In today's world, cookbooks written by successful chefs are commonplace, and by any definition, Jose Andres is successful. He's the culinary guide for six local restaurants (Jaleo in Bethesda, Crystal City and the Penn Quarter; Cafe Atlantico and its Minibar and Zaytinya, also in the Penn Quarter; and Oyamel in Crystal City). In 2003, he was named best chef in the mid-Atlantic by the James Beard Foundation. And he hosts a popular cooking show on Spanish national television -- no small honor for a chef working in America.
But writing a cookbook was different challenge, even after Andres, 36, sought guidance from friends who had written their own. What should he focus on? How should he organize it? How should he start?
Andres, a native of Spain who lives in Washington, needed an American writing partner. His choice: Richard Wolffe, a friend, former neighbor and White House correspondent for Newsweek.
Finding a publisher wasn't a problem. Once word got out that Andres had a book proposal, several were interested. Andres went with Clarkson Potter, which agreed to let him work with Wolffe and hire the photographer and designers he wanted. "It's like selling a house," Andres says. "You get many offers at the beginning, the price keeps going up, people drop out and you go with the best one."
For Andres, the impetus for the book was putting his approach into words. His advance wasn't bad ("the low six figures," he says), but from that he had to pay Wolffe, the photographer and designers and handle the research and recipe costs. He owns the foreign publishing rights. "A good deal for a first-time cookbook author," he says.
That said, he insists raking in big bucks was not his primary motive. "You do the book because you have a bigger goal," he says, "a personal need to put your knowledge down . . . and share your expertise."
His guidance for would-be cookbook writers: "It's hard work," he says. "Make sure you really want to do it, and have the time." Even so, he has two more planned: one on Spanish cooking and another on the "creative cooking" he's developed in this country.
"And know that for you it will never be the perfect book. That you'll always want to change it."
-- Judith Weinraub