When it comes to instant celebrity status, few opportunities can rival those presented by reality TV. Real housewives, survivors, and big losers have all gone on to write bestsellers long after their five minutes of on-air fame ended. And while none of the contestants on Bravo’s Top Chef have seen bestsellerdom yet, there are some hopefuls on the horizon.
This summer will see the release of season four contender Spike Mendelsohn’s debut, The Good Stuff Cookbook: Burgers, Fries, Shakes, Wedges, and More (Wiley, June). Mendelsohn, who was eliminated one episode before the show’s finale, opened the Good Stuff Eatery in Washington, D.C., in spring 2008, presents 120 recipes for comfort foods like Old Bay mayonnaise; baked sweet potato fries; a “farmhouse” burger with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, pickles and “Good Stuff sauce”; and grilled cheese (ingredients: butter, potato bread, American cheese, kosher dill pickle slices). With all the talk of Top Chef’s turn for the highbrow (the most recent season featured some extremely accomplished chefs as contestants), it’s uncertain whether Mendelsohn’s casual cookbook will attract show aficionados. But Mendelsohn seems to have taken significant steps toward redefining himself, post-TC, including his involvement in a Web-based show on Food2.com.
Serious foodies may be more drawn to season four winner Stephanie Izard’s How to Think, Shop, and Cook Like a Top Chef, although they will have to wait until fall 2011, when Chronicle plans to publish. Co-authored by food writer Heather Shouse, the book will reportedly encapsulate Izard’s “playful personality in creative and funky content accessible to cooks of all levels.” The book’s focus will be on contemporary American cuisine, “built around Izard’s culinary philosophy that the best food is not overly complicated, and that it’s possible to respect the masters without complex techniques, fancy equipment and expensive ingredients.”
And then there’s season two alum Marisa Churchill, a pastry chef who was eliminated in the season’s fifth episode. Churchill was sent home fairly early because of a couple of botched dishes she created with co-contestant Josie Smith-Malave, but bounced back impressively. She appears as a regular on Food Network Challenge, and late last year signed a deal with Clarkson Potter for Sweet & Skinny, which will collect 100 recipes for low-fat desserts that can be made in under an hour. It’s scheduled for publication in May 2011.
At least two former contestants have already self-published cookbooks. Last October, Dave Martin, who almost made it to the finals of season one, published Flavor Quest, Volume 1. And season five fan favorite Fabio Viviani published The Café Firenze Cookbook: Food and Drink from the Tuscan Sons via BRIO, a “self publishing solutions company” in August 2009. Viviani is working on a new book, My Son is On Google; no word yet on a publisher.
There have been rumors that season three’s Casey Thompson and season four’s Lisa Fernandes are working on cookbooks, though nothing’s confirmed. And in an interview with Paste magazine following his disappointing runner-up finish in the show’s most recent season, Kevin Gillespie admitted he has considered writing a cookbook. “But the challenging part is,” he said, “I want to put one together that has an impact—that people really will read. Not just home cooks, but professionals alike. Hopefully that day will come sooner than later, but as it stands right now, it’s not much in the works.”
This story originally appeared inCooking the Books, PW's e-newsletter for cookbooks.