This book began in an unconventional fashion. Rather than researching and cooking and cooking some more, and then writing recipes as you would for a regular cookbook, we instead built Food52.com, a site that would crowd source recipes by hosting weekly recipe contests. Once this virtual test kitchen was built and 52 weeks of contests were completed, all the winning recipes would go straight into this cookbook.
All we needed were the talented and passionate home cooks who would provide the actual recipes. We knew there were thousands of them out there, and we could only hope they’d find us. Thankfully, they did. They came from Hawaii and Denmark, Indiana and Portland. They were lawyers by day and obsessed cooks by night. They were gardeners who made charcuterie and farmers who took beautiful photos. And they have made this cookbook what it is, a true celebration of cooking at home.
We have come to know a great many of our community members on the site and in person—we’ve met Food52ers all over the country and have been lucky enough to attend a couple of the Food52 potlucks in San Francisco, New York City, Washington, and Austin.
We’re so grateful to them not only for creating extraordinary recipes week after week, and for voting on the best, but for nurturing a meaningful community, an online social hub for food that is now visited by hundreds of thousands of people every month. We built a wonky site that was a kind of bare pantry, and our users filled its shelves with beautiful food. We’re sending a special thank you to some of our earliest members, who did so much to set the tone and spread the word: Lynda Balslev, Kelsey Banfield, Cathy Barrow, Helen Conroy, Steve Dunn, Jennifer Hess, Liz Larkin, Jennifer Perillo, Maria Raynal, and Meredith Shanley.
Our site and this book would not be what it is without the deft eye and creative vision of our photographer, Sarah Shatz. Sarah was a portrait photographer who had never shot food. Every Tuesday for these 52 weeks, we spent a full day with Sarah in Amanda’s kitchen and photo studio (aka her bedroom), cooking and shooting finalist recipes, and creating the visual sensibility of Food52 that can also be found throughout this book. She photographs food as if it’s a person, always in search of its expression. She sees melancholy in a pear when most of us just see a tasty fruit (yes, we tease her relentlessly for this). And when Sarah was away, her friend—and now ours, too—Melanie Einzig would fill in (examples of her fine work).
A ton of recipe reading and testing, editing, writing, tweeting—and eating!—goes on behind the scenes, and we have worked with an amazing group of editors and writers, including Helen Johnston, Jennifer Steinhauer, Allie Chaden, Francesca Gilberti, Kristy Mucci, Emily McKenna, Rebecca Palkovics, Martine Trelaun, Anabelle McLean, Lily Taylor, Lauren Shockey, Helen Hollyman, Alaina Sullivan, Will Levitt, Brette Warshaw, Lily Taylor, Rachel Berkman, Katie Essenfeld, and Rona Moser. We could not have produced this book without the serene and talented Kristen Miglore, who joined us halfway through the first year as our first senior editor, expertly tackling everything from blog posts to community management to recipe testing. Every week, an army of us read through and tested recipes. At the helm of this team is Stephanie Bourgeois. She plans the testing, tames the large and unwieldy testing spreadsheet we keep, and makes sure on chocolate weeks to call dibs on most of the recipes!
Thanks to the community and to an excellent group of advisors and investors, including Jason Rapp, Kenneth Lerer, Joanne Wilson, Rob Stavis, Eric Arnold, Scott Puritz, and Jordan Cooper, among others, our company has grown, and we have an office team we love: Alexandra Lutz, Kristen Miglore, Francesca Gilberti, Jonathan Stavis, Kfir Shay, and Peter Steinberg.
Along the way we’ve had the opportunity to work with some fantastic developers and designers, like Alain Benzaken, Ben Lim, Peter Kamali, Eric Liftin, Pat Stern, Becky Carpenter, and Christine Yom.
Over a lunch at Aquavit in the fall of 2009, Bob Miller asked us about our vision for Food52, and after three sentences, signed us up for the first two Food52 cookbooks. We are grateful not only for his faith but for his prescient wisdom in not making us write a proposal.
We’ve had a ball working with Cassie Jones, who has patiently dealt with our the-dog-ate-our-homework approach to deadlines, and who’s a truly collaborative and thoughtful editor. Also at William Morrow, we’re grateful to Jessica Deputato, Leah Carlson-Stanisic, Karen Lumley, Joyce Wong, Ann Cahn, Sonia Greenbaum, Shelby Meizlik, Liate Stehlik, Lynn Grady, Tavia Kowalchuk, and Shawn Nichols.
Thanks, as always, to Heather Schroder, Nicole Tourtelot, and Tabitha Schick at ICM; to Debbie Stier, the social media master who helped us set out on the right path; and to our friends Gretchen Holt and Bena Shah at OXO, who have sponsored our contests from day one.
When we launched Food52, we were blessed with enthusiastic reviews from people like Erick Schoenfeld at Techcrunch, Gwyneth Paltrow at GOOP, and the fab editors at Daily Candy. They shooed us out of the nest lovingly, and we’re grateful for it.
Getting this book and site in motion required enormous support from our friends and families. We’d especially like to thank Jennifer Steinhauer, Eliza and Mike Anderson, Veronica Stubbs, Rhonda Thomson, Walker and Addie (Amanda’s kids, who happily embraced a succession of themed meals from “broccoli rabe week” to “lamb week”), and, particularly, our lovely and sweet husbands, Jonathan Dorman and Tad Friend.