Cracking open a cookbook is just the beginning of a culinary journey. And with the launch of Hardie Grant North America, the revered independent publisher is serving up a stellar list of culturally diverse and beautifully rendered cookbooks. The list includes well-recognized chefs and gastronomical powerhouses as well as up-and-coming cooks and authors.
Hardie Grant publisher Jenny Wapner chatted with PW about the enduring appeal of cookbooks, the qualities she looks for as she seeks out new titles, and some sneak peaks into Hardie Grant's upcoming North American list.
Congratulations on the launch of Hardie Grant North America! What excites you most about this new chapter in Hardie Grant’s publishing legacy?
Hardie Grant has been in the business of sharing unique stories for 25 years from our home base in Melbourne—and later Sydney and London—with this expansion into the U.S., we now have the opportunity to do that for a larger audience. It’s also an exciting moment for independent publishing—with so much consolidation in the industry, having a new independent publisher on the scene is greatly needed.
What can you share about your inaugural list of titles?
It’s small but mighty! These five books represent years/careers/lifetimes of work and expertise. We have a Korean cookbook from Monica Lee that will teach you how to perfect the iconic soft tofu soup that made her restaurant Beverly Soon Tofu in Los Angeles so beloved for over 30 years; a drinks book from Danny Childs, an ethnobotanist turned bartender, that is a guide to botany, foraging, fermentation, bartending and slow living, all rolled into one; a Japanese cookbook from Sylvan Mishima Brackett, who runs one of the most exciting restaurants in the U.S., that will change the way you think about making Japanese food at home; and the first two volumes in a small series devoted to preserving from the foremost experts on the subject: Darra Goldstein, Cortney Burns, and Richard Martin.
As you’re acquiring new titles, what are you looking for?
Strong voices, honesty, and candor—whether that’s in food, design, interiors, or anything else we publish. I want books on the list that are surprising, idiosyncratic, deeply researched, and add something new to the cultural conversation.
How do the fascinating life stories of the featured chefs and authors contribute to the cookbooks themselves?
The life stories of the authors are what make them who they are and inform their cooking. They are as fundamental to the book as the recipes. The trick is to find ways to share those stories without overwhelming the other components of the book.
From your perspective, how can a beautiful cookbook enhance the cooking experience?
Food and cooking are a window into the larger culture, and a physical book can be such an effective conduit into that world. Bringing a new cookbook into your kitchen, poring over it, learning about another culture and that author’s lived experience—these are momentous things! The photos, the design, the paper, and the texture of the cover all contribute to and facilitate that experience. They make the book come alive.
Going forward, what are your hopes and aspirations for Hardie Grant North America?
To publish beautiful, important, and inspiring books. To become the destination for new and emerging voices and trusted authorities in the field. To make sure our authors feel nurtured and valued, and to fill some of the many holes in the market with books that tell previously untold stories.