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Chefs' cookbook ghost writers

Not only are they usually underpaid and uncredited, they sometimes are expected to do all the work with zero input from the named author: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/14/din...

Not too different from what some of us might suspect in certain cases.

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  1. I expect the chefs to write the cookbooks themselves about as much as I expect them to be working in their kitchens every night, which is to say not at all.

      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

        Just goes to prove that you're likely either a chef (which she isn't) or a writer.

        1. re: ferret

          Agreed. Her knife skills make me barf.

        2. re: Caitlin McGrath

          No one seems to be buying Rach's denial. (other than her paid blogger)
          http://eater.com/archives/2012/03/14/...

          1. re: Firegoat

            Does it matter whether RR's current recipes - in books or show - are entirely her own or not? She came to fame as a recipe presenter, in classes, books, and TV. As long as the current stuff matches the old, who's complaining.

            On the other hand if someone buys a Batalli cookbook, under the impression that he's getting recipes as cooked on ICA or in one of his restaurants, with all the insight and skill of the chef author, they would have reason to be disappointed if they learned most of the content came from a ghost writer. In this hypothetical example the purchase was based on a reputation of the chef, not the reputation of the cookbook author(s).

            1. re: paulj

              Of course not. It only matters if she denies it and is lying. I don't like her for her cooking, I find her annoying but I have heard that she is a workaholic and busted her butt to become a success so I have nothing but respect for that.

        3. Saw this article this morning and came here expecting to see a robust discussion from the Home Cooking crowd. I thought it not only interesting, but mostly true to my limited experience in the business--Rachel Ray's disclaimer notwithstanding. I suspect a lot of HC, and especially COTM, folk might be interested. Is there some way, Caitlin, that you could post a link there with a heads up to here?

          1. I learned about this side of cookbook writing when following the flap over the Paltrow BA cover. I think GP acknowledges Julia Turshen's role in the foreword of the book, including the fact that Julia had tested all the recipes.

            Julia as also written about coauthoring this book.
            http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/s...

            As noted Turshen worked on the Spain road book, and more recently on the Kimchi Chronicles.
            http://www.kimchichronicles.tv/2011/1...
            She's also blogs and write articles
            http://www.epicurious.com/articlesgui...

            The involvement of an author like this explains why GP's cookbook has generally received good reviews from buyers. The recipes have been tested and work. In contrast, there are lots of complaints about recipes in Mario Batali's books not working.

            2 Replies
            1. re: paulj

              I have only used one of Batali's books, and the recipes worked very well. Several of his books have been Cookbooks of the Month on Chowhound over the years, and reports on the whole have been very positive, with no real complaints about recipes not working. Perhaps chowhounds' experiences have differed from those of the public at large.

              I have noticed that a number of 'name' chefs known for the fame of their restaurants who've put out books do have collaborators whose credits are featured prominently on the book covers, but I suspect that some collaborators command credit because they are well known and respected for their cookbook writing - people like Melissa Clark, who have played that role many times, but may have started out in the unsung situation the article describes.

              1. re: paulj

                Very surprised to read your comments about Mario Batali's recipes "not working" paulj. I have all his books and have cooked extensively from most of them. I can only think of one recipe that didn't do it for us and it had nothing to do with the recipes ingredients or instructions, just our own preferences in terms of another variation of the dish.

                Also, I echo Caitlin's recollection of the Batali COTMs. These were not months where folks took issue w the recipes.

                His books also seem to enjoy fairly overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon as well.

              2. This parenthetical comment stood out:
                "(The authors most likely to write and thoroughly test their own work are trained cooks who do not work in restaurants, like Molly Stevens, Deborah Madison and Grace Young, and obsessive hobbyist cooks like Jennifer McLagan and Barbara Kafka.)"

                Often when TV cooking hosts are discussed, someone will pipe up with the correction: 'So and so is just a cook, not a chef'. In part it's a defense of the 'chef' profession, but there is also the implication that being a chef gives more status and authority on TV, not just in the professional kitchen.

                2 Replies
                1. re: paulj

                  So is your point that maybe we should rethink this habit of giving more credibility to the so-called "real" chef in these situations? You get a book by Paula Wolfert, you know it's a Paula Wolfert recipe. You get a Batali book (or watch his show) and you get a recipe developed by god only knows whom.

                  1. re: MelMM

                    It's not so much about who the recipe belongs to. Paula is a collector of recipes, not an inventor. But the care in writing and testing could well be higher when done by some one like Paula, as opposed to Mario and his ghostwriter. A big-name chef might have great ideas that work well in the restaurant kitchen, but it takes some effort, on the part of the chef and/or the ghostwriter/tester, to translate those into recipes that a home cook can use.

                2. I am not naive enough to expect these chefs to test all the recipes themselves or churn out the prose in their tomes, especially after learning just how long it took Julia Child to put out her masterpiece. But the stories about how callous these celebrity chefs are about the book that will carry their name is very disconcerting. Just have this flavor profile? really? Look up chicken in Wikipedia? Total BS.

                  1. I found the article really interesting, but it is driving me crazy trying to figure out some of the blind items. Who was the "regional chef" who didn't write any of her book but instead had the ghost test all the recipes in her small NYC apartment? Any guesses?

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: LulusMom

                      I'm curious about this too. Note that the sex of the chef "author" was not mentioned in the article, so it could be a he or a she.

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        i have my suspicions. two of 'em. both women.

                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                            i'd rather not make any unfair accusations/assertions, so i'm keeping my mouth shut :)

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              What about not naming names but giving up some of the things you would notice when reading a cookbook that would make you suspicious that the name on the cover didn't do much of the actual writing?

                              Hopefully your suspicions are based on actual reading of the books than assumptions based on the personalities of the chefs.

                            2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                              Exactly what I was thinking! Give it up, ghg. Please baby, please!

                        1. Another example of a coauthor and/or ghost writter is M Ruhlman.

                          http://ruhlman.com/my-books/
                          He lists 4 Keller books. As best I can Ruhlman's name does not appear on the covers, though his collaboration might be acknowledged in test. The photographer, Deborah Jones, is more likely to get front billing. Does it bother anyone that most of the word crafting is Ruhlman's not Keller's? If it doesn't bother you, it probably is because Ruhlman has a writing reputation of his own.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: paulj

                            I'm just wondering if you've read any of Keller's or Ruhlman's books? (not trying to be snarky) The book are very clearly written in conjunction between Keller & Ruhlman. Ruhlman is not a ghost writer & he is honest about his role in all of his books.

                            Cookbook writing a huge collaborative effort. It's very rare that a cookbook would be produced solely by one person.

                            To me a true ghostwriter is someone who does all the work & stays in the background while someone else takes all the credit. If anybody who collaborated on the cookbook is acknowledged anywhere in the book, it's not ghostwriting.

                            1. re: jcattles

                              The other day I looked at Ad Hoc At Home in the library. The photographer gets a more prominent billing than Ruhlman. I did find his name in a list of collaborators. I haven't looked at other volumes. I think you learn more about their collaboration from Ruhlman's own writings (e.g. Reach of a Chef) than from Keller himself. But that also seems to be the case with Paltrow and Turshen.

                          2. I just happen to catch the article tonight when finally getting to the food section of the NYT and immediately checked into the FMN board to see if a CH had grabbed the headline for discussion. Natch, I was disappointed to find this thread.

                            I am one of "those" people irked by the fast and loose term "chef" and "cook" and it continues to bother me when I read another example of just how fast and loose these credentials are bounced around in the name of commerce; here the cookbook ghost writing kind.

                            Talent/skill from one against false/weak performance from another for a buck. Be sure to read the fine print to know what you're buying and who's selling it is what you wish to pay for and trust in. This form of collaboration isn't simple and in the movies or music still rather hush hush. Many cookbook authors won't acknowledge their ghost writer.

                            Yeah, it irks me and I suppose always will. Credentials take on new meaning.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: HillJ

                              It sounds as though that the more authentic a person's 'chef-credentials' are, the more likely they will employ a ghost writer. A true chef is to busy running his restaurant empire to put a lot of time into crafting a book. Maybe ghost writers should be called sous-authors, after the person in the kitchen who does the real work! :)

                              1. re: paulj

                                What's wrong with using definitions that have worked for years? All this dilution is not the solution!

                            2. NY Times followup, and the chefs who protested their inclusion: http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.co...

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                Moskin seems to be backing down quite a bit on what it means to be a ghostwriter. Did you really think Mario Batali was doing his own index and glossary anyway?

                                ~TDQ

                              2. it's a silly controversy as far as i'm concerned. cooking and running a restaurant is one area of expertise; writing and turning dish ideas into fully developed recipes is another. There are very few people who have both of them (Judy Rodgers comes to mind). personally, i'd rather buy a book knowing that the recipes worked, even if they had been "honed" by someone other than the chef himself. i don't really see what the controversy is about.

                                21 Replies
                                1. re: FED

                                  I don't really think that it's that silly. Moskin backed down quite a bit in her follow up story, but the clear implication from her first article is that some celebrity chefs barely have any involvement in the creation of the cookbooks that bear their name.

                                  ~TDQ

                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                    TDQ, all I can think of when I hear all the denials by the chefs and the "disappointment" from readers is Claude Raines in Casablanca:
                                    "I am shocked - shocked!- to find out that gambling is going on here."
                                    Yeah, right.

                                    Methinks too many of said chefs protest too much.

                                    1. re: rockycat

                                      Given the easy information access and 24/7 news anyone who thinks a story won't hit the light of day is just plain naive. Back stories often become the bigger story.

                                      There are so many examples in the creative industries (film, music, literature, art) of co-authoring and collaboration. And that's what this is-collaboration. So hiding it, denying it...well...it's just ridiculous. Especially when most talent is looking for work and projects that propel a career. No one should remain quiet about their talent.

                                  2. re: FED

                                    I just think the right people should get the credit. I, too, want a cookbook in which the recipes work, and always love ones like that from restaurants I love. Still and all, what is the harm in giving credit where credit is due?

                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                      No harm in my opinion. :) But, ghostwriting has been an occupation for many, many years. There must be some reason (there are probably many reasons) some people out there want complete and total credit and there must be some writers out there willing to be paid a price to do the work and not be given credit.

                                      It's a weird relationship, but for some writers, it's a way to make a living.

                                      My guess is the reason why the people that Moskin named as Ray's and Paltrow's ghostwriters haven't acknowledged it is that their "ghostwriting" contract prohibits them from doing so.

                                      In my opinion, Moskin won't be doing a lot more ghostwriting for famous chefs. I hope it wasn't an important source of income for her.

                                      ~TDQ

                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        I doubt Moskin is looking for ghostwriitng gigs. She uses her experiences in that role years ago as a hook for the article, but she is (and has been for some years) a staff reporter for the NY Times dining section, so I'm sure she's moved on from uncredited book work.

                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          You know, I did some editing in my past, and at the very least everyone at least thanked me in the credits. I never expected it, but it was nice to be acknowledged. And that is no where near what these people sound like they're doing. I do think it was interesting how Moskin backed off so much in the second article. And gee, I DO hope she doesn't plan on making more money that way!

                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                            It seems like an acknowledgement in the credits would be a gracious thing to do, but I wonder if someone acknowledged a well-known ghost-writer in their credits, if it would basically be signaling that the book was ghost-written. It would defeat the whole purpose!

                                            ~TDQ

                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                an acknowledgment is gracious and appreciated, but not presumed/expected. ghostwriting is thankless work. you have to check your ego at the door, and really cede complete control and final say to the editor and the author of record. i did it once - spent a month turning maybe 20 pages of notes from the "author" into a 550+ - page tome. never even MET the guy because he couldn't be bothered to make the trip from his home in Delaware to NYC, so all of our communication was via e-mail and overnighted drafts & floppy disks (this was obviously a while ago). we had *one* phone conversation when he called me to say thanks after it went to print. i butted heads with the editor at every meeting because she was an idiot...oh, and the pay sucks. it was a learning experience for sure, but i doubt i'd ever do it again.

                                                at least if i was ghostwriting a cookbook maybe i'd get to play in the kitchen testing some recipes instead of spending the entire project trapped in front of my laptop screen!

                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                  I'm just trying to figure out what chef lived in Delaware. Nobody lives in Delaware ;)

                                                  1. re: Ariadanz

                                                    Many DC types have beach homes in Delaware. Also, Tom Douglass is from Wilmington, IIRC.

                                                    1. re: Ariadanz

                                                      see the last sentence of my post - it wasn't a cookbook. in fact, it had nothing to do with culinary arts.

                                                  2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                    ...if someone acknowledged a well-known ghost-writer in their credits, if it would basically be signaling that the book was ghost-written. It would defeat the whole purpose!"

                                                    It's like the perfect crime; if done right, no one knows about it. I bet there have been ghostwriters who have helped out on some of the most famous books in history (in part at least). Hence the word "ghost" in the title. :)

                                                    1. re: ttoommyy

                                                      Exactly.

                                                      My guess is that the ghostwriters for high-profile chefs are bound by confidentiality agreements and can't come forward to claim credit, even if they believe they deserve it or even to validate a story in the NYT. They are paid for their work. It might be thankless work (hey, try my job for a day), but perhaps being paid to write about cooking might need to be enough. THere are lots and lots of people out there who would love to be paid to write about cooking.

                                                      I'm not saying I agree with that people should do creative work (including composing or painting or writing or whatever) without getting credit, but if a person agrees to do this kind of work, then it's kind of rude to complain about it later unless you were tricked into it or the other party didn't honor some aspect of their commitment to you.

                                                      ~TDQ

                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                        I work in advertising as a copywriter for a huge retailer. My name is never associated with anything I write. Sure, a lot of it is mindless catalog stuff, but even NY Times ads that have some creative editorial are never credited to me nor would I expect them to be. Just part of the job.

                                                        1. re: ttoommyy

                                                          The difference here is that when someone reads your work, they're not assuming that it was written by the CEO of the chain. They know it was written by the copy person at the agency, even though they don't your name specifically. Whether or not the customer buys what you're plugging is not dependent on the name of the person who wrote the copy.

                                                          These factors most definitely do come into play when we're talking about a cookbook from star chef X.

                                              2. re: LulusMom

                                                i think sometimes readers take a too-romantic view of the publishing process. or maybe the people inside it don't take it romantically enough. basically, it's a mechanical job. it's work. and in the case of ghostwriting, it's work for hire. you agree up front that you'll help write this person's book by a certain time and for a certain fee. once the book is turned in, your involvement is ended. it would be nice if every ghost (and recipe tester for that matter) were acknowledged in some way in the text, but it would be nice if the rest of the world was nice, too. and for anyone who might think this is a new thing, i dig this up on the google machine: http://articles.latimes.com/1992-09-2...

                                                1. re: FED

                                                  "i think sometimes readers take a too-romantic view of the publishing process...basically, it's a mechanical job."

                                                  So very true. It's like any industry; it's just another job. The bottom line is that there is a product to produce. They hire the people who can get the job done for the least amount of money. If that means a ghost writer who doesn't take credit for the work (for much less money that a credited collaborator) then all the better. Slap a pretty cover on it, send the celebrity chef out on a book tour, cross your fingers and hope it sells. If not, in 6 months discount the price of the book, put it on the remainder table at B&N, count your losses and go on to the next book. Repeat ad infinitum.

                                                  1. re: FED

                                                    Just now reading the article in your link.

                                                    "When he started to add a pinch of something, I would first grab his hand and measure."

                                                    Maybe I should try that with my grandmother. I've been trying for years to get her to teach me some of her recipes.

                                                    ~TDQ

                                              3. There are many fiction authors who use ghost writers as well; if not to write the whole book then at least to help out. It's gotten to the point that certain authors even list their coauthors on their books now. James Patterson and Clive Cussler are two who immediately come to mind. These types of authors are "brands" more than anything else. Also, look at V.C. Andrews who wrote "Flowers in the Attic." She died many years ago but book after book came out with her name on them and no mention of the authors who were actually writing the books. It goes on in publishing all the time.

                                                1. When someone other than the author writes all or the majority of a work it absolutely should be credited and acknowledged (not talking about ads which are not relevant ). It doesn't have to be on the cover of the book, although it could go there, but it should be in the credits.

                                                  When the ghost isn't acknowledged one gets the impression the author wasn't competent/capable, but the author's name sells so a lie is perpetuated.

                                                  Two examples of proper attribution:

                                                  Tom Clancy. He has a series of Op Center books. They carry his name but he acknowledges who wrote them (Jeff Rovin):

                                                  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/tom-c...

                                                  The Sopranos Cookbook. You mean Artie Bucco didn't write this? No, but Allen Rucker wrote the text and Michele Scicolone wrote the recipes.

                                                  http://www.amazon.com/Sopranos-Family...

                                                  A friend worked very hard on an ethnic cookbook which has attained great success in publication and on TV (She was featured on Today and a lot of other shows). She did all the research, testing and recipe development for the book. She got help writing the recipes so the instructions were clear. This is not as easy as it might sound. It's a lot of work. She fully acknowledged the people who worked on the book and what they did in the credits.

                                                  "Foodie" celebrities are definitely hiding behind their ghostwriters because they don't want people to know they aren't writing their own books. It doesn't mean the recipes are bad. But the truth is they aren't writing the books.

                                                  20 Replies
                                                  1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                    "When someone other than the author writes all or the majority of a work it absolutely should be credited and acknowledged (not talking about ads which are not relevant ). It doesn't have to be on the cover of the book, although it could go there, but it should be in the credits. "

                                                    But these ghost writers sign a contract that says their work will go uncredited. That's the nature of the business. It's all very black and white and legal.

                                                    "The Sopranos Cookbook. You mean Artie Bucco didn't write this? No, but Allen Rucker wrote the text and Michele Scicolone wrote the recipes."

                                                    I happened to have worked for the publisher when this book was published. The two authors names were on this project from the beginning; there was nothing secret about their contribution to the book. It was their book. They were not ghost writers. People are confusing ghost writers with collaborators. They are two very different things.

                                                    And in the case of the Tom Clancy book you site, the series of books are "Tom Clancy's" as in he presents. Nothing about the book says he wrote it. He is the brand and the author is the one who wrote the book. A contract was signed by the author for good money and it stipulates in the contract that he is the author of the intellectual property. Again, not the same thing as a ghost writer. A ghost writer signs on knowing he or she will be UNCREDITED. Hence the title: GHOST writer.

                                                    Lastly, I brought up my work as a copywriter of ads because I signed a contract when I started my job saying that all intellectual property I created was the property of such-and-such a company and that I would not be credited with any of the work by name. That is exactly what a ghost writer does as well. I was just pointing out the similarity to the nature of the business.

                                                    1. re: ttoommyy

                                                      No wish to labor this on and on. My experience in publishing differs from yours.

                                                      1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                        As does mine, tt. Nothing in my experience has ever resulted in black and white contracts. Every contract is unique and full of grey contingencies. Further, a ghost writer is collaborating by the very nature of the assignment. Ghost writer as a coined phrase or as a very hard & fast contracted commitment are two different things. Many writers uncredited for their work or under contract for a time (not a lifetime) come forward at some point. I've seen publications reprinted with completely different liner notes the 2nd pass creditng writers that were not credit in the first publication.

                                                        Not a black and write career. Natch, YMMV.

                                                        1. re: HillJ

                                                          If I were writing a book or a collaborating on a book I would make sure my contract spelled out the way in which I would be given credit.

                                                          If I were hiring a "ghostwriter" to write a book that I intended to publish under my name as author, , I would make sure that the contract specifically mentioned that the person's name would not appear on the cover or anywhere else in the book or marketing materials. And I would include a nondisclosure clause.

                                                          ~TDQ

                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                            And if you were young and green and unaware of your rights or right to ask, you'd learn the hard way. All the would-a, could-a, should-a aside TDQ, you're right on all counts and the working world and contracts are often different until THEY WANT YOU more than you need them.

                                                            I have dear colleagues and friends who knew they were being taken advantage of in their early careers but dealt with it in the hopes of landing better work later. Sometimes that happened, sometimes not.

                                                            But it can depend on the craft (like many of us have said) and demanding/making clear your terms over what you want is certainly one way to go...but often not an option (easily) in getting work.

                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                              Well, of course, if you're an upstart nobody, you don't have a lot of leverage, sadly. You can call that being taken advantage of or you can call it paying your dues. I've experienced it personally and, at the time, I felt I was being taken advantage of, but deep inside, and certainly in hindsight, I knew it was just paying my dues. I'm not an exceptional talent though. Just an average one, if even that. So even paying my dues probably wouldn't get me anywhere.

                                                              ~TDQ

                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                That's just my instructor hat showing, TDQ. I work in continuing ed in the food industry and this topic (among many others) often come up.

                                                              2. re: HillJ

                                                                Yes and no, HillJ. I've hired recipe developers and testers to produce cookbooks published under a major corporate logo. Many of those were published cookbook authors, some of them fairly well known. The corporation stipulated the terms of the contract and the developers could either accept it or not get the job. Not only were the developers and testers not acknowledged in the book, they didn't want to be. As far as most were concerned, work for hire was just extra money when they had some down time.

                                                                I'm not, by the way, equating this kind of work with ghostwriting a cookbook for a famous chef. Just saying that even established cookbook authors are often happy to make an anonymous buck on the side. At least as of a few years ago when I was still in the biz, there were more or less set fees for this type of work and very little room, if any, for negotiation--no matter how well known you might be.

                                                                1. re: JoanN

                                                                  What kind of books do you mean? You say published under a "major corporate logo," so do you mean books along the lines of The Betty Crocker Cookbooks? or Weight Watchers cookbooks? Those kinds of books? I'm trying to imagine a major corporate logo that isn't associated with a magazine or other publication and not succeeding.

                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                    The "major corporate logo" I was talking about was indeed associated with a magazine, just not specifically a cooking magazine.

                                                                    1. re: JoanN

                                                                      Okay, now I can completely envision that kind of cookbook, thank you. How interesting that sometimes very accomplished authors work on these kinds of books for pay, but no authorship credit. Do these books turn out to be hidden gems in your opinion?

                                                                      ~TDQ

                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                        No hidden gems, I'm afraid, although a few of the recipes were definitely keepers. These books (at least the ones I've worked on) are created to appeal to the largest possible audience, meaning it's mostly Americanized food using ingredients found in any supermarket in the country--not something that would appeal to most of us on the Home Cooking board.

                                                                        1. re: JoanN

                                                                          i've kept a copy of an essence magazine recipe compilation cookbook around for years. i don't often cook from the book, but enjoy looking through it and sometimes using it for reference. it's aimed at average-ability home cooks who might be a little concerned about fat and sodium in their family's diets. the recipes are a little dated, but there are still some great ideas and contemporary updates of traditional recipes. the highlight of the book for me might be a simple spinach recipe by edna lewis, but there are also family recipes by such folks as the mother of the fashion editor (fully credited)... all in all great stuff in some of these collections.

                                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                                            A compilation from Essence magazine sounds more interesting by far than some of the "by the editors of" books I've worked on. Wish I had that one in my collection, sk.

                                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                You can get a "very good" hardcover copy for under a buck. Can't beat that!

                                                                                ~TDQ

                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                  you know, you really can't :)
                                                                                  apparently i paid around $5 for the softcover (half price books price tag still attached LOL!), and it's 300+ recipes. i do like the book because in addition to basic good-housekeeping style recipes, there are pretty serious forays into traditional southern and african diaspora cooking, with some 1990-2000-era health food thrown in. yet the well-regarded editor, jonell nash, did not just throw it together slap-dash-- it's well written and interesting. if a book with turkey a la king, coo coo (like caribbean polenta), sweet potato pudding, and "splendid and cheap cabbage rolls" appeals, i say go for it! (and sorry to get off topic a bit)

                                                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                    I'm very interested by your description of what all is in this book, and glad you mentioned it.

                                                                  2. re: JoanN

                                                                    JoanN, I think at "yes and no" we agree. Our collective experiences tell the story-there is a volume of examples from each walk of (food) life.

                                                        2. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                          That Clancy series sounds like an imprint. The Tony Bourdain Ecco imprint has been in the news of late.

                                                        3. i think there is some stuff in this thread and original article that isn't accurate. who cares what branded pulp fiction novelists are doing... cookbooks are ostensibly works of nonfiction. the contemporary format typically includes recipe collections as well as the author/chef's anecdotes or brief introductions to the recipes, and some notes by the author/chef. folks may prefer the writing style or approachability of certain folks who are professional food/cookbook writers rather than professional cooks. it is a distinction to bear in mind, though-- that some folks make their living developing written recipes, or whole books with lovely glossy styled food photographs-- and *this* is their product... others make their living cooking and making food for consumption-- their product is the food, and eventually other folks would like a book of recipes about the food... still others have their own celebrity or personal "brand" as the product, and a cookbook, or a perfume, or a fan magazine, are all ways of marketing themselves. different strokes and folks, right?

                                                          whether chowhounds want to recognize or not, recipe writing is a type of technical writing. a recipe editor who clarifies the steps starting from the author's recipes isn't suddenly the author of the recipe, and to call a recipe editor a ghostwriter is inaccurate. there will also be recipe testers, more so in some publications/publishing houses than others. in the case of a restaurant chef, the same procedure that works well in a five hundred degree industrial wind oven, four burner rondeau, or alto-shaam... may not translate so well to the basic stove and retail cookware in janey's rental apartment. then the tweaking and recipe rewriting occurs, which is a collaboration between the author and the recipe tester-- but the basic method and flavor profile still belongs to mario or deborah madison or emeril or whomever, not the recipe tester (and recipe testers are generally credited as such in cookbooks). again, calling a recipe tester a ghostwriter is inaccurate. the professional cookbook writers who start out in home kitchens are already closer to the finalized recipe, and additionally in practical terms can do a lot more of their own recipe testing, while restaurant chefs might lean more on their testers to translate a recipe into home-kitchen doability... but this isn't a reflection of anybody's competence, just the difference in workplace experience.

                                                          i have a friend (english masters) who does technical writing for textbooks which basically involves "translating" notes and technical procedures written by well educated but wordsmith-inept scientists, in order to be understood by laymen/learners. it's a tough, somewhat boring job but quite stable. she is not a "ghostwriter," as the content is not hers, she is just making it widely understandable. the classist/education snob tone of some of the posts in this thread bug me-- some wonderful chefs who put amazing technique and thought into their food are not college educated wordsmiths. big shrug. they may lean on a recipe editor to make a method widely understandable in a cookbook format, and a second editor to transcribe an anecdotal recipe intro from audio or notes. same deal as in any instructional work or craft book, no? these wordflow folks are still editors rather than ghostwriters, the recipes and anecdotes are still that of the author.

                                                          i dunno. a lot of chefs are pretty "joe beef" in real personality and the way they express themselves. many of them need editors to adjust their tone and sanitize them a bit :) since not everyone who likes their food necessarily connects with that. i think it's a big mistake to think that bittman is smarter than symon-- one concentrates on the written word and the other on the food. now that i'm getting over the hill, i really ought to look into cookbook editing to "translate" some of my friends' work and stay in the game a little bit.

                                                          16 Replies
                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                            big shrug.
                                                            well-sk, if it doesn't bother ya then you're right you have no issue.

                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                              oh, i think you know me better than that! LOTTA stuff bugs ol' soupkitten ;-P

                                                              one thing that really bugs me is that folks doing an edit or rewrite on a person's recipe... now they want credit/authorship. lots of people have compiled the work of other people and passed it off as their own. folks who are literally "higher on the hog." slaveholders took their slaves' recipes, rewrote and published them... wealthy folk are currently doing unethical anthropology, translating a recipe to english from a spanish or hindi oral tradition/illiterate cook, dumbing down the ingredients, and making a quick buck off the uncredited authors... and i am bothered by that. it's a problem for me that chefs can have their names on the door of the restaurant, but the educated 1% want to exploit their work and claim authorship of recipes the working chefs developed and the life experiences that surround everything about the food.

                                                              if everybody wants to claim authorship, there is of course no author anymore. what happens is that the whole original context of the recipe and the experience, the "nitty gritty" is lost. nobody understands anything about the recipe's place. it's irrelevant and worthless. from a literary standpoint, it's bad work; from a culinary one, soulless corporate dreck at best, and it may not even work.

                                                              sure, a lot of folks work on a book before it's published. a lot of people work to build an airplane. it's important to keep things in perspective. "i tested 14 bread recipes" vs. "i wrote that cookbook"--"i did all the rivets on the left wing" vs. "i built that airplane."

                                                              when i worked briefly in publishing (the house was small, very literary, and too snooty to publish cookbooks, or indeed, any books w pictures), and i worked in an editorial role on a manuscript, i didn't want/need to be credited-- i got a paycheck for my work-- and i was under no illusion the content or concepts were mine. it was a good day if i caught a factual error and some typos, and got the layout right, but i was just one of many workers on the book. again, it does take many people to get a book published, and what the extremely ethical senior editors constantly stressed, was that preserving the author's voice and intent/nuance was of the utmost importance. these senior editors had their hands further into the manuscript than i ever did, and spent months of human-hours on tweaking to get everything perfect. with the author's intent and tone and voice always uppermost. these editors didn't claim to be the manuscript's authors either, no matter how extensive the editing process. the editors also got a paycheck for their work, and they retained their very *jobs* based on and because they upheld extremely high standards, what a concept. nothing was stopping them from authoring or publishing their own works-- indeed, they authored their own books and got them published-- and despite being professional editors, they had professional editing help on their own work.

                                                              now everybody with a blog or a twitter account regards themselves as "author." people need to separate cut&paste copying and linking and actually coming up w original content. take a lesson from an average line cook. chop saute burn plate garnish---copy copy copy. it is possible to take a great deal of pride, and a paycheck, from faithfully reproducing someone else's concept. the guy with his name on the door. he might not be in the building-- but it's still his food, his recipe, his perspective. it's important to get the voice right, and get over yourself. folks who don't overstep and don't suck will eventually get their own shot. but all this angst and whining about "wow i really worked *hard* on the table of contents for chef x's cookbook, for like a day and a half, and all he did was cook 60 hours a week for 25 years, he doesn't know jack, cuz he never went to college..." that also really bothers me.

                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                Interesting point of view, soupk.

                                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                                  I agree with you, sk. In her first piece, Moskin implied that these celebrity chefs are basically not all all involved with the creation of their own cookbooks. And I was incredibly pissed off when she gave her definition of "ghostwriting" in her second piece, which basically had to do with listing ingredients in the proper order, creating a glossary and table of contents and so on. That's a major back-peddle.

                                                                  If that's what she meant by "ghostwriting" in her first story, then I think it was misleading. Shame on her and shame on the NYT. I think she and the Times do owe apologies to Ray and Paltrow and other authors named in the story. Furthermore, she lodged these accusations without contacting these individuals for a quote, though she apparently found the time to gather quotes from ghostwriters. Really irresponsible, one-sided journalism.

                                                                  When I pick up a book by Batali or any other big name, I don't imagine for one second that he's cranking out his own glossary or index. What a waste of his time that would be and probably not his particular talent, either. I don't doubt that there is actual ghostwriting out there of the type that Moskin implied, and perhaps even but some or all of the people she mentioned in her story, but because she did such a crap, one-sided job on her story, it's hard to view her as a credible source on the topic.

                                                                  On the topic of your first point of people basically stealing recipes and re-publishing them as their own, there's certainly a lot of theft and plagiarism going on right now in all forms of art and it bugs the daylights out of me. I do think intellectual property has tremendous value and I hate that people in this information age think that art is public property. I've had my work (such as it is) stolen, including a couple of weeks ago I found someone had lifted an entire chowhound post of my and published it on her blog as her own work!

                                                                  I want to comment on the unethical anthropology you mention in your first paragraph, but I suddenly have a crying baby and will have to come back to that.

                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                    Holy guacamole TDQ, that business about someone lifting your writing and putting it on his/her own blog is outrageous. I hope that you contacted the person and let them know you were aware of it.

                                                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                                                      You know, I didn't . I suppose I could or should have (still can), but I have so little time these days and it's just not something I felt I had time or energy for. Also, it's not a very active blog as far as I can tell, and the post was quite old. Seemed best to let sleeping dogs lie. I actually can't even remember at the moment what it was about. Something to do with Sally Schneider, I think. Whatever it was, I was googling trying to find a recipe and this blog came up. It sounded awfully familiar as I was reading it, when I realized it was my own writing. I immediately came back to chowhound and did a search and, sure enough, my post came up. Word for word, minus the "~TDQ".

                                                                      ~TDQ

                                                                    2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                      So, on the topic of unethical anthropology, it never occurred to me that that sort of things goes on, and has gone on, but now that you mention it, I realize of course it happens.

                                                                      The saddest part about this, aside from the part about exploiting people, is that often context is the most interesting thing about a recipe. What a shame to lose it. And I don't see how attributing your source or inspiration for a recipe takes away from anything! For example, Mark Bittman didn't invent Jim Lahey's no knead bread technique, but he introduced it to the rest of us and it made him look like a rock star without taking anything away from Lahey. (As long as people occasionally get corrected when they call it Bittman's no knead bread). And when Lahey published "My Bread" I bought a copy, because I'd heard so much about it. There is a way for everyone to win. I think it only enriches the work.

                                                                      I do think a blogger or a twitterer can genuinely be an author, but there is such pressure on bloggers to produce a constrant stream of content that people often do resort to plagiarism or theft. I've seen it, been the victim of it, and there's really little recourse out there on the Wild Wild Web, unless you want to get into an ugly public shaming. Those who can produce original content regularly for an extended period of time have a real gift.

                                                                      ~TDQ

                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                        "I hate that people in this information age think that art is public property. I've had my work (such as it is) stolen, including a couple of weeks ago I found someone had lifted an entire chowhound post of my and published it on her blog as her own work!"

                                                                        Holy crap! that's just awful! this back and forth conversation you guys are having brought up memories or Judith Grigg and Cooks Source...oh the misfortune of some people! i can't even think about fishing that back out b/c it was so low in the gutter...anyway carry on.

                                                                        1. re: trolley

                                                                          It wasn't even a great post worthy of copying. Few of mine are.

                                                                          ~TDQ

                                                                          1. re: trolley

                                                                            Juduth Griggs and Cooks Source!! OMG, that was hysterical. But for another thread perhaps...

                                                                            1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                                              "Judith Griggs and Cooks Source!! OMG, that was hysterical. But for another thread perhaps..."

                                                                              This one, in fact: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/744948

                                                                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                oh judith! she was like a joke that kept on giving, yes, certainly for another topic but it's incredible how so many people, like judith, believe anything in the written form on the internet is public domain.

                                                                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                  p.s. thanks for the link and sorry for the run on sentence! :D

                                                                            2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                              i am so sorry someone ripped off your post.... has this come up in another thread we were both on? perhaps i am misremembering.

                                                                              i think moskin's backpedalling and clarifying article make her look like a prat, and a whiner. she seems to really need some validation. i know-- we should all post comments to the times to give her that pat on the back she seems to desperately need!

                                                                              "hey julia, great glossary in the batali book, never would have bought the book if it weren't for you!"

                                                                              "j moskin makes indexing look effortless-- the index is undoubtably the highlight of any work by paltrow, closely followed by the copyright and publishing information page, also flawlessly crafted by moskin."

                                                                              "the only thing that makes ray's book worth reading is the table of contents by j. moskin."

                                                                              "i found myself reading and rereading the index in l. bastanich's new book. what clarity and crisp page correlation! i thought to myself, this must be an (uncredited) moskin, nobody else could achieve such heights of artistic expression: "Turkey-Pumpkin Tortellini, page 378"-- mastery! and what a delight, when the page number in the index was close to or actually the page number where the recipe can be found in the book-- although who bothers with the recipes, or bastianich's stupid stories about her restaurants or her mother, anyway, when they can skip to that amazing index, is beyond me!"

                                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                I think this is the first thread in which I mentioned the ripped off post. Even though it's a couple of years old (my post--I didn't really notice how long ago the blogger used it), I only noticed it a week or two ago. It's not that it was such a shining of example of amazing writing or food wisdom, it's just odd that someone would cut and paste it and present it as her own.

                                                                                I mean, blogging can be a wonderful outlet for a budding writing talent who can't get published or a cooking wizard who wants to share her recipes, but why maintain a blog if you aren't interested in doing your own writing? Did someone force this blog on you? Very odd.

                                                                                And, as usual, you are hilarious!

                                                                                ~TDQ

                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                  TDQ, some folks do feel that they "must" maintain a blog, a Twitter account, a FB in order to be read and be a part of current social media. Right now we're seeing the PINTEREST make the rounds among bloggers ie: the "new toy" factor. Bloggers follow blog hot sheets, other bloggers, bootcamps and workshops for all sorts of ideas, inspirations, revenue advice. Bloggers compete for readers, page views, etc. because real $$ is being made food blogging (well every field truly).

                                                                                  If you are referring to the early online journals, sure-open it, write it yourself.

                                                                                  But, what we now see daily is a revenue-stream, a collaboration among several talents on one blog, cross-promotion of the corporate to local kind, talents using blogging to attract new customers and speak directly to current customers, video blogs, tv programming and thousands of advertisers working towards a common idea=commerce.

                                                                                  Budding talents are getting deals. So it's pretty interesting to witness the timeline and engagement of personal online journals to online career paths during what feels like overnight but is in fact nearly 20 years in the making.

                                                                        1. re: HillJ

                                                                          I just watched the first 15 mins. of R Ray to catch the discussion btwn her and GPaltrow about the recent NYT article. GP announced her assistant (who worked w/her on the 1st cookbook) will be co-authoring with GP on the 2nd cookbook now in the works. Both ladies outlined their writing process (RR held up her food diary) to assure readers and the live audience that the NYT got it wrong and that they do not employ ghost writers (per their definition of the term) but employee in RR's case a team (food stylists, folks who assist with glossary and pantry) and an assistant in GP case.

                                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                                            Thanks for reporting back on that. I was dying to know how that conversation would go down. Interesting about RR's food diary. I can totally imagine her scribbling down ideas as they come to her (that's what I do when I'm actively writing) in the middle of the night, while grocery shopping (if RR even does that), while working out, whatever, then meeting with her staff to give them instructions on how to put such a recipe into action.

                                                                            Did GP explain what her assistant will be doing differently this time, vs. the first book, that merits a co-authorship?

                                                                            ~TDQ

                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                              One example GP gave was that in the 1st cookbook her assistant focused on translating ingredient lists into usable measurements. G shared that she is not prone to measure ingredients out while cooking for herself and her family/friends. Her assistant focused on making these recipes usable for readers by contributing and figuring out, say, what exact measurement of veg, curry, paprika or sugar was needed to replicate the recipe.

                                                                              In the next cookbook, which she explained focuses on healthy comfort food, GP and her assistant will be working or reworking recipes that inspire them as well as creating new recipes that fall under healthy comforting foods.

                                                                              During the brief Skype interview from London GP stated several times what a pleasure it was/is to work with her assistant.

                                                                              RR's experience was more team based in collaboration but emphasized several times that her definition of ghost writing and that of the NYT article are not the same.

                                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                                  I assume by assistant, GP means Julia Turshen. Her involvement was by no means hidden, though GP may be giving more details on their collaboration.

                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                    Yes, Julia Turshen. Safe to say, the additional details are hitting the news airways today because of the NYT piece and defending the work is what both of these women wish to do. On the RR show today they took the first 15 mins of live programming to clear the air, state their side of this article and announce future cookbook projects. I was glad to have caught the info straight from the people involved.

                                                                          2. what i don't get is why is paltrow and ray all up in arms about this? i'm sure they wrote some of it but i never expected either one of them to be slaving in the kitchen night after night testing recipes. they're a brand (maybe more so Ray than Paltrow) and when you're a brand you hire people to get things done. I believe Ray probably has more recipes and such stocked away since she's been doing this for eons. But GP? Really? her acting career is drying up and she and her handlers aren't stupid. she's diversifying herself and trying to re-invent as a food maven to extend her career and her people continue to get paid. i also have different expectations from RR and GP than i would from someone like Nancy Silverton or Grant Achatz. I've seen Nancy working at Mozza and she a true working chef. If she wrote a book (i'm sure she gets help) and found out she didn't write the recipes i'd have a different reaction. Perhaps GP and RR think they're on that level?

                                                                            I know writers who work for Colbert report and they don't get credit. I also know others who write for other shows and they don't get credit. the head writer only gets credit. it's just the way it is. it's true in other industries as well. i knew someone who conceptualized Jessica Alba's new baby endeavor. in the press she takes ALL the credit for all of someone else's work. he even has blow by blow on what he did then what she claims on his FB only for friends to see. it's rather hysterical. the famous person sells the book or product with his/her notoriety. it's been this way forever and not a new concept.

                                                                            29 Replies
                                                                            1. re: trolley

                                                                              They are up in arms because Moskin implied that they don't do their own work. Who wouldn't take offense to that, especially when their livelihood is at stake? Later Moskin backed down and said they don't do their own glossaries or put their own ingredient lists in order, which is quite a bit different from what she originally implied.

                                                                              I wouldn't say Ray's cooking talent is at Silverton's level, but she has genuinely built a career out of producing recipes. I can't really comment on Paltrow. Don't know anything about her "food" career except superficial details.

                                                                              ~TDQ

                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                actually, by my reading anyway, moskin didn't say that as a general statement but said that in extreme examples. now, it may have been interpreted that way by others who still seem to have the notion that a chef writes every word in their books and cooks every dish in their restaurant. what ms. paltrow describes is exactly what most professionals would consider a ghostwriter. that doesn't imply that the dishes aren't hers, but the technical work of making the dishes replicable to the public is not hers (except to the extent that she hired the person who did it). "ghost writer" is not a legal term and I know people who have worked the entire gamut, from credited co-writer to uncredited puller-together-of-rough-notes. i think the one thing that they would all agree on is that it was not their book, it was somebody else's and they were helping realize that person's vision out of respect and for money in varying ratios.

                                                                                1. re: FED

                                                                                  I do agree that the definition of ghostwriter is a little murky. What the public thinks is a ghostwriter might be very different from what someone in the industry thinks. However, this piece was written for the general public. Moskin should have been more careful with her language from the outset.

                                                                                  Furthermore, what Moskin implied in her first piece was very different than the definition she provided in her follow-up piece. I agree with you that she did go from one extreme to the other without really explaining what the typical ghostwriter of a coobkook does. I think the duties of a ghostwriter described Moskin in her second piece aren't broad enough. And so the situation still remains murky.

                                                                                  Did Paltrow use a ghostwriter? By Moskin's new definition, Hell, I might have used a ghostwriter.

                                                                                  And I think because her first piece written in the first person ala "I was a teenage ghostwriter" Moskin got away with playing a little fast and loose.

                                                                                  These are people's livelihoods she's messing with. I think she should have been more careful, certainly careful enough to do a balanced story that includes trying to get a quote from the authors who supposedly do use ghostwriters, with her first piece. This is the NYT for pity's sake.

                                                                                  And nice way to kick the ladder down behind you, by the way.

                                                                                  Seriously, I just think the whole thing was unbecoming.

                                                                                  Now, do I think there are ghostwriters working in the cookbook industry perhaps even by the people mentioned in Moskin's article, sure I do. Can I describe for you from reading Moskin's article what the typical duties of a cookbook ghostwriter are? Not really.

                                                                                  Bad journalism.

                                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                    believe me, i'm not saying that it was a perfect piece, by any means. and without going back and rereading it (which i am loathe to do despite the fact that i'm writing critically about it), it probably would have benefited from a graf that said "there is no typical job description for ghost writer, it can vary from someone polishing recipes and prose to someone turning a couple of pages of notes into a full book".
                                                                                    as far as credit is concerned, it may seem obvious that a ghostwriter is only an uncredited co-writer, but i know many people who are ghostwriters and in some cases they may be uncredited, in others they may get full credit, in still others they may be credited in the acknowledgements. just as there is no set definition of ghost writer, there is no set definition of what constitutes adequate credit (outside of the contract that the writer -- voluntarily -- signs).

                                                                                    1. re: FED

                                                                                      HAHAHA! I also do not want to re-read either piece!

                                                                                      ~TDQ

                                                                                      1. re: FED

                                                                                        I'm re-reading your last paragraph. I like the definition of a ghostwriter as an uncredited co-writer, but am surprised by what follows, that sometimes ghostwriters sometimes are credited! No wonder we're all confused. If the job description varies and the level of credit varies, what the heck is a ghostwriter?

                                                                                        Which brings me back to your first paragraph, and the point you made much earlier in this thread (about this not being a big deal). I'll bet a paragraph like that in the first story would have prevented this whole hoo-ha. I'm sure most author-chefs wouldn't object to a claim that a professional writer polishes their cookbook recipes. But, then again, who wants to read a NYT essay about how a young writer made a living polishing someone else's recipes?

                                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                          "I like the definition of a ghostwriter as an uncredited co-writer, but am surprised by what follows, that sometimes ghostwriters sometimes are credited! No wonder we're all confused. If the job description varies and the level of credit varies, what the heck is a ghostwriter? "
                                                                                          definitions tend to be soft these days for lots of things. and frustrating if you're looking for specificity. What is a "chef"? for that matter, what is a "Dairy Queen"? (mmmm soft-serve).

                                                                                          1. re: FED

                                                                                            Why are definitions soft these days? Have we become less precise with language? Personally, I'm not comfortable with a lot of gray area. I like my news in black and white. :).

                                                                                            ~TDQ

                                                                                          2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                            i was credited in the book i ghostwrote - the author of record told me to include my name in the "acknowledgements." though i guess technically i thanked myself because he had me write it and then just signed off on it ;)

                                                                                    2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                      Which raises what is a totally irrelevant question (at least to this conversation): How the heck is GP's cookbook?? Anyone tried it?

                                                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                        Yeah, knock that food conversation off in this newspaper thread! HA! I've heard and read good things about GP's cookbook, but haven't heard anything one way or the other from any 'hounds.

                                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                          If you are interested, you can give a good deal of GP recipes a try by visiting her blog GOOP.
                                                                                          http://goop.com/

                                                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                                                            GOOP. It already sounds unappetizing. :).

                                                                                            ~TDQ

                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                              The no love for Gwyneth thing really surprises me. Not just this thread or this site, all over folks take the time to dump on her. That's not my issue at all.

                                                                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                I don't think I've dumped on GP. In fact, I've said that the NYT owes her an apology and that I've heard good things about her cookbook. But, I'm afraid goop sounds unappetizing to me. Here's what I think of when I think of GOOP: http://goophandcleaner.com/

                                                                                                ~TDQ

                                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                  You know the minute I hit the post reply button I realized you might take my comment personally. It wasn't aimed at you directly. But it did remind me of how often I come across the scrutiny of celebs who enter into other fields. GP has been asked a number of times why she named her blog GOOP. You could look that up instead of hand cleaner....just a thought. But no I wasn't calling you out specifically, just how your comment struck me.

                                                                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                    Without trying to offend anyone who is a blogger or enjoys reading blogs , I should probably disclose that I'm not a fan of blogs in general (long story for another thread). Furthermore, to me a cookbook (a good one anyway) is so much more than an assortment of recipes. So, a link to someone's blog is going to have to be pretty compelling in order to get me to click on it given my personal bias. Sadly, GOOP wasn't very appealing. Had it been a clever pun (which it might be, just not apparenlty on the surface) I might have clicked.

                                                                                                    I wasn't looking up GOOP, I'm quite familiar with it as I use it almost daily this time of year to remove the bicycle grease from my ankles. (I think I must have bad form when I cycle). I was provide the link to others who might not understand why the word "GOOP" might be unappealing in a food context.

                                                                                                    As far as anyone--celebrity or otherwise-- entering a new field, well, you have to build credibilty to be taken seriously. It seems that GP should have to build her food cred just like anyone else would.

                                                                                                    ~TDQ

                                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                      TDQ I appreciate the comments. I work and consult fairly closely within the very large food blog culture that exists today along with a dynamo team. I don't share your perceptions or context towards food blogging or the individuals making a fair living at it, at all. But that's what makes this all interesting.

                                                                                                      And on the topic of cred, well I couldn't agree more...but we all get our feet wet in different careers at diff. points in our lives. I've been fortunate to cultivate four separate careers in my life and bloggers are one avenue that helped me "retire" into my current field. You won't hear me complain.

                                                                                        2. re: LulusMom

                                                                                          Uh, didn't mean to start a fight here.

                                                                                          Recently in the NYT mag, Michael Stipe called GP the "punkest person" he knows. Having been around at the start of, and part of, that whole business, this took me aback (and seemed to take the interviewer aback as well). I just wondered what the heck was going on. I've looked at GOOP, and can't say I was in any way interested in what I saw.

                                                                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                            Oh gosh no LulusMom. No fight, just views. To each their own, right.

                                                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                                                              Agreed, there's no fighting going on here.

                                                                                              But, back to GOOP. It's like a punchline, if you have to explain it, well, it loses a bit of its impact.

                                                                                              There are about a billion things I can spend my clicks on, and, as you all know, there is a lot of competition vying for our clicks these days. If you want to draw me into your food blog, don't call it goop or poop or anything else unappetizing.

                                                                                              But, I have to say, I felt a little shamed by HillJ's earlier comment that I could have looked at GOOP instead of looking at hand cleaner. So, I just now did. And nowhere (obvious) could I find what Goop meant. I ultimately had to do a Google search to find out what Goop meant. Apparently it's her initials G and P and we're supposed to fill in the oo's. Again, it's hard for me to get excited here. I actually have nothing against Gwyneth. If she has a passion and talent for food writing, I think that can only be good for those of us who care about food. Really, don't we want more people to care about food?

                                                                                              All that having been said, HillJ, I didn't mean to sound so jaded about the blogging community. I am truly thrilled for those who have found financial or creative success through blogging and thrilled for those readers who take enjoyment from it. But, as you know, anyone can have a blog. So it takes a bit more than a link + "hey, she's got a blog" to move me into action.

                                                                                              HillJ, I wouldn't suppose you're ever going to share with us exactly what you do or who you do if for? Whatever it is, your passion for it really does shine. And how can you be on your fourth career? I've never had the courage to leave my first!

                                                                                              ~TDQ

                                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                TDQ, those were very kind words and albeit unnecessary, appreciated. It's true that "anyone" can start a blog but like every profession not everyone "shines" at it. I tend to read the pool but I work for the high end users. My p.o.v. is mothering because I "got in" on the ground floor. A fortunate tale of sorts. As well as v-logs, webinars, blog bootcamps and a group of ingenious food stylists who now enjoy careers from their living room couch. Yes, it's my fourth career. As the vagueness comes with protecting it while enjoying my membership without crossing the line here at CH.

                                                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                  Well that was about as clear as goop! Just teasing, of course. I understand and respect your need for vagueness.

                                                                                                  And, yes, it sounds like you've had some good fortune, but sometimes we make our own luck. If you got in on the ground floor, you must have taken a risk. Risk-taking can be a way to make your own luck. v-logs, webinars, blog bootcamps, that's a lot of new media all in one place. It makes my keyboard hurt just thinking about it.

                                                                                                  And of course, it's just not possible for everyone to excel in any field. There will always be only a few brilliant shining stars. The key is to find where you sparkle.

                                                                                                  And from the perspective of a consumer of media, the key is finding those exceptional blogs or bloggers. It's hard, because the field is so crowded. At the same time, it's the low barrier to entry that makes it possible for those talented folks who might not otherwise have a chance to be published to get themselves out there.

                                                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                    congrats! how fun for you!

                                                                                                    eta: (tone devoid of snark, in case anyone reads everything i write in snark-voice. :) real congratulations)

                                                                                          2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                            well, i wouldn't say their livelihood is at stake. really? i can bet both RR and GP are very rich and don't rely on book sales to support their families. and who is to say that these two articles in the NYT, that maybe a couple of thousand people have read, will impact their sales? for those who read the articles and happen to be RR and GP fans, some MAY take it to heart and never buy another Rachel Ray cookbook b/c it lacks authenticity. but let's face it, what are the chances of that? people buy RR books bc they like her personality and her recipes are accessible. they're buying into a brand like people buy anything associated with Martha Stewart.

                                                                                            if anyone has screwed up their livelihood i think it's Moskin. who's gonna hire her as a ghost writer now with her big mouth articles?

                                                                                            i have much respect for RR. i think GP and RR are in a different class anyway. RR worked her way up and she stomped up the ladder by herself. and when she says that her recipes are hers they're most likely hers. GP, well...hey even Martha Stewart often has a collaborator on her cookbooks. she knows what she's doing at least in this dept. she also doesn't take credit for everything which is pretty cool. it's clear she likes to surround herself with talent and she gives them much credit. cudos to martha for that one.

                                                                                            but on the other hand is it humanly possible to run a tv show, host a TV show, write a book, and do whatever else you do to build an empire? i think an empire is built by many and not by one person. here's a good article on that... http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrewf...

                                                                                            i just had to comment bc i think it's pretty common knowledge that cookbooks are collaborations. i also live in LA and know many people who work behind the scenes to create TV shows and such. it's always a collaboration and not the work of the lone star that's working night and day. in the end the star gets the credit but that's what you've signed up for.

                                                                                            1. re: trolley

                                                                                              trolley, I was going to respond to your post, but I agree with much of what you've written, so I'm not sure I would be adding anything to the conversation.

                                                                                              I have to say, the more I've read the opinions here, the more I'm coming to the conclusion that the problem is that Moskin could have avoided a lot of grief for everyone by giving a basic definition of what ghost-writing is. I think she assumed the public knows what it means, and I think she assumed too much.

                                                                                              ~TDQ

                                                                                          3. re: trolley

                                                                                            Did you just say GP's acting career is drying up with a straight face, trolley? Funniest (non food) quote of the day.

                                                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                                                              oh HillJ! sad but true. hollywood isn't kind to those women approaching 40 with mediocre acting skills. only an elite few make it past this age on film without the acting chops of meryl streep. look what happened to meg ryan! otherwise they go to TV and some people refuse to do that.

                                                                                          4. The Splendid Table has an interview with JJ Goode, who has been a ghost writer. He started the gig with a 3 week rush job for Morimoto. I like the Truely Mexican that he did with Santibanez. I had that book out of the library, but didn't see any hints that it had a ghost writer.

                                                                                            http://jjgoode.com/books/

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                              His name is on the cover with Santibanez's so it wasn't a secret. And he's credited in all of the books he shows on his website, presumably, even if not on the cover because he's free to disclose them.

                                                                                              But this distinction goes back to the fuzzy line between co-writers and true ghost writers (behind the scenes and not explicitly acknowledged) reflected in both the original NY Times article and the comments in this thread.

                                                                                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                You're right - his name is there; I just didn't notice it when I had the copy.

                                                                                            2. Here is how I expect a cookbook to be authored by a named chef. I expect the recipes to originate from his knowledge or repertoire, but I care not whether he employes a professional writer to write the introductions, fluff around the recipes -- because I think for many chefs - it is not their skill. I also expect the book (by the publisher) to be "checked" which means the recipes are handed out to people that cook the recipe from the book without prior knowledge, and the chef to taste test them - to make sure that there were no "oops it was a typo, or missed something". If that is a ghostwriter then so be it, but most people are going to buy the book because of respect for the author - not for the prose.

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: cacruden

                                                                                                It's only under very unusual circumstances that a publisher will send recipes to be "checked," i.e., tested. Most professionals--cookbook writers, editors, proofreaders--should be able to discover obvious typos without having to test the recipe. Both the editor and the proofreader are (or should be) checking to make sure that all listed ingredients are used in the recipe and that all ingredients in the instructions have been included in the list of ingredients in the proper order. Even most typos, for instance a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon of salt, are fairly easy to spot and will be queried during the editing and/or proofreading process. A publisher expects the recipes in a delivered manuscript already to have been fully tested; that's part of what they are paying for.

                                                                                                Of course, some professionals are more experienced than others and some publishers are more demanding than others. A good friend of mine, who is also an excellent cook, was hired to design a cookbook by a company that is known for publishing exquisite art books but rarely publishes cookbooks. In the process of designing and laying out the book my friend discovered so many obvious errors that she sent the manuscript back to the editor saying she wasn't going to spend any more time on it until the manuscript was edited by someone who knew what they were doing, which the original editor of the book obviously did not. The book was postponed; a coauthor was brought in; and the published book now lists not only the eponymous name of a famous NYC bakery, but a coauthor as well.

                                                                                                It's one of the reasons I pay attention not only to the subject and author of a cookbook, but to who published it. Having respect for the author isn't enough. Some publishers know how to edit and publish cookbooks and some don't. Even a respected chef or author can easily end up with a problematic book if the behind-the-scenes people are not equally professional.

                                                                                                1. re: Gio

                                                                                                  Fascinating. Whether you're a chef, a writer, an accountant, a bricklayer, this is just great advice for life:

                                                                                                  "Bottom line to young writers and young chefs: Work hard to work with good people. They’re out there in abundance. Find and work with good people. It makes all the difference and will for the rest of your life."

                                                                                                  Too bad about Kim Boyce and "Good to the Grain." I don't know who Kim Boyce is, really, (and neither does Ruhlman apparently) but he's willing to throw her under the bus in a piece when he was otherwise exceedingly complimentary to everyone but Ms. Moskin (who oversimplified things in his opinion). He must either really like Amy Scattergood or feel confident that he has the real story of how badly things went on that project.

                                                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                                                2. I was hired to ghost write a Napa winery owner's cookbook and am thankful that my name does not appear anywhere on the book except in the thank you's...

                                                                                                  The owner insisted on her own "tried and true" recipes which were - honestly - horrible... An Ossobuco that only cooks for a 1/2 hour? Touch and flavorless...

                                                                                                  But I got paid well to make her recipes SOUND like they would work and have a sense of cohesiveness to them, but in truth, they were catastrophic and the book failed (except it is on display at the winery).

                                                                                                  I'm happy to ghostwrite and fix people's words. I've edited some well-known (Beard-award-winning) cookbooks and even the best writers make mistakes, miss things, and need someone to help polish. Sometimes we are seen as ghostwriters and sometime as editors. It is a really fine line...