Sunday, 18 March 2012
I came across a very interesting article in the New York Times today. It turns out many of my favorite cookbook authors don’t actually write their own cookbooks! They hire food ghostwriters to write everything from recipes to content to the introduction.
Julia Moskin writes about her experience and the world of cookbook ghostwriting in her March 13th article “I Was a Cookbook Ghostwriter”. She admits that, although she thought it was a dream job, it also held many humiliations. As a cookbook ghostwriter you have to put your ego aside and do what the chef wants you to do. She mentions horror stories of chefs ripping up ideas, demanding the writer to start over. The cookbook ghostwriter is, in essence, dating the chef, with the end result hopefully being a cookbook that captures the vision of the chef. Some ghostwriters are credited, but many are not. J.J. Goode is April Bloomfield’s ghostwriter for A Girl and Her Pig.
I admit to being a little bit sad and slightly disappointed by this finding, but I can understand why chefs do it. They are chefs after all, not writers. Bobby Flay admits to this; “I consider myself an ‘author,’ in quotes, but not a writer,” Mr. Flay said. “I have skills in the kitchen, but the writers keep the project on track, meet the deadlines, make the editor happy.” Other chefs known to hire cookbook ghostwriters are Rachael Ray, Martha Stewart, Jamie Oliver, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
I have always had that lingering thought in the back of my mind of how these chefs, who are probably very busy cooking, managing restaurants, and filming episodes of television shows, manage to write so many cookbooks. Well, the answer to that question is, they don’t. I am surprised the idea of these chefs hiring writers never crossed my mind, but now that I know, it sounds like a cool gig. I am not sure I would be into doing it, but it certainly opened up my eyes to the different types of careers related to food out there.
After my split second of disappointment upon reading this article, I realized that it is best to leave the cooking to the chefs and the writing to the writers. I do not think there is anything wrong with hiring ghostwriters, but it would be nice if they were all credited. Writing a book can’t be easy!
What are your thoughts on cookbook ghostwriting?