Representing the changing times, the self-published Stone Edge Farm won this year's IACP cookbook of the year.
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IACP's Shifting Focus

Barbara Revsine - April 4th, 2014

Chicago—The cookbook of the year was self-published. Sessions dealing with social media, websites, and the Internet punctuated the programming. Bloggers moved center stage. Times are changing, and the 36th annual meeting of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, held March 14–17, reflected the changes.

“Less print, more Internet,” is how Meredith Deeds, the executive director of IACP, describes the current environment. Citing the growing number of writers working in isolation, Deeds says the organization has to provide more opportunities for networking. Also a concern are the rapid changes in technology. The agenda for this year’s meeting managed to address both issues without shortchanging the organization’s culinary side.

This year’s lineup included seminars on iPhone photography, managing multi-platforms, food trends, marketing, writing, selling cookbooks, and a mix of other targeted and broad-based topics.

Breaking with tradition, the majority of the IACP’s Cookbook Awards were announced at the conference’s only scheduled lunch, rather than at a formal evening gala. Deeds says the reason for the shift was the overall lack of interest in attending that kind of event. The awards themselves have lost none of their considerable clout.

Further evidence of the dawn of a new era came when the self-published Stone Edge Farm Cookbook was named Cookbook of the Year. In addition to moving self-published books mainstream, the award shattered any lingering doubts about their status within the industry.

Stone Edge Farm in Sonoma, California, is home to a well-established winery, an organic vineyard and farm, and a high-tech micro-grid destined, eventually, to power the entire site. The cookbook’s author, John McReynolds, is also the winery’s culinary director. Self-publishing wasn’t part of the original game plan, but after some preliminary attempts to find a publisher came up short, the book team realized it would give them control of the entire project. Given that the cookbook’s target audience was their own constituency, control was an important plus. In the end, the design and packaging were outsourced to Jennifer Barry Design, and the rest of the project was done in-house. For the most part, the cookbook was sold direct to consumers via the winery’s website, much like their high-end small-lot Cabernet Sauvignons.

Barry, who has strong ties with the food and wine community, has worked on a lot of cookbooks. While she’s seen an increase in the number of self-published books, she doesn’t expect traditional publishing to disappear. At the same time, she points to a growing tendency for publishers to sign books after they’ve been self-published. McReynolds confirms the scenario, adding that there’s been an uptick in the number of calls from publishers since the book won the IACP award.

While the shift may not yet be the new normal, neither is it the oddity that it once was. IACP board member Adam Salomone, an associate publisher at The Harvard Common Press, says the landscape is definitely changing. “Ten years ago, we all had specific roles,” he observes. “We had cookbook writers who did one book after another, often on a variety of topics. And then we had agents and publishers and a lot of other people who spent their entire career in a specific segment of the industry. Now, with the Internet lowering the entry barriers, we have generalists, people able to do a variety of jobs reasonably well.”