing). She said to go for it.

So I did.

Step Two: Try to land an agent, because that's definitely the best approach to getting in with a publisher.

I mailed my first copy of my 63-page proposal to my first agent, and now sit, with fingers, toes, and spleen all crossed, waiting for the next 4 to 6 weeks to see if she thinks I have potential. Because that's really all I need - someone to see that I have the potential to write a great book to teach this audience that will sell. A lot.

I'm hoping I have the stomach to make it through my foray into the publishing world. And I'll let you know how it goes: good, bad, or ugly.

Friday, May 7, 2010

How to Make Easy Roasted Red Peppers

Last night, as I was whipping up some chicken souvlaki & French potato salad, I found an errant red pepper hiding in the fridge. Being a fan of the little guy, especially once he's all soft and sweet, I thought I'd toss him on the grill and take care of business.

(pic from Fairway in NYC *sigh*)

My brother and his wife were joining us for dinner and looked at me like I was crazy once I started burning the pepper. I thought maybe, if I laid it all out, they, and you, could appreciate the quick, easy way to roast, ok, grill, bell peppers.

Easy Roasted (Grilled) Red Bell Peppers

One quick note before I get started: I did learn this in cooking school-promise. I've just adapted a little for the grill.

1. Start your grill and turn it on high. Place the pepper on the grill and grill all sides until black (not gray-we want this puppy charred).

2. Remove pepper from grill and place on a paper towel. Safety Note: Be sure that you don't have a flaming stem before you put pepper to towel. Personal Note: Ignore the Butterworth in the photo. It's not mine... Really... Pinky-swear?

3. Wrap that pepper, gently, in the paper towel.

4. Place the paper towel-wrapped pepper in a plastic grocery bag and close the bag tightly. Set to the side and take a break for a 10-15 minutes. Maybe make yourself a cocktail. Hey, I know! How 'bout a Tom Collins?

5. Here's where the magic happens. By placing the hot pepper in the plastic bag, steam will be created, loosening the skin from the pepper. Cool, right?

6. Now, use the paper towel to pull off the skin. The towel is a little abrasive and will help you easily remove the skin without messing up your manicure too much. SUPER-fancy.

7. Now, revel in your awesomeness and put that sucker in salads, sandwiches, wherever it makes you happy. You now have mad skillz yo.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

It's All About Customer Service

I work a lot of evenings and truth be told, I've never been the "let's go have a drink after a long day at work" type. Especially since I often close up shop around 9 or 10 at night and have a family waiting at home. But last week, after a super-successful class, I decided to pop downtown for a quick drink with the talented instructor, Rochelle Myers.

Rochelle chose a popular downtown eatery with a rep for excellent cocktails. With the warmer weather here, I didn't really need anything super-foofy. In fact, after an incredibly delicious Tom Collins a few months ago at Firestones (I have got to get their recipe), I've been having a little craving.

We enter the bar a little after 10, and being in the food business, I completely understand that feeling when folks walk in the door late, so I always check to be sure that the business is still open and serving new customers. It was pretty obvious from the start that we weren't high on the bartenders' classy-cool list. Though not initially unpleasant, there certainly was no spark or enthusiasm on his end, but there were other folks sitting at the bar, and things were still moving along in the restaurant, so we decided to stay.

After a quick look at the cocktail list, I went with the Tom Collins. Now listen, I get that this isn't the super-chicest drink around. It's even a little old school. But I don't need a bartender to sneer at me when I order one, and to inform me that I "know there's gin in that, right?". Yeah, I know what I'm ordering. From then on, not a word as the drinks came and the check was brought without asking if we wanted another round (after 3 more people had just walked in and had a seat). BTW - we didn't.

I could go on, but I'm just having a little vent here. Abrupt, bordering on unfriendly service, especially while younger, cuter, more scantily dressed people than me keep walking into the bar and having a seat with no issue, just makes me angry. It makes me feel like I don't belong. And I hate that.

Maybe everyone had a long day. Maybe the bartender was beat. But you know what? I've had days like that, plenty in fact, and I do my best to make sure the customer feels welcome. Because after all, service tends to be as important as the food, even if that's sometimes forgotten.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Welcome Frederick Magazine Readers!

A big woo hoo & thank you to all the new readers who found Frederick Foodie through the new issue (May) of Frederick Magazine! I'm delighted to have you check out my blog!

And for all of you folks that are regulars, well, thank you to you too!

I have the absolute pleasure of being on the cover (squee!) of Fred Mag this month, along with 5 other awesome people around town. Seems like one of my fabulous customers nominated me to be one of the magazine's 2010 People to Watch. And lucky me, I was picked! (It's sort of like picking teams in gym class, only this time, I wasn't last!)

I've been lucky enough to have been in the magazine a time or two, but this is a really big deal to me, and is very, very exciting. The cover! I even ran down to The Muse on Market St on Saturday and snagged the owner's copy to take to my mom & dad. They should be out on newsstands today, so I'll be able to buy the obligatory 10 or 20 copies :).

If you haven't been there yet, please check out the web site for The Kitchen Studio at We would love to have you come take a cooking class or try our one of our Make It, Take It, Bake It meal assembly sessions. Though we really put a lot of our attention to teen, tween, & kid cooking camps over the summer, we still have a light adult summer class schedule rolling. Don't see anything that's working for you? We have a few more classes being added to the schedule this week, but feel free to drop me an email or leave me a comment and we'll do our best to accommodate you this fall.

If you're checking us out for the first time, you may want to try one of our fabulous Bring-a-Friend-for-Free classes. This month, Kitchen Studio sous chef and new instructor Kerry Lebherz will be whipping up a wonderful Mediterranean Dinner for your enjoyment on May 25 from 6:30-9. It's a great way to see what we're about and enjoy a night out with a friend, especially if you're watching your bottom line.

No matter what, I'm thrilled that you're here and really appreciate you taking the time to check us out. Cheers!