Reprinted with permission from The Peached Tortilla © 2019 Eric Silverstein. Published by Sterling Epicure. Photography © Carli Rene / InkedFingers.
The cookbook industry is alive and well. You heard that right – even with our increasingly digital world, cookbook sales are thriving.
There's an allure to a physical book – from its thoughtfully styled photographs to its eye-catching glossy pages – that provides a tactical experience you just can't get from a computer screen.
In the first half of 2018, cookbook sales saw a 21% increase compared to the same period in 2017. In the U.S. alone, about 17.8 million cookbooks were sold last year, and it’s estimated that this year’s sales will surpass that.
And aside from serving as a kitchen manual, cookbooks are simply beautiful works of art. Sometimes, it can be hard to decide whether the cookbook belongs in the kitchen or on a coffee table. Look at Eric Silverstein’s stunning new cookbook, The Peached Tortilla: Modern Asian Comfort Food from Tokyo to Texas and you’ll know exactly what we mean.
Have you ever wondered how to write a cookbook?
Eric Silverstein, executive chef and owner of The Peached Tortilla, discusses the journey to getting his restaurant’s story and recipes into the hands of his customers, home cooks, and restaurateurs everywhere.
In this article, you’ll learn:
Why writing a restaurant cookbook is the right choice
How to write a cookbook as a busy restaurateur
How to publish a cookbook and get a book deal
How to promote a cookbook
Between running his restaurant empire and releasing his first cookbook, Eric has a lot on his plate.
Like many other restaurateurs, Eric began his journey in the food industry working at chain restaurants in his teens. After attending college with plans of becoming a lawyer, Eric’s passions remained rooted in food. Inspired by traditional Southern fare and Asian cuisines from his upbringing, Eric eventually decided to merge his affinity for food and business by starting his own food truck.
Since 2010, The Peached Tortilla has been serving up award-winning Southern-Asian fusion in Austin, Texas. Today, Eric’s restaurant empire has evolved to include two food trucks, two restaurants, an event and catering space, and now a cookbook.
Eric’s First Taste of the Cookbook Industry: How to Publish a Cookbook
Typically, cookbook authors will approach a literary agent with a completed or draft version of a proposal, which includes an overview, marketing plan, and sample recipes. Then, the proposal is pitched to publishers who decide whether they want to move forward with the project. If all goes according to plan, the pitch results in an offer.
The more compelling the story behind the cookbook, the more likely it will appeal to publishers. For Eric, an established restaurateur with a loyal fanbase, a book deal seemed almost natural.
What makes Eric’s cookbook journey unique was the fact that he was actually approached by a literary agent rather than the other way around. “Originally, [writing a book] wasn’t even on my radar. It wasn’t even something I remotely thought about,” Eric admits.
Several years ago, a literary agent who was fascinated with The Peached Tortilla’s story reached out to Eric. The agent was so supportive of his business journey that she encouraged him to publish a memoir. While the memoir didn’t get far (the draft never got picked up), Eric didn’t mind because he was preoccupied with running and expanding his business.
When the opportunity arose again to revisit the drawing board, Eric was hesitant. “At that point, I was like, ‘Well, I don’t know if I really want to write this book. I’m really busy. I haven’t had the time.’ Not until 2017 did we start getting offers,” he says. “It was a four or five-year process to get a book deal.”
Hungry For More: If You Don’t Put Yourself Out There, Nothing Is Going to Happen
You may be wondering why Eric decided to publish a cookbook when he was busy juggling his food trucks, catering business, and brick and mortar restaurant. But according to Eric, the answer to this question was simple: a cookbook creates new opportunities.
Your Customers Will Eat It Up… And Others Will Too
In addition to your customers, a cookbook will also appeal to home cooks and those looking for a second career in food. It expands your restaurant’s reach to audiences outside your city and gives them a taste of who you are.
Ultimately, a cookbook can create new business for your restaurant. “I hope that [the cookbook] provides us with more recognition on a national level,” Eric says.
Eric’s main goal for his cookbook is to pave the way for restaurant deals and additional locations. He’s hopeful that his cookbook will even create new opportunities that he hasn’t thought of yet.
“Those opportunities are never going to be coming my way currently. But with the book, you never know! Maybe it really raises your profile,” Eric shares. “My point is, if you don’t put yourself out there, nothing’s going to happen. I at least wanted to have an opportunity.”
The Story Behind the Food Is Just as Important as the Recipes
Although Eric scored a book deal after a lengthy proposal process, it’s important to recognize that negotiations with your publisher won’t always end in your favor. Eric notes that sometimes, being granted more influence during the writing process only comes with being a “big-name” chef.
“The publishing house really wanted it to be a cookbook first,” Eric says, recounting his struggle with striking a balance between the publisher’s desires and his idea of the book.
But sharing the memoir aspect of his story was something he would not let go of. “There is a lot of the memoir in there, to get my story across, but it’s certainly not the level of detail that I initially hoped,” he says. “I think it’s important to understand my background so that you can better understand the food. Our journey from being a food truck – that’s inherent in our DNA. It’s part of who we are. And I think if people don’t know about the story, they don’t know what they’re getting either.”
The Recipe for a Successful Cookbook Has Three Key Ingredients
Eric walked us through the process of writing a cookbook as a busy restaurateur, which had three key takeaways.
1. Wearing Many Hats (in Addition to a Chef’s Hat)
Once the contract was finalized in November 2017, Eric had only a few months to turn over his first manuscript. Unlike many other cookbooks, Eric was his book’s sole author, which meant this was a project that quickly consumed his valuable free time.
The process of writing the cookbook was a learning curve in itself. Going into the project, Eric had no idea how to write a cookbook. Some obstacles that Eric had to adapt to include listing ingredients in order of appearance in the recipe and learning proper formatting for things like abbreviations and footnotes.
Writing a cookbook also differs from other genres since it involves a lot of trial-and-error and recipe testing.
“The process of writing the book is very time-consuming,” he says. “You actually have to go buy food, make it, and find out if your recipe is good or not, and try to figure out how to tweak it for home cooks.”
Along with writing, Eric also coordinated the cookbook’s photoshoots, having hand-selected and paid for the photographer himself – something he was lucky to have creative control over. These days, making your food look good is an important marketing tactic that will get eyes on your cookbook and your restaurant’s food.
“It was a lot of work,” he says. “It was something I was working on daily.”
2. All You Can Eat (and Cook): Putting Your Restaurant Recipes in the Spotlight
Lucky for Eric, he didn’t feel apprehensive about sharing his restaurant recipes with the world. “I think there’s enough goodwill built up in the brand, the experience. I wasn’t worried about that,” he says.
Eric’s cookbook features 100 mouth-watering recipes from various points of his restaurant empire’s journey, from its humble beginnings as a food truck to the more recent brick and mortar location.
The recipes that made the cut include some of the most beloved dishes from his restaurant, recipes from his catering business, and dishes that didn’t quite make it into his restaurants. In a way, these recipes offer a peek inside the brain behind one of Austin’s most successful restaurant empires and let fans of The Peached Tortilla recreate its recipes in the comfort of their own home.
3. Doing It For Your Readers and Most Importantly, Yourself
Throughout the writing process, Eric’s mentality was to put his all into it and give fans of fusion cuisine the cookbook they deserved.
“You’ve got to go all the way. I spent most of my advance on photography. You’ve got to try to make it look as good as possible, so you can tell your story. Give the reader as good a book as possible, or just don’t do it.”
Aside from creating a cookbook for his customers and foodies around the world, Eric also wrote it for himself. “Writing this book is a key thing for myself. It’s a bookmark in my life, and I can keep it,” he shares. “It holds sentimental value to me.”
Get It While It’s Hot! Marketing Your Cookbook
The hard work doesn’t stop at writing and publishing your cookbook. Eric’s next step is marketing the cookbook to expand its reach after the release.
He has many plans up his sleeve to get his cookbook in as many kitchens as possible. “We’re going on a book tour, we’re going to do book signings, interviews, TV opportunities,” he says. “There’s a lot.”
When asked what’s next for him, Eric says that he’s just focused on making sure he does his new cookbook justice.
“I know that I devoted a lot to this book. I don’t have any regrets.”
Eric Silverstein’s The Peached Tortilla: Modern Asian Comfort Food from Tokyo to Texas can be ordered online and will be available in-store at Barnes & Noble as of May 7, 2019.
About the AuthorFollow on Linkedin More Content by Melissa Chan