By Olivia Snaije
Last year Edouard Cointreau, the force behind the Gourmand Cookbook Awards, extended his reach further into the professional culinary world and launched the Paris Cookbook Fair, a trade fair exclusively dedicated to books about food and drink. Yesterday, on a brilliantly sunny Sunday in Paris, the second edition of the Fair ended and while the final count for visitors has yet to be calculated, Cointreau was hoping for 5,000 -– a jump from 2010, the inaugural year the Fair which drew 3,500 visitors (read our report from 2010′s fair here).
For those familiar with other, large publishing trade fairs, you should know that this one feels distinctly different: By virtue of its small size, the 102 exhibitors –- 32 of which were publishers — from 28 countries have ample time to browse booths, sample savories or a glass of wine, and network in a more relaxed fashion.
Anne Dolamore and John Davies, owners of the award-winning independent publisher Grub Street said they had visited the fair last year and decided to give Paris a try. “We wanted to make contact with publishers we don’t really meet elsewhere.” Grub Street is one of the few UK publishers who buys rights and translates foreign cookbooks -– such as their popular edition of The Complete Robuchon by French chef Joel Robuchon (winner of the Gourmand Cookbook of the Year 2007) –- and they were the only small UK publisher to rent a stand and Dolamore did do a rights deal at this year’s event, acquiring the rights for Pierre Hermé’s Macaron from Agnes Vienot Editions.
Basic stands cost 1,380 euros, while larger stands were a hefty 4,400 euros. Some publishers, such as Dorling Kindersley Verlag and the University of California Press, opted for the less expensive 650 euro option of renting a space in the 33-table International Rights Centre, a new addition to this year’s fair.
Numerous large international and group publishers including Phaidon, Grupo Planeta, Hachette and Flammarion were present, as was Canadian publisher Robert Rose, and three Brazilian publishers including Senac and Melhoramentos.
Dolores Manzano of the Brazilian Chamber of books noted it was worth while for Brazilian publishers to come all the way to Paris because, “in Brazil, cookbooks are very important, but it’s not easy to sell rights.” She added, “We’re far away geographically and it’s important for our publishers to meet with people and build relationships.”
Another publisher for whom traveling 12 hours was time well spent was Elliott Mackey, the publisher of the San Francisco Wine Appreciation Guild, who found himself in talks with Russian publisher Eksmo and a Chilean publisher concerning rights. Mackey was keen to underscore the importance of international relationships and the exchange of ideas and trends which might not be so obvious, such as the burgeoning US market for bi-lingual Spanish/English wine guides.
Although Italy was the official “Guest of Honor” at the fair, the area dedicated to Italian food was disappointing, with few producers present and no samples to do justice to the cuisine. The chefs in attendance for conferences and cooking demonstrations were impressive, however, as were the wines presented at the International Bar.
The fair did offer the opportunity for some singular discoveries, such as French publisher Menu Fretin’s newly released, unauthorized investigation of the inner workings of the Michelin Guide, Rouge de Honte (Red with Shame) -– the very same week the new guide hit stores -– as well as rare books on cooking, an exhibit of a series of collages by French super-chef Alain Passard and a pin-up calendar by the French organization of independent cheese producers, with scantily clad women presenting a different cheese for each month of the year.
Ultimately the Paris Cookbook Fair is an intimate, manageable venue where professionals can network without the usual stress, and have a glass of wine while they’re at it. What the future holds for the event remains to be see, but with the ever buoyant Cointreau at the helm, there are likely future innovations already in the works.