This April, for the first time in a decade, Phaidon Press will publish a vegetarian-only cookbook—in fact, it’ll publish three of them: Salma Hage’s The Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook, artist Olafur Eliasson’s Studio Olafur Eliasson: The Kitchen, and chef Solla Eiríksdóttir’s Raw: Recipes for a Modern Vegetarian Lifestyle. The publisher’s plant-heavy spring lineup suggests it’s taking a gamble on veg—but why, and why now? PW spoke with Emilia Terragni, Phaidon’s cookbook publisher, to find out.
Why did Phaidon feel now was a good time to publish vegetarian-only cookbooks?
We think it’s becoming more and more interesting to do books about vegetarian cuisine. In the past, the recipes have always been a little bit bland. Now food writers and chefs and recipe writers have started to develop recipes that are as interesting as meat or fish recipes. They’re not second-class recipes anymore.
Three books suggests you’re making a bet on vegetarian. Is there a reason you feel so confident about moving in this direction?
We know that our audience is growing, and that there are a lot of people who are vegetarian. It’s a way to make sure they can buy our books and get the most out of them. Of course, these books are not only for vegetarians, but also for people who love vegetables. We want to widen our audience and at the same time please our core audience, which really wants delicious recipes.
There’s a lot of competition in the vegetarian space. How will your books stand out?
A lot of vegan and vegetarian books are only about being healthy. What we’re showing with these books is that you can have incredibly delicious [vegetarian-based] recipes. You don’t have to do something that’s bland, or that’s like a punishment. There can be a lot of joy and satisfaction.
Each of the books takes a specific approach to vegetarian cuisine. How did you land on these concepts in particular?
Olafur Eliasson’s is a very straightforward and strong connection for us—we’re traditionally an art publisher. His vegetarianism reflects what he does in his studio. [As for The Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook], Middle Eastern is a cuisine that has such an incredible variety of vegetable recipes. We thought it was a good way of looking at a cuisine from a vegetarian point of view. The third, Raw: Recipes for a Modern Vegetarian Lifestyle, tackles an interesting problem, which is that vegetables are healthier when they’re either raw or not cooked very much. In the last decade there’s been a movement toward cooking vegetables less and less.
None of these books is by what you might call a “celebrity chef.” Any reason?
It wasn’t a choice—just timing. We are actually working with a [celebrity] chef on vegetarian recipes. That book will come next spring.