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From the Tech Desk
Startup Aims to Build Comprehensive Registry of the Best Cookbooks
Have you ever wondered what the world's best cookbook looks like, or which books first inspired famous food critics, TV foodies, or restaurateurs? A new tech startup and app is striving to answer those questions.
First unveiled in October of this year, the startup in question, called 1000 Cookbooks, has already drawn interest and press coverage from Digital Book World, Bookseller, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, and The L.A. Times. Dubbed "the Spotify of food" and founded by Matthew Cockerill (the founder of BioMed Central and a pioneer in the concept of open-access publishing) and Jon Croft (the founder of Absolute Press, the culinary imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing), 1000 Cookbooks brings together the best of both publishing and food.
A Talented Team
That's the goal, anyway. The app (which can be accessed at here) provides access to a list of the top thousand cookbooks, with the first 50 ranked in a definitive order. These rankings weren't decided accidentally or arbitrarily. On the contrary, for the purpose of the 1000 Cookbooks endeavor, Cockerill and Croft assembled a team of expert judges and panelists to give their recommendations on the best cookbooks in history.
From James Winter, the BAFTA-winning TV producer behind the popular BBC show Saturday Kitchen, to Felicity Cloake, a Guardian columnist who won the 2011 Guild of Food Writers award for Food Journalist of the Year, these experts know food and know the cookbooks that can help turn any home kitchen into a world-class bistro or café. A slew of other food writers, bloggers, chefs, restaurateurs, and other individuals who work in the culinary industry also contributed their insights and opinions for the 1000 Cookbooks project.
Digging into the List
The result, though currently a work in progress, is still a fascinating and well-put-together resource that anyone from the most novice of chefs to the most seasoned of foodies will appreciate. Seeing the ranking of cookbooks alone is cool. Fergus Henderson's Nose to Tail Eating tops the list, while other famous recipe collections (including Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Irma Rombauerand Marion Rombauer Becker's The Joy of Cooking) also finish high in the rankings.
Click on each book on the list and the project becomes even more intriguing, with brief reviews from numerous contributors and judges that explain why a cookbook is deserving of a spot on the list. Fergus Henderson's contribution, for instance, is praised for encouraging chefs and restaurants all over the world to observe the "If you're going to kill the animal it seems only polite to use the whole thing" philosophy.
In the future, Cockerill and Croft want the individual cookbook pages to include even more goodies for people who use the app. Currently, the 1000 Cookbooks team is in the process of working with publishers to license content. While the 1000 Cookbooks app will likely never feature full digital versions of the many cookbooks on the list—instead, each cookbook page features a link to purchase the book from Amazon—the plan is to eventually host sample recipes and excerpts from each book right there in the app.
In addition, Cockerill wants to include extra content that readers couldn't get from the book itself, like videos and other multimedia content. The mission, in other words, is not to replace cookbooks with a digital service, but to complement cookbooks and perhaps introduce the best ones to a whole new generation of readers.
The rankings in the 1000 Cookbooks app may also change as well. In addition to asking experts and panelists to help build the 1000 Cookbooks experience, Cockerill and Croft have also left the door open to accept new contributors in the future. On their FAQ page, the 1000 Cookbooks team say that they are "keen to hear" from anyone looking to "suggest a book, recommend an additional contributor, or volunteer [their] expertise." Of course, not just anyone will be accepted as a contributor: this isn't quite the IMDB Top 250 of cookbooks, where anyone could vote. However, 1000 Cookbooks does currently have 400 contributors from around the world, and the list is growing. Each contributor provides his or her top 10 list of cookbooks, meaning that, as more people are accepted to serve as contributors, the list will continue to evolve.
Are you interested in learning more about 1000 Cookbooks, or in exploring the full list for yourself? Check out the new startup on the web, at www.1000cookbooks.com.
Craig Manning is currently studying English and Music at Western Michigan University. In addition to writing for IndependentPublisher.com, he maintains a pair of entertainment blogs, interns at the Traverse City Business News, and writes for Rockfreaks.net and his college newspaper. He welcomes comments or questions concerning his articles via email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.