To my great surprise I was offered the chance to write a cookbook in 1987. A vice-president for Ballantine Books, (a division of Random House) by the name of Risa Kessler came down to Key West for a getaway from Manhattan where she lived and worked. Fate (or providence) shined on me. She and her friend decided to dine at the restaurant I was cooking at which was ‘Louie’s Backyard’. She enjoyed it so much she came back again the next evening. We did not meet. Back then I rarely was outside of the kitchen doors. She wrote a letter and sent it to me at Louie’s a few weeks later. In her letter she asked if I might like to write a cookbook. She was amazingly prescient as to what was about to occur in the culture of American food as my book, “A Feast of Sunlight” predated the river of chef authored cookbooks. Just a few chefs had penned one yet. Alice Waters and James Beard were two that I admired greatly and I dedicated ‘Feast’ in part to them. Janet and I went on a coast to coast cookbook tour. It was an opportunity that I shall be grateful for forever. I was able to finally dine in restaurants run by the folks I’d been only able to read about in magazines.
My colleague and friend Andrew Friedman wrote a piece on that time frame for ‘Taste’ and it is linked to here. For more writing by Andrew check out his most recent book. It is titled, “Chefs, Drugs and Rock and Roll; How Food Lovers, Free Spirits, Misfits and Wanderers Created a New American Profession”. He also has a podcast you might enjoy if you enjoy this subject. It is named, ‘Andrew Talks to Chef’ and you’ll find it on #HeritageRadioNetwork.