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Pacific Northwest | September 12, 2004Pacific Northwest MagazineAugust 8, 2004seattletimes.com home
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CONTENTS
COVER STORY
PLANT LIFE
ON FITNESS
TASTE
PROFILES
NORTHWEST LIVING
NOW & THEN
PREVIOUS ISSUES OF PACIFIC NW


WRITTEN BY GREG ATKINSON

Experience Necessary
A unique seller connects cooks, their books and their readers
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PEOPLE WHO READ cookbooks sometimes feel they know the chefs and authors behind them. After all, the author's words have sounded inside the readers' own heads, and by preparing the same dishes, cookbook authors and their readers have a shared experience. But many cookbook readers and buyers want a deeper connection.

According to Kim Ricketts, who recently launched the wildly popular "Cooks and Books Visiting Chef Series," it's all part of something called "The Experience Economy."
 
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Anthony Bourdain,
Executive chef, Brasserie Les Halles, New York
The author of "Kitchen Confidential" turns his attention to the fine points of classic bistro cooking in "Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook" (Bloomsbury USA, $34.95).
The phrase comes from the title of a book by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore (Harvard Business School Press, $29.95). According to Pine and Gilmore, "If you charge for tangible things, then you are in the goods business. If you charge for the activities you perform, then you are in the service business. If you charge for the time customers spend with you, then and only then are you in the experience business."

Ricketts explains that people can buy a book anywhere. "They can get it off the Internet with no interaction with anyone." That would be the "goods" business. Or they can go into a store and buy it from a person who will help them find it; that would be service. But, according to Pine and Gilmore, "Those businesses that relegate themselves to the diminishing world of goods and services will be rendered irrelevant. To avoid this fate, you must learn to stage a rich, compelling experience."

When Ricketts read those words, she knew that's how she wanted to sell books. Before she started the visiting chefs series, she gave it a lot of thought. "I'm not a restaurant chef, and I don't own a restaurant. But I am a good home cook and I love cookbooks." She also worked for University Bookstores as an events coordinator. Then, about a year ago, she launched her own company, organizing author events for private corporations like Starbucks and Microsoft.

"Most people don't realize it," says Ricketts, "because these events are not open to the public. But big companies have book events all the time...Starbucks especially has a very bookish culture. (Chairman Howard) Schultz is really into books. And since Starbucks is essentially a food-development company, I pitched the idea of doing a chef series there."
 
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Rick Bayless,
Chef-owner, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, Chicago
The authority on Mexican cuisine teams up with daughter Lanie for "Rick and Lanie's Excellent Kitchen Adventures" (Stuart, Tabori and Chang, $29.95), to offer multigenerational perspectives on cooking, family and recipes from around the world.
Now Ricketts' version of the program is up and running here, with seven dinners so far. "They have been incredibly successful, truly wonderful and fun," she says. The list of guest chef/authors reads like a who's who in the culinary world: Judy Rogers, Patricia Wells, Marcus Samuelsson, Paula Wolfert, Caprial and John Pence, Carol Field and Janie Hibler. Scheduled for this fall is an even more stellar lineup: Jacques Pépin, Rick Bayless, Anthony Bourdain, Andrea Immer and Michael Lomonaco. Thomas Keller, Nigella Lawson and Ruth Reichl have also agreed to come, but dates for those events have not been set.

Union Bay Café chef Mark Manley was the first chef to host one of the dinners. "Obviously, it's been a lot of fun for us to meet these people and delve into what they do. But more than that, it's kind of like you take someone else's approach to food and get into it in depth. Sometimes we follow the recipes to the letter. But other times, even though we do stay true to the spirit of the book, it becomes more of an inspiration, like a starting point, and we go from there."
 
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Joyce Goldstein,
Food writer, culinary consultant and teacher
In "Italian Slow and Savory" (Chronicle Books, $40), the former chef/owner of San Francisco's Mediterranean Restaurant encourages us to take time to cook food that satisfies body and soul.
Early this summer, when Patricia Wells came to Seattle, demand was so great that Manley devoted two nights to the menu derived from "The Provençe Cookbook." With eight very popular books to her credit, Wells is practically a legend. "We started with a kind of antipasto plate that included her savory Rosemary Parmesan Madeleines, an Olive and Fig Spread, Artichoke Salad with Mint and Almonds, and Olive Fougasse," recalls Manley. The second course offered a choice of chilled Zucchini and Lemon Verbena Soup or a Salad of Sorrel and Mint. The main course was Guinea Hen Breast filled with Pistachios and Sage or Salmon, Braised in Viognier, a white wine popular in Provençe. "This was Copper River season," says Manley, "so, of course, we used that."

Among the dinners he is especially looking forward to is the one with Jacques Pépin. "I learned so much of what I do from his early books," Manley says. "I can't wait to meet him and cook with him."

Check it out
To learn more about the series, including dates and locations of upcoming events, call Kim Ricketts/Book Events at 206-523-3458 or check the Web site at www.kimricketts.com.

Greg Atkinson is a contributing editor for Food Arts magazine and a culinary consultant. He can be reached at greg@northwestessentials.com.

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