The putrid smell that was once attached to the profession of ghostwriter is long gone. These days it’s well understood that celebrities, sports stars, business leaders, politicians and Donald Trump employ ghostwriters to help them in their literary endeavors.
Rockstar Chefs Need Ghostwriters Too
Yes folks, many master chefs and kick-ass cooks also work with ghostwriters. Just because someone knows the difference between caramelizing an onion and sweating one, doesn’t mean they know the difference between the active and the passive voice. Just because someone can build a croquembouche doesn’t mean they can build a sentence.
Chef Up Front, Writer Out Back
In most cases, when it comes to creating a cookbook, the chef/cook/foodie superstar takes center stage and the ghost writer stays behind the scenes. And why not? The chef is the one with the selling power and the fan base; it makes sense from a purely marketing point of view to have only their name on the book. Also, ghostwriting is first and foremost about writing, and many ghost writers prefer not to be pigeonholed into one area of expertise.
Although, some writers will do both. Andrew Schloss co-authored (as opposed to ghosted) Salt Block Cooking with chef Mark Bitterman and he has ‘ghosted’ at least eight cookbooks. According to Schloss, whichever way you look at it, “Making books is always a team effort. The author is working with editors, with designers, there are all sorts of people who are putting their imprint on the book.”
A Cookbook Ghostwriter Is Also A Translator
Apart from writing the text, the ghostwriter will understand that the audience for the book is the home cook. The writer will make sure the recipes are organized in a way that is easy for the home cook to follow.
The writer may have to translate instructions such as ‘add a splodge of…’ – the ‘splodge’ needs to be measurable. There may not even be anything written down, particularly if the chef is using an ancient family recipe, the origins of which have been lost in the mists of time. In that case, the writer will observe very closely and record every detail as the recipe is made.
The Perks Of Ghostwriting For A Chef Would Be Delicious
As far as I can tell, there are three obvious benefits to ghostwriting cookbooks:
- You would get to taste wonderful food
- Chefs understand deadlines. After all there’s no bigger pressure cooker than a restaurant kitchen (pardon my pun)
- The proximity to brilliance might mean your own cooking would improve. Okay that is a long bow, I mean ghostwriting for Yo Yo Ma wouldn’t make you a better cellist.
According to Andrew Schloss, there are two not-so-obvious benefits: a sharpened palate and an added sense of adventure. Until he worked on Salt Block Cooking, he would never have thought that salt and watermelon would go together, “it (the salt) did transform the fruit into something more like cured meat…completely remarkable and unexpected.”
Of course, not all chefs/cooks are deficient in the literary arts. There are many whose writing is as mouth-watering as their food. Elizabeth David and Anthony Bourdain spring to mind – their talent for description makes them worth reading even if you aren’t into the recipes. Julia Child’s writing career pre-dates her culinary success and Yottam Ottalenghi’s columns in The Guardian are as much about the ‘why’ as the ‘how’ of his recipes. And, among other things, Nigella Lawson was once deputy literary editor of The Sunday Times. I’d bet my Larousse Gastronomique that she writes all her own stuff.
Collaboration is the answer for those chefs whose brilliance doesn’t extend beyond the kitchen. And for the writer who loves to cook, the opportunity to ghostwrite a cookbook must be the ultimate dream job.
YouTube Channel: TheCookbookstore1’s channel
Featured image via Flickr
h/t bon appétit