The world of culinary book design

Too Many Cooks

The world of culinary book design

The situation

If there’s one thing the world is not lacking at the moment, it’s cooking shows. There’s a style and format to match any personality — from the brash and combustible world of “Hell’s Kitchen” to the over-sweetened propriety of “Great British Bake Off” to our dearly-missed raconteur, Anthony Bourdain, who brought the world a little closer together with his humanity and his respect for parts unknown. These days there’s a show for every mood, a character behind every apron, a story behind every dish. And just when you think you’ve seen them all, another one pops up, with a new angle and a different character, and our minds—and palates—are spellbound.

With the abundance of cooking shows, the limelight has shifted away from that other, more primitive culinary art form: the cookbook. No less saturated, the cookbook collection has become so commonplace in households that it’s as cliche as a French baguette poking out from a grocery bag. Look in most kitchens and you’ll find them somewhere, maybe propped up in a cabinet or stacked artfully atop the fridge, their presence as decorative as their pages are informative. I myself have entire shelves dedicated to cookbooks. Not because I’m an avid cook. Truth be told, I’ve never cooked a single recipe from any of them. I own them because, unlike most culinary shows, cookbooks are themselves unique and beautiful works of art. Their design transports me to places unreachable by a 22-minute video clip or a mercilessly demanding chef. They are understated, elegant, exquisitely photographed and truly original. And while it’s certainly possible to have too many cooks in the kitchen, you can’t have enough cookbooks—not the good ones, anyway. And it’s some of these I’d like to share with you today.

Octaphilosophy: The Eight Elements of Restaurant André

Designed by Henrik Nygren Design, this book captures a serene beauty of the culinary expert André Chiang. Each page is visual delight, beautifully typeset with photography so stunning that causes you to question its reality.

NOPI: The Cookbook

Designed by Caz Hildebrand. A foil stamped ring acts as a graphical thread through this culinary book journey, it’s a plate, a cooking ring, the lamb leg bone, and an olive. The photography is rich with color and texture. Typeset with strangely playful, elegant typography.

Mr. Wilkinson's Vegetables: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Garden

This book looks, feels and reads like a journal, with its heavy cardboard cover and letter-pressed title. The pages contain a healthy mixture of fax-like illustrations, distressed photography and graphical texture. You can almost feel and smell its earthiness while reading.

The Lost Kitchen

Designed by Danielle Deschennes. The Lost Kitchen captures its rural surrounding of Freedom, Maine, quite cleverly. Those surroundings are integrated into many facets of the design, beginning with a forest printed onto the velum dust cover and a translucent square that reveals a medley of vegetables. The book juxtaposes the life of owner Erin French with beautifully designed recipes.