“Last Bite” Offers The Latest Word on KC Cuisine
Kansas City-area readers no doubt have seen–and tried–the tantalizing recipes shared by Pete Dulin in Star Magazine every Sunday, and Roy Inman’s photographic talents have thrilled us for decades. The duo collaborated on a fantastic new cookbook, Last Bite: 100 Simple Recipes from Kansas City’s Best Chefs and Cooks (KC Star Books, $17.95 print, $9.95 e-book), which will hit the shelves in late October 2012.
As part of our ongoing series* on writing, authors and the evolution of publishing, we visited with Pete and Roy to gain some insights into Kansas City’s best fare. We also delve into what it takes to write and edit a cookbook, as well as create images that capture the flavor of the recipes.
Pete, your recipe column is read by thousands every week in the Kansas City Star ‘Star Magazine’. Was it inevitable you would pen a cookbook?
Pete: The Last Bite recipe column in Kansas City Star’s ‘Star Magazine’ on Sundays is a popular column. People tell me regularly that they clip out recipes to try. After three years of writing Last Bite, photographer Roy Inman, who shot photos of every dish, and I have produced a significant body of work. I thought it would have widespread appeal if published as a book.
Fortunately, Doug Weaver, publisher at KC Star Books, agreed that a cookbook with simple recipes and a focus on local chefs and cooks was appealing for cooks and attractive as a gift.
Also, thanks goes to several people at The Star that enabled me to work on Last Bite. Food editor Jill Silva referred me to Cindy Hoedel, who contacted me with the idea for coordinating and writing the existing column. Cindy and Tim Engle served as the editor for Last Bite initially and current editor Laurie Mansfield recently took over the reins. Without their help, I would not have had the opportunity to write the column or produce the cookbook several years later.
How many recipes did you consider for Last Bite? Was it tough to decide which recipes would make it to the final 100 for the book?
Pete: Roy and I worked on over 150 recipes during a three-year period from 2009 through mid-2012. Together with Doug, we decided on using 100 recipes from forty local chefs and cooks that would offer readers plenty of variety. Roy and I produced photos and profiles of those forty people in the span of two weeks. I wanted to include enough people to represent Kansas City’s talented culinary scene. I only wish we had the time and space to include more people. The recipes in the book, published previously in the newspaper, were drawn from those forty people. We tried to balance the number of recipes in most categories. Other factors included seasonal variety of the recipes, visual appeal of the photos, and what made us hungry.
Last Bite not only shares recipes, but also information about the chefs who created them. Tell us about some of the local chefs featured in the book.
Pete: The cookbook includes well-established chefs in the restaurant community and lesser known cooks with food-related businesses. Collectively, these people share a sincere appreciation for good food. Their recipes make the Last Bite cookbook so eclectic. Last Bite includes James Beard Foundation award-winning or nominated chefs such as Celina Tio (of Julian), Debbie Gold (of The American Restaurant), Colby Garrelts (of bluestem), and Michael Smith (of Extra Virgin). Other accomplished chefs include Charles d’Ablaing (of Chaz on the Plaza), Carl Thorne-Thomsen. (of Story), pastry chef Megan Garrelts (of bluestem), and Tate Roberts (of EBT Restaurant). Chefs Bob Brassard and Justin Hoffman are culinary educators at student-run Broadmoor Bistro. Chef and cookbook author Amber Shea Crawley and Sandi Corder-Clootz (of Eden Alley Cafe) contributed vegan and vegetarian recipes.
Avid cooks like Jamie Milks (of Everyday Organics), Duane Daugherty (of Mr. Doggity Foods), and Sheri Parr (of The Brick) contributed recipes ranging from black bean quinoa burgers to Italian white bean soup to pumpkin pancakes.
These cooks and chefs have different touchstones when it comes to food. Their recipes reflect farm-to-table and seasonal dining trends as well as dietary concerns such as gluten-free foods. The diversity of recipes in this book is also a strength in terms of a cookbook that can appeal to many interests.
Roy, you’re well known for the wide variety of subjects in your photos–people, architecture, fashion, and of course, food. Is shooting photos of food more or less challenging than other subjects?
Roy: Food photography certainly has its degree of difficulty! The point is to make it look extremely edible. These were all shot according to very specific guidelines: Tight composition emphasizing just the food, only minimal props such as spoons, forks or knives, and very sharp focus to differentiate the images from the in vogue style of excessively shallow focus. Many dishes need to photographed quickly, unlike a typical architectural photo wherein the subject doesn’t change except with the light. And there is the CARDINAL rule of food photography: Don’t eat the subject until it’s shot!
Ha! Roy, you tried most of the dishes you photographed. Any favorites you would care to mention?
Roy: Wow that is a tough one. I particularly liked the mac and cheese from Martin City Brewing Company. The pimento cheese spread from Café Europa was yummy. Jasper’s Boulevard pot roast was simply divine. Hard to find a better tomato tarragon soup than the 12 Baltimore version. Desserts were all fabulous, but since I am a fan of anything pumpkin, I would give the edge to Terry Mille’s spiced pumpkin cheesecake.
Question to Pete and Roy: Where do you think Kansas City stands in the nation’s culinary reputational standings? Are we just known for barbecue? Is this book an attempt to let the rest of the world know about the culinary quality of KC?
Roy: Hard for me to judge. All I can say is that we have a large variety of restaurant offerings, from Indian to Italian to a literal smorgasbord of great burgers, plus our world-famous barbecue.
Pete: Sure, we’re known for barbecue, but there’s so much more to appreciate. Slowly, out-of-towners (and locals) have discovered we have great regional cuisine, ethnic food, and artisan producers of cheese, meat, beer, wine, smoked nuts, and more. Kansas City is gaining a well-deserved recognition as a culinary destination. James Oseland, editor-in-chief of Saveur stated, “We’ve long thought of Kansas City as a good barbecue town,” Oseland said, “but its high-end dining is really on the rise.” Other national publications such as Food and Wine and the New York Times and Food Network programs have picked up the scent too. Kansas City celebrates its culinary and cocktail renaissance through events like KC Restaurant Week, the recent Paris of the Plains Cocktail Festival, and events like Green Dirt Farms’ farm-to-table dinners.
We have award-winning chefs and bartenders at independent restaurants using fresh ingredients from local sources. Frankly, tourists, foodies with social media bullhorns, and national media don’t have to validate the fact that we have top-notch food and drink. That’s been apparent dating back to Calvin Trillin’s famous quote about Kansas City’s restaurants only our local scene has improved vastly in recent years.
Last Bite is a one-of-a-kind cookbook that represents only some of the city’s best culinary talent. It is a tribute to the people more than our city’s food scene or reputation. If the book entices people to come to Kansas City and visit some of the restaurants and businesses represented here, then I firmly believe they won’t leave hungry or disappointed.
Last Bite will be released in softcover book and ebook formats. My wife and I often use our iPad or Smartphone as “cookbooks” in the kitchen, rather than a physical cookbook. Do you find that is happening more often? Is that the shape of things to come?
Pete: People are using e-books, specifically cookbooks, in the kitchen more readily. They save precious space by being stored on a tablet or laptop instead of the counter top. The two main advantages – E-books are convenient (saves space) and inexpensive (saves money). My girlfriend, who rarely cooks, has five cookbooks on her iPad. Cookbooks in e-book format invite exploration on different types of cooking for ethnic food, diets, or other criteria without the guilt of a book gathering dust within a few days.
Some articles of note:
Cookbook revolution: Digital versions poised to take a kilo-bite out of the tradition
Cookbooks for Kindle (and other ebook readers)
Roy, does the e-format present challenges in rendering your photos?
Roy: The “formula” to which the photos had to adhere actually help in the e-format. Generally speaking, for anything that will be viewed smallish, as on an iPhone or even on a desk computer, simple subjects that fill the frame are stronger, and that is exactly what I set out to accomplish with the original Last Bite photos.
How did you get noted food blogger Bonjwing Lee involved in writing the foreword to the book?
Pete: I interviewed Bonjwing about bluestem: The Cookbook, which he co-wrote with bluestem Chefs Megan and Colby Garrelts, for my site petedulin.com. I respect his skill as a writer and photographer, avid curiosity about food, and commitment to sharing his perspective on cuisine in an authoritative manner. He was kind enough to accept when I asked him to write the foreword. His view of Kansas City’s culinary community, while not shared by all, helps to frame the significance of the cookbook in terms of the people represented in it.
Roy and Pete–What would you like to hear from a Last Bite reader about the book if they ran into you in the store or at a restaurant?
Roy: “I’ve tried most of the recipes, they are all great, and I loved the photographs!”
One thing I would like to add: All of the chefs were incredible to work with. They went above and beyond the call of duty to help make the food look its best for the camera. In every case, I carefully styled each dish after it was in front of me and it took anywhere from 20-40 exposures to get what I wanted from the light painting technique I used for most of the photos. All of the food was shot on location, so it would have been too time-consuming and awkward to set up expensive, heavy, studio strobes. I used two or three pen cell flashlights and Snake Lights, and small, silver cardboard reflectors. Total cost for all of the lighting gear, about $15, because I was able to find the flashlights at garage sales.
Pete: I hope they say, “I bought the book, tried the recipes, enjoyed them, visited the chef’s restaurant, bought products made locally, and supported local businesses.”
That’s a lot to ask. I hope the book encourages people to cook at home and experiment with the recipes.
On a closing note, producing this cookbook and working with Roy has been an honor. He’s a consummate professional. I’m thrilled that his food photographs will appear in book form so the colors can truly dazzle the eye. I’m also grateful for the chefs and cooks that I have worked with over the years. It’s my privilege to promote their business and work.
For updates about the book, events, and retail locations, visit lastbitecookbook.com or like our Facebook page, facebook.com/LastBiteCookbook.
Pete and Roy, thank you for your time and for creating such a magnificent window into the kitchen’s of KC’s finest chefs and cooks! –Alex Greenwood
Last Bite will be sold at The Kansas City Store locations and online, thekansascitystore.com
Wholesale Order Date: Orders begin October 15, 2012
Retail price: $17.95.
Size: 8.5 x 11 inches. 120 pages.
Wholesale Book Orders
Contact Jack Beasley, KC Star at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-234-4473. KC Star Books ships directly to the stores.
Country Club Plaza, 314 Ward Parkway
, 816-756-1997. Open Mon-Sat, 10 to 7 and Sunday, noon to 5.
Union Station, 30 West Pershing Road, 816-283-8282. Open Tue-Fri 8:30 to 5, Saturday 10 to 5 and Sunday 11 to 5. Closed Mondays.
Amazon.com – soft-cover and e-book
Local shops – Pryde’s Old Westport
Saturday, November 3, 1 PM
Cooking Demonstration and Book SigningCooking demonstration with Chef Michael Foust of The Farmhouse and Pete Dulin and book signing with photographer Roy Inman and Pete Dulin. Kansas City Home & Garden Magazine Cooking Stage at the 2012 Home, Design & Remodeling Expo, Bartle Hall.
Thursday, November 15, 7 PM
Last Bite Book Release Party/Signing
Pete Dulin and Roy Inman with cabaret performance by alacartoona Le Fou Frog 400 East 5th Street, Kansas City
*Disclosure: No entity mentioned in this post (including KC Star Books, Pete Dulin, Roy Inman or other businesses listed) are now or ever were clients of AlexanderG Public Relations.
We have received no promotional consideration for this post.