By Chef Instructor Jenny McCoySchool of Pastry & Baking Arts

As I finalize the contract details for my next cookbook(!), I thought this would be the perfect time to write about my efforts in securing a book deal, as well as the the process I like to use to write the books themselves. Rizzoli published my first cookbook, Desserts for Every Season, in September of 2013, to critical acclaim. However, it was only with the help of an incredible agent, editor, photographer, and cookbook design team that I was actually able to get the thing written.


Most aspiring authors have no clue of just how much time and effort goes into writing a cookbook. By the time an author has completed her manuscript, she is often wondering why in the world she signed up to write one in the first place. There are several planning and execution stages involved in writing a cookbook, the most important of which is securing a great team of people to work with. In my opinion, one simply cannot write a cookbook without the help of others.

So in a kind of mini-series of blog posts for the ICE Blog, I am going to break down the process for you in four stages:

  1. Writing a Proposal
  2. Selling a Proposal
  3. Project Planning and Management
  4. Writing and Shooting Photos for a Cookbook

All of these phases include key partnerships, lots of thought and preparation, and knowledge that your cookbook will be a labor of love—not lots of money. And please keep in mind, if you truly want to write a cookbook, there are several ways to go about it. This is simply my advice, drawn from my personal experiences. I’ll be sure to keep it simple—the last thing I want is to deter anyone from achieving his or her dreams.

Part One: Writing a Cookbook Proposal

You can absolutely lose your mind before even putting pen to paper to draft a cookbook proposal. The concept is daunting. Like, really, really daunting. But if you break your proposal into small sections, you will find that getting over your fear of “OMG! How in the world am I supposed to write 40+ pages about an idea?” is a bit easier.

Here’s a list of the nine sections I recommend including in your proposal, along with a little bit of advice on specific information to include.

1. Title Page – Include the “working title” of your cookbook; Author’s name; and the name, address, and contact information for your literary agent. If you don’t have a literary agent, that’s ok for now—do not let it stop you from completing your proposal. (We’ll discuss agents further in Part Two of the series.)

2. Table of Contents – You’ll write this last, after you’ve completed the proposal. It should only be one page long and include page numbers.

Chocolate-026 crop

3. Overview – This is the part of the proposal where you want to SELL! SELL! SELL! your idea. It includes the following:

  • Mission Statement – Pitch your idea here. For example, explain how your idea is an up-and-coming trend or is an older subject that has a proven audience. Explain why you are personally interested in your cookbook’s topic. Discuss some of the details: will it be for home cooks, professionals, parents, kids? Will your recipes require specialty equipment and ingredients, or be easy-to-use and accessible for all levels of cooks? Cite prominent magazines or websites that have written articles about your cookbook’s subject. Prove to the publisher that you’re “on to something” and your book will fill a gap in the cookbook market.
  • Author Biography – This is where you shamelessly self-promote. Do not be shy. Include all of your relevant experience, accomplishments, and awards that you’ve received. Also include any past writing experience you may have—whether you’re an avid blogger or have had recipes or articles published already. Make sure you describe your professional platform; if you are or were the chef at a prominent restaurant, have a huge social media following, or know editors that will write about your book, now is the time to mention it! Publishers prefer books written by authors that already have a following and can help sell the cookbook, so if you have outlets for the book to gain exposure, let them know.

jenny at book launch


  • Front Matter – This information outlines the “front section” of your cookbook—all the stuff that fills the pages before you get to the recipes. Take a look at some of your favorite cookbooks for ideas, but be very, very brief in describing this section. All you need to do here is provide a simple list of the following:
    • Copyright Page
    • Dedication Page
    • Table of Contents
    • Foreword – Include one or more experts in the field that you know personally who might write a foreward for you. If you don’t have any, omit this from your list.
    • Introduction – List points that you’d like to cover in your introduction. Perhaps a brief history of the subject, your personal relationship to the subject, and your favorite tips for success, etc.
    • Ingredients and Equipment Guide – Most cookbook authors include this in a cookbook, but it’s not necessary. If you do want to include this in your front matter, write one to two bullet points about what information you plan to cover.
    • Do note that all of the components in the Front Matter (other than the copyright page and table of contents) are optional. So tailor your front matter outline around your personal preferences: if you hate when cookbooks include ingredient guides, skip it!
  • Outline of Chapters – Write one to two paragraphs about the flow of your cookbook. Tell your publisher how many recipes you want to include and how many photos you’d like per chapter. Perhaps you’d like the book to have illustrations, or maybe you’d like to include little sidebars on cooking tips and ingredient facts. Then list the chapters you plan to include, along with numbers and titles as you go along. (For example, a salad cookbook might go: 1-Leafy Greens; 2-Shaved Vegetables; 3-Whole Grains, etc.)
  • Back Matter – This is the section that follows your recipes. Simply list the following:
    • Resource Guide
    • Acknowledgement Page
    • Index
    • Back Jacket Quotes – If you can list prominent authors, chefs, experts that you know personally and who will write a quote for the back of your book, include their names here. DO NOT make this stuff up. Many publishers will hold you to this list, as it is a very important element to the sales and marketing of your book.


4. Market Analysis – This section isn’t necessary, but it certainly can’t hurt to write up. Whether you include this information in your proposal or not, you should definitely do your homework. You want a cookbook concept that doesn’t already exist or that isn’t a subject that is over-represented in the market. Publishers pick up books that will sell, so make sure you aren’t proposing a title that already has a ton of competition, like “Cupcakes,” for example.

  • Audience for Book – List all the categories of people you think will read or purchase your cookbook. Include internet-based booksellers, national bookstore chains, etc. But be brief, this is just a simple list.
  • Comparable Titles – If books exist that are similar to your subject, list them. You need to include the author name, publisher, and one line that describes the book. Make sure that line subtly downplays the book. You don’t want the publisher to think it’s better than your idea!


5. Sample Chapter Introduction – Write a chapter introduction. It should be one to two double-spaced pages. Have friends read it and give you feedback. Make sure it is clear and concise. Read chapter introductions from your favorite cookbooks for guidelines about what sort of information you might like to include.

6. Sample List of Recipes – List all the chapters you previously mentioned in your Outline of Chapters and include three to four recipe ideas for each chapter.

  • Sample Recipes – Include two or three fully written and edited recipes from your Sample List of Recipes. Take a look at recipes written in magazines or cookbooks for examples of how recipes are structured. Make sure they are easy to follow and that you have tested them carefully! Some editors will actually try your recipes. If they aren’t any good, guess who won’t be getting a return phone call?


7. Selected Press Clips – If you or you work has ever been mentioned in the press, include clips here. Be sure you mention the name of the publication, author of article, publish date, and the entire article, including photography. Anywhere from three to five samples is good. Pick the press clips that highlight your work best.

8. Selected Writing Samples – If you are a blogger, this is a great place to include two or three of your favorite posts and photos. Or, if you’ve ever been a guest writer, include your published articles here.

9. Sample Images – This section is completely optional, but I love including it in my proposals. Beautiful images of food will help sell your proposal. If you have great images that you have shot yourself, use those first. Otherwise, you can pull images from the Internet and call them “inspirational” images. Be sure to credit the photographers and mention your sample images are meant to give your publisher a sense of the aesthetic and design you’d like your book to have.

So there you have it! Just pull these elements together, and next thing you know, you have a proper cookbook proposal. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to write your Outline of Chapters and Sample List of Recipes and call it a day. But don’t do that. There is nothing wrong with starting on the easy sections, then parsing through the harder sections. Figure out what will motivate you best: if you have a friend that is an amazing writer or editor, swap them dinner for assistance in putting your proposal together. Or drink a pot of coffee and lock yourself in a room with your laptop until it is complete. Or set a goal to write one to two sections a week. I find I do my best work on airplanes, when I have no one to bother me and nothing else to do but sit for hours.

To learn more about Chef Jenny and her cookbook, Desserts for Every Season, click here.


By Shannon Mason


It was exactly one year ago, this month, that I made the decision to start consuming a plant-based vegan diet. Eating vegan is challenging in today’s culture, but not impossible. Usually all I have to say is “hold the cheese” when ordering at restaurants, but breakfast foods are a different story. I remember the day when my dad took me our favorite diner for breakfast and I realized the only thing vegan I could order was black coffee and hash browns—that is, if they weren’t cooked in butter.



Because most traditional breakfast foods like pancakes, parfaits and pastries consist of animal products, I find eating a gourmet vegan breakfast to be the most challenging. So I was thrilled to be a part of Adam Sobel’s “Decadent Vegan Breakfast” recreational cooking class here at ICE. Adam is the founder of the award-winning Cinnamon Snail truck, a restaurant on wheels that parks around Manhattan and serves gourmet treats like crème brûlée donuts and fresh plum pancakes. Needless to say, breakfast is not a problem for Adam. His decadent breakfast menu consisted of:


Dandelion Greens with Lemon Garlic Potatoes

Maple Mustard Breakfast Seitan Strips

Vanilla Sesame Milk

Bourbon Pecan Pancakes with Ginger Stout Syrup and Cardamom Butter


In the class we learned how to use nutrient dense ingredients like coconut oil, whole grain mustard and even dandelion greens, which Adam said can be picked straight from some backyards! He was passionate about every ingredient we used and took the time to explain both their health benefits and how they are used for his own Cinnamon Snail creations.


Vegan pancakes, seitan strips and dandelion greens with potatoes.

Vegan pancakes, seitan strips and dandelion greens with potatoes.

When it comes to teaching, Adam is quirky, easy going and truly happy to be sharing his experience with clean vegan cooking. His goal is to use “not crazy” ingredients, as he puts it, that our bodies can easily recognize and digest properly. Vegan or not, the dishes we prepared can be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates the taste and nutritional value of whole foods. In fact, I am willing to bet that if a stranger off the street sat down to eat with us, they would never have known the food didn’t contain animal products—which is the whole point!


My favorite recipe was the Maple Mustard Breakfast Seitan Strips, made of seasoned vegetables combined with vital wheat gluten, fried (or baked) to a crispy golden brown and smothered in a bittersweet sticky glaze. It sounded scary at first, but not after I learned that every ingredient can be found in nearly every household kitchen. Better yet, every ingredient is derived from plants! Everyone had fun forming the doughy mixture into strips and taking turns dropping them in the skillet.


Adam demonstrates how to strain the vanilla sesame milk.

The Vanilla Sesame Milk was my second favorite recipe. I never understood how “milk” can be made from a nut or seed and I’ve always wanted to learn how to make it. All it took to create this creamy sweet calcium-rich beverage was soaking the seeds, blending them at high speeds with other ingredients, and then straining the liquid through a mesh strainer. We even learned tips on what to do with the leftover pulp so nothing is wasted.


It is one thing to know how to cook vegan, but a completely different experience when you actually understand why certain ingredients work better in vegan cooking than others. Adam provided our class with valuable information and skills that I can integrate into my own lifestyle…and that I can use to fool my friends and family into eating a delicious vegan meal.


Give the Vanilla Sesame Milk a try at home. It’s much easier than it sounds. Plus one cup of sesame milk has a whopping 1,400 mg. of calcium, a great alternative to cow’s milk, which is a mere 290 mg. It also makes a great base for ice creams and milk shakes.

Vanilla Sesame Milk


Makes 1 quart



  • 2/3 cup unroasted sesame seeds
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 T. coconut butter (natural unrefined)
  • 3 T. maple syrup
  • 1t. sea salt
  • 3 cups water



  1. Place the sesame seeds in the pitcher of a high-speed blender and cover them with 1 cup of water. Let the seeds soak for at least 20 minutes, or up to an hour. (This allows the seeds to expand making the blending process much smoother).
  2. Blend the seeds and water at a high speed for 40 seconds. Add the remaining ingredients and blend for another 40 seconds until as smooth as possible.
  3. Pour the sesame milk through a very fine mesh strainer or strainer bag to remove any grit. (At the class we used a Chinois, pronounced “Sheen-wah.”)



By Carly DeFilippo


This week, the New York culinary community celebrated the 20th anniversary of Chefs Collaborative, the leading national nonprofit network of chefs invested in creating a more sustainable food landscape. ICE hosted the cookbook launch for the collaborative’s 2013 publication, featuring recipes from such renowned chefs as Dan Barber, Rick Bayless, Mary Sue Milliken, and Ethan Stowell.


A selection of chefs from across the country prepared a local, seasonal feast, featuring their recipes from the book. ICE students cooked alongside these culinary all-stars, preparing dishes such as Matthew Weingarten’s whey-poached triggerfish or Piper Davis’ Oregon filbert and honey tart.

ICE grad Seohyung Im and Chef Caroline Fidanza of Brooklyn's Saltie

ICE grad Seohyung Im and Chef Caroline Fidanza of Brooklyn’s Saltie


ICE students helped prepare Andrea Reusing’s savory custard (Lantern).

Also in attendance was Ellen Jackson, who authored the 2013 cookbook in cooperation with the organization’s member chefs. In total, the text features 115 sustainable recipes, as well as dedicated sections addressing the benefits of organic products, baking with whole grains, sourcing sustainable fish, the comparative quality of frozen meat, and more.


ICE President Rick Smilow, Ellen Jackson and Michael Leviton (Area Four; Lumiere)

We were also thrilled to see alumni working toward a more sustainable food industry, such as Sydney Schwarz of Sea to Table, as well as other members of the extended ICE family, like Chefs Advisory Council member Michael Anthony.


Sydney Schwarz, Michael Anthony (Gramercy Tavern) and Seth Caswell (Bon Appetit Management Company)

Thank you to all the members of the Chefs Collaborative who helped make this event a success. It was our pleasure to celebrate your 20th anniversary and cookbook launch, and we look forward to continuing to support your efforts toward a more sustainable food industry.

I first learned of Canal House Cooking while browsing through a bookstore in Soho two years ago. In the cooking and food writing section I noticed a series of five thin books, each a numbered volume categorized by season, sandwiched between the much thicker, bulky cookbooks on the shelf. Size wasn’t the only thing that set these cookbooks apart; authors Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton cook, write, style, photograph and design all volumes out of their Lambertville, NJ studio kitchen.  Today, those self-published cookbooks are a staple in my kitchen (and often in my purse while on holiday vacations and weekend trips to Cape Cod), where they continue to inspire my cooking.


Regular readers of DICED will know Chef Instructor James Briscione from his many adventures around ICE. In April alone, he went to Italy to study sous-vide, starred in the Celebrity Apprentice and gave us a recipe for potato-crusted halibut.  What you may not know is that he and wife Brooke Parkhurst’s book, Just Married & Cooking, will make its debut next week.

While Chef James can usually be found teaching in one of ICE’s professional Culinary Arts kitchens or cooking pork in a recreational class, Brooke is also an ICE Instructor who leads classes in ICE’s Center for Food Media. In addition to all this, they teach couples cooking classes together. As a newly married couple with a strong background in food, they created e a compendium of delicious recipes for any occasion — from weeknight meals to special moments.

Just Married & Cooking
is jammed packed with over 200 recipes for couples to prepare affordable, seasonal meals at home together — a venerable guide to life together in the kitchen. They say, “We think it’s simple enough not to intimidate beginners yet inspiring enough to entice first-timers into the kitchen.” Ted Allen, the host of Food Network’s Chopped (which Chef James won twice!) praised the book as “an instant classic that every young couple should put on their gift registry. Yes, it’s a great collection of recipes, as easy as they are delicious and interesting. But, more than that, it’s an owner’s manual for the heart of the household, as inspiring to (ahem) older couples as it is essential to newlyweds.” For an example of some of their great ideas, check out these Derby Day recipes.

If you are in the New York City area, you can catch them at Williams Sonoma at Columbus Circle on May 11, or catch one of two “Cook the Book” classes they will be doing at ICE on May 14 or May 15. The book will be available in stores on May 10, but you can preorder online in the ICE bookstore.

For more from the duo, check out their Twitter and Facebook or their website.

Dan Leader was at ICE yesterday to demonstrate a variety of bread recipes for ICE students and alumni. Leader, who sits on ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts Advisory Council, was named one of Dessert Professional’s Top Ten Bread Bakers in America in 2010. He is the owner and baker of the acclaimed Bread Alone Bakery in New York’s Catskill Mountains. His amazing breads are also available at the Union Square Greenmarket.

In addition to being a accomplished baker, Leader is also the author of Bread Alone, Local Breads and Panini Express. His latest book is Simply Great Breads: Sweet and Savory Yeasted Treats from America’s Premier Artisan Baker. The book is full of easy bread recipes inspired by request for simple, fast recipes from his readers and customers.

For the demo, Leader demonstrated a flatbread, doughnuts and chocolate babka. Leader walked the audience through the three dramatically different breads, but said that baking really just boiled down to keeping things simple and understanding a few basic techniques. More…

As Christmas decorations go up and the fifth day of Hanukkah begins, we’ve been thinking about all the food that goes along with the holidays. Between the cookies, cheese balls, and general feasting at parties, we here at ICE are very excited for all the treats we’ll get to eat between now and the end of the season. But beyond just eating, the holidays are a time to create lasting food memories. Christmas wouldn’t be complete without the experience of making treasured cookies. For Hanukkah, people work on perfecting the ideal latke with recipes passing through generations. Variations on these traditions abound, and everyone has at least a few lasting holiday memories.

So, to celebrate the season, we’d want to hear about your traditions and memories. Tell us your favorite holiday food memory, whether it is a beloved Christmas tradition, a funny Hanukkah story or a memorable New Year’s Eve, and you’ll be eligible for a chance to win a copy of baking maven Dorie Greenspan’s newest cookbook, Around My French Table. You can leave a comment below, or let us know on our Facebook wall or over Twitter. We’ll leave the contest open until January 3, 2011, leaving time to include this year’s memories as well. So, what memories make the holidays special to you?

Looking for a fun and interesting culinary class? ICE offers more than 1,700 recreational classes each year. Here is a round-up of some of the classes happening this month:

Going Bananas — September 13
Thanks to its unique texture and flavor, banana is one of America’s favorite dessert ingredients. From pie to pudding, join Jennifer McCoy to make great use of it, with recipes such as Banana Pudding with Gingersnap Cookies; Banana Cream Pie; Bananas Foster; Banana-Sour Cream Muffins; and Roasted Banana Ice Cream Sundaes. Jennifer McCoy is the pastry chef at Tom Colicchio’s Craft. Before that, she held the same position at A Voce and Marc Forgione in New York, Emeril’s Delmonico in New Orleans, and Bittersweet Bakery in Chicago. Early in her career in Chicago, she also worked in the pastry kitchens of Gordon, Blackbird, and Charlie Trotter’s. Jennifer still write for cooking blog.

Get Yourself Published — September 22
You’ve got the running narrative, the headnotes, and the recipes all typed out and meticulously edited in Microsoft Word. Now what? Learn the latest self-publishing technologies and roll your own cookbook! Find out the easiest, fastest way to publish your work in a real book, with gorgeous pictures, perfect binding, and a custom cover, at a surprisingly low cost. This class will provide a market survey of book-making services, show you how to layout your materials for printing, and manage the production workflow to create your own Print On Demand food book. Finally, you’ll explore distribution and marketing and learn how to obtain an ISBN number and how to sell your books online and through national booksellers.

Malaysia Kitchen for the World — September 28
Chef Zak Pelaccio will show how he uses the country’s wonderful ingredients in inspired interpretations of the cuisine. He is the award-winning executive chef and partner of the critically acclaimed Fatty Crab. Early in his career, Chef Pelaccio spent close to a year working at a traditional Malay restaurant in Kuala Lumpur — he was only westerner who had ever cooked there. The experience was life changing: It opened his mind to new flavors and a new style of cuisine, and inspired him to open his first restaurant. A spin-off, Fatty ‘Cue, opened this spring in Williamsburg, offering Malaysian and Southeast Asian barbecue. He will demonstrate two of Fatty Crab’s most popular dishes, Chicken Satay and Crispy Pork and Watermelon Salad.

For details and reservations, register online or call 888.576.CHEF.