When the tie-in cookbook to the Emmy Award-winning animated series Bob’s Burgers hit shelves in March, it debuted at #5 on PW’s Hardcover Nonfiction list, selling more than 8,000 copies in its first week on sale, according to Nielsen BookScan. It now has more than 100,000 copies in print, and has sold more than 40,000 print units, not only surpassing sales of the vast majority of tie-in cookbooks, often cast as gimmicky gifts for fans, but cookbooks across the board, holding firm in the top five on our Cookbooks bestseller list.
The “stars aligned” for the book, according to Robb Pearlman, associate publisher at Rizzoli’s Universe, who approached Fox, the show’s broadcaster, with the idea. The Bob's Burgers Burger Book: Real Recipes for Joke Burgers, written by the show’s writers and its creator, Loren Bouchard, features recipes from Cole Bowden, who, in 2013, began a blog where he crafted real burgers based on the punny “Burger of the Day” featured in each episode (“If Looks Could Kale Burger,” “Poutine on the Ritz Burger”).
“I’m no genius, but it seemed like the right book for the right show,” said Pearlman. “I knew, well, at least I had a really strong feeling, that the burgers themselves could be the basis for a book.” As it so happens, at the same time, Bouchard had just heard of Bowden’s blog.
“I was particularly excited about it because we had secretly hoped that the burgers of the day would sound at least sort of edible,” said Bouchard. “But until Cole started his experiment we didn’t know if we’d even come close.”
Bouchard had vaguely considered putting out a book before Bowden’s blog took off, with a spate of cookbooks based on shows coming to market in recent years. “But some of those tie-in books felt like a real stretch, kind of like The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, the Cookbook!” But, when the blog began to amass more and more recipes, the concept began to take shape. “That’s when a cookbook started to feel like an organic thing that had a reason to exist,” said Bouchard. “It wasn’t just a show touting itself, it was the show celebrating the hard work of a fan.”
Bouchard said he and his team loved what Bowden was doing on his blog, cooking for himself and his friends. “He wasn’t bound by anything beyond his own interpretation of the burger of the day joke from the show,” said Bouchard. “He wasn’t trying to make money from the blog, he wasn’t trying to open a restaurant, so his recipes are exuberant, wildly creative, and full of that youthful ‘peanut butter and banana sandwich’ type of daring that I associate with non-professionals.”
But they still wanted professionals to weigh in as well, so they asked two chefs, Aliza Miner, who worked at A.O.C. and Canele in Los Angeles, and Paul O’Connell, head chef and owner of Chez Henri in Cambridge, Mass., to comb through the recipes and offer feedback. “Neither of them are burger specialists per se, but they’re both true, proven hot sandwich geniuses,” said Bouchard. “We used their input to vet, to bless, and sometimes lightly edit and simplify Cole’s ideas, just as we used the Bob’s Burgers writers to add jokes to the text, and our artists to add art.”
From the start, Pearlman said that there was no intention to write an “in-world” cookbook, meaning, it wouldn’t be written by Bob himself. That editorial decision lent the book a level of veracity that likely contributed to its critical and commercial success, according to Pearlman.
“Would Bob Belcher actually have a cookbook published?,” asked Pearlman. “Maybe, and I’m still hoping a certain New York book editor of my approximate height and wit makes it onto an episode, but we all felt that the book would carry more weight and authenticity, if it came from Loren and Cole.”
Promotion for the book included a five-part video series with Delish.com, each which, on average, garnered 300,000 views, as well as interviews with America’s Test Kitchen and NPR. But, of course, the book had ready made readers in the show’s passionate fan base.
“There are people making the burgers and sharing their experiences and that’s incredibly gratifying,” said Bouchard. “Making a burger can be an almost primal, creative thing. Getting involved with the fans in this way is great because making cartoons can be a primal, creative thing, too. We’re all getting our hands greasy together.”