Bonus Material: Epicurean Classic Showcases Cooks and their Books

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

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In the United States, food and wine festivals are becoming more popular every year. The marquee events on the calendar are the Aspen Food and Wine Classic in Colorado and the South Beach Wine & Food Fest in Florida. While those events draw tens of thousands of deep pocketed foodies and celebrity chefs, a more modest event in the state of Michigan — the Epicurean Classic — has quietly established a reputation as a true showcase, not just for chefs and their cooking, but for their writing — or rather, the cookbooks they’ve written.

Organized by Mark Dressler, a publishing consultant who works with BookExpo America, the Epicurean Classic is what Dressler calls “the book industry’s largest thematic gathering of culinary authors.” The event, which takes place this Friday through Sunday, brings some 3,000 people to the home of KitchenAid — St. Joseph, Michigan — a small town about two hours drive from Chicago on the opposite shore of Lake Michigan. There, the assembled epicureans will spend three days tasting and talking about the creations of 30 of America’s top chef-authors.

Dressler believes that the cookbook holds a special place in people’s hearts and homes, even in this increasingly digitized world. “It is my belief that the cookbook is still the finest vehicle to convey culinary know-how today,” said Dressler. “A good cookbook goes a long way to edify at-home chefs. Food Network and cooking programs have energized the masses in this country, and they are great, but it is still the cookbook that people love to have on their shelves to consult. People like to amass and spend time with them.”

Dressler says that a chef-author can typically expect to sell anywhere from 50 to 200 copies of their book at the Festival. Among this year’s featured stars are Gale Gand, author of Gale Gand’s Brunch, Giuliano Hazan, author of Thirty Minute Pasta, and Jennifer McLagan, author of the 2009 James Beard Cookbook of the Year Award for her book Fat.

“One thing I really like to do at the festival is talk to people about what their favorite books are,” said Dressler. “What often happens is that the books that end up being the favorites at the Classic are the same ones you see getting James Beard awards the following year.”

This year, Dressler gives the nod to David Leite, author of The New Portuguese Table and Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of Rose’s Heavenly Cakes, both of whom are appearing at the Classic. “Part of the fun for me in organizing the event,” said Dressler, “is to try and predict.”

VISIT: The Web site of the Epicurean Classic

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.