A Toronto DIY cookbook hits the big time

A Toronto DIY cookbook hits the big time

(Image courtesy of authors)

“Haven’t you always wanted to tell someone to bite you?” asks Julie Albert. She is the half of the sibling duo who recently said just that to publishers—metaphorically speaking, of course—and went on to self-publish its own cookbook, titled, of course, Bite Me.

Albert and her sister, Lisa Gnat, are neither chefs nor writers (although they love to throw a good dinner party)—two facts that resulted in their cookbook concept being turned down by a major publisher. But after all the work they put into perfecting their recipes (up to eight hours a day), the pair decided the book needed to be released, so they published it themselves. So far, it has been well received; Bite Me even became the first cookbook to receive a Heather’s Pick designation from Indigo.

The sisters, the daughters of Toronto philanthropists Larry and Judy Tanenbaum, have long lived close to one another, in Forest Hill. Gnat is a lifelong home cook and once owned a bakery. She concocted the 175 recipes in the book; Albert, who has a passion for writing, compiled them and took care of the book’s design (including securing Bruce Mau to finesse the look). Albert admits she’s never been much of a cook, so she was the crash-test dummy for the recipes, claiming that if she could make them, anyone could.

The learning curve was a challenge, but nothing compares to the risk of self-publishing. The authors lost sleep worrying about the smallest details of their project. The result is a sort of hybrid between a cookbook and a coffee-table book. It features 18 fine art photos (some by the legendary photographers Melvin Sokolsky and David Lachapelle) in addition to 51 food photos.

“It has to work and work every time,” Albert says. “There are a lot of cookbooks out there, and maybe you get one or two recipes that you actually like. But we wanted to make cooking accessible.”