Chef and soon-to-be restaurateur (very soon) Mike Isabella has selected two collaborators for his debut cookbook, “Flavors from a Jersey Italian,” a Da Capo Lifelong Books release scheduled for fall 2012. The Graffiato owner didn’t have far to look for one of them.
Isabella’s wife, Stacy Isabella, left her job at the Hotel Monaco to test recipes at home for her husband. “I’m excited about that, because I do love to cook,” says Stacy. “It’s a good fit for me to help him out with that.”
The former Zaytinya chef also picked a writer for the project: Carol Blymire, the Alinea at Home blogger who followed Isabella closely during his run on “Top Chef All-Stars.” She blogged about it right here at All We Can Eat.
“We have the same agent,” Blymire writes via e-mail, “and the opportunity presented itself through that connection. Mike and I spent some time together, I wrote a few things to make sure I could capture his voice and that we’d work well together, and blammo — done deal. I have some experience ‘translating’ restaurant food for the home cook, so this couldn’t be a more perfect fit.”
Isabella says he interviewed a number of writers but decided that Blymire best captured his tough, tell-it-like-it-is, northern New Jersey voice. Despite the title of the book, Isabella says the recipe collection may wander in directions away from the Jersey shore and toward the Mediterranean, which has influenced Isabella’s cooking. The chef expects the book to feature about 125 recipes in all.
Whatever the final cookbook includes, Blymire is looking forward to working with Isabella. “We’ve spent some time together getting it started, but I cannot WAIT to sit in that restaurant while he cooks and tests, and tells me stories and we talk food for hours at a time,” she wrote. “I dig the guy. He’s got a big heart and is a pretty phenomenal cook.”
Blymire already knows how she wants to approach the project.
“What takes a cookbook from good to great are the stories behind the chef and his or her food,” she notes. “A good sommelier pairs wines with food in a way that brings out the best in both. As a writer, I want to do the same thing — unearth those anecdotes and experiences that tell the story of Mike Isabella through the food he cooks so that people who buy the book and cook from it feel that connection, you know?”
The writer already has the endorsement of the chef’s wife. “I think at the end of the day,” Stacy Isabella says, “Carol really understands Mike.”