Cookbook publishers have long mined New Orleans’s famous cuisine, releasing books on its classic restaurants (Commander’s Palace, Brennan’s) and legendary chefs (Emeril Lagasse, Susan Spicer). Although most don’t become national bestsellers, a recent title, Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from The Times-Picayune of New Orleans by Marcelle Bienvenu and Judy Walker (Chronicle) was nominated for a James Beard Award this year (it lost to another Southern-themed cookbook, Screen Doors and Sweet Tea). This fall brings two more New Orleans-focused cookbooks, DamGoodSweet: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, New Orleans Style by David Guas and Raquel Pelzel (Taunton Press) and My New Orleans: The Cookbook by John Besh (Andrews McMeel Publishing).
Neither publisher is based in New York (Taunton is in Newtown, Conn., and AMP is in Kansas City, Mo.), and both are in the process of defining themselves as serious players in the cookbook field. Taunton won two IACP awards this year, for Chanterelle by David Waltuck and Andrew Friedman,and The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life by Ellie Krieger (which also won a Beard award). AMP took home an IACP award for The Art and Soul of Baking, part of its successful Sur la Table publishing program. Both publishers tout their New Orleans books as fitting in with their existing publishing programs, thanks to the authors’ voices.
Taunton spokesperson Pamela Duevel calls DamGoodSweet, which pubs in November,“a Taunton house favorite,” and acquiring editor Carolyn Mandarano credits that to author David Guas’s talent, attitude and commitment. “David’s voice is so passionate. He loves the city,” Mandarano said. Guas grew up in New Orleans, and was previously executive pastry chef for a group of restaurants in Washington, D.C., where he now lives. DamGoodSweet is a combination of a memoir and a cookbook, where the author’s memory of going to Galatoire’s on Bourbon Street with his family every year for Christmas leads into a recipe for Double Chocolate Bread Pudding with Salter Bourbon Caramel Sauce.
My New Orleans, an October publication, is also a collection of recipes and stories; John Besh grew up in Slidell, La., across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. His establishment Restaurant August was one of the first to reopen after Hurricane Katrina. “I love this book, so it’s not hard to get enthusiastic about it,” said publisher Kirsty Melville. Since joining AMP in 2005, Melville has focused on “establishing credibility that we were serious about cookbooks.” And she says publishing Besh’s book—which has in-depth chapters on feast days, Creole tomatoes and other culinary aspects of New Orleans—“is a further extension of that.”
Both Taunton and AMP have big expectations for their books, and not just in the South. Besh will launch his book at a party in New Orleans in October, but will then tour to Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, Kansas City, Baton Rouge, Chicago, Toronto and New York. (He’ll also be appearing on Top Chef Masters this week.) Taunton says there has been a strong national media response to the DamGoodSweet galleys it sent out, and Guas will be on Today in November.