Want To Write Cookbooks For Famous Chefs? Here's How

Part of the illusion of cookbooks is that the chef has sat down at the computer to share, word for word, how they prepare meals, creating what feels like a more polished version of grandma's notes. However, that's not always the case. Most of the time, writers are hired to help chefs put their ideas to paper.

For example, "Top Chef" alum Eric Adjepong completed his cookbook, "Sankofa," in collaboration with food writer and podcast host Korsha Wilson, Food & Wine reports. While Adjepong's research and background formed the core of the book, Wilson's co-authorship put it all into a cohesive story. Another avenue for someone to help write cookbooks for famous chefs is to become a cookbook developer. For a list of dream jobs, Thrillist interviewed cookbook developer Rémy Robert, who helps chefs translate their physical dishes into written recipes. When that piece came out, she was working with food journalist Mark Bittman on "How to Bake Everything." The two met while Robert was completing an internship at Food52.

In both cases, reaching a place where you can get paid to write chefs' cookbooks requires years of experience in food journalism, as well as a personal connection to the chef.

Why cookbook co-authors are needed

Cookbook co-writers aren't just hired to fill in for chefs who don't have writing chops; they're also needed because many chefs who set out to write a cookbook simply do not have the luxury of devoting themselves to the project full-time. 

In 2017, Grub Street ran a piece on how chefs are drawn to cookbook writing because the allure (of building their brand or promoting interest in their work) obscures the difficulties of actually putting together a book. Six-figure advances seem generous at first but are often insufficient to cover the year-plus costs of recipe testing, food photography, and hiring a co-author. Additionally, publishers expect the writer to independently complete and pay for most of the promotional work in addition to the actual production.

This reality is challenging enough for mega-famous celebrity chefs — and even harder for smaller business owners who still have restaurants to run. As Chris Fischer, manager of Beetlebung Farm and author of "The Beetlebung Farm Cookbook: A Year of Cooking on Martha's Vineyard," explained: "It was a much different process than I realized. I was the author, the publicist, the farmer, and the restaurateur all at the same time." You take one extremely grueling career, and then you try to complete an arduous side project on top of it. Help becomes a necessity, even if it eats up your advance.