“So What Is Going On With Your Cookbook?” And Other Life Changing News


A page spread from the Herbivoracious cookbook

In journalism, they say “don’t bury the lede”, but today I’ve got three of them:

  • The cookbook will hit stores on May 8th, 2012 (if you are new here and thinking “what cookbook?” look here)
  • You can pre-order it this very minute on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or IndieBound
  • I’m quitting my day job

After 1.5 years of writing and testing and shooting and meeting and eating and editing and strategizing and even occasionally arguing, the book is at the printer right now. The team at Harvard Common Press has done an incredible job of designing the book so that it will be both lovely to look at and easy to use. Click on the page spread image above and you’ll see what I mean. The final stats: hardcover, 368 pages, 150 recipes, and 80+ full color photos.

I tweaked recipes until the last possible moment, making sure everything is dialed in just how I want it to be when you get your hands on it. It is an amazing feeling to have gone through this process with all of your support. There were definitely days when things weren’t going right in the kitchen that I would take a step back and remind myself how many of you have reached out to encourage me over the years. Obviously not every dish is going to be to everyone’s taste, but I feel confident that if you pick a recipe in the book because it sounds good to you, you are going to end up with something you will be proud of.

One thing I’ve emphasized through the whole process is that this isn’t just a cookbook for vegetarians. Almost everyone I talk to these days, regardless of their diet, wants to eat less meat. In fact, meat and poultry consumption in the US is down 12% over the past 5 years. I think there is a general recognition that meatless meals are good for your health, the environment, and animal welfare. I hope and believe that this book will be of interest to anyone who loves food.

When folks plan a vegetarian meal, they are often unsure what to do for an entree, so I’ve included over 40 main courses. You’ll be able to build a satisfying, healthful, and most of all, delicious meal around these main dishes, with a large selection of appetizers, salads, soups and side dishes. Chapters on breakfast and some unusual desserts round out the selection.

The book will officially hit the stores on May 8th, 2012. Harvard Common Press is doing an amazing amount to support it. In an era where tours are mostly on the author’s own dime if they happen at all, they are sending me on a multi-week tour all over the US, which is an indication of just how strongly they believe in this book. The dates and cities aren’t completely nailed down yet. I can’t wait for the opportunity to connect with all of you folks in person! If you would like to be on the email list so that you get each week’s new recipes and updates about the book and events, just sign up right here:

And yes… I’m quitting my day job. I’ve been a professional software engineer since I was 16 (yep, really… my first paid gig was writing accounting software for construction companies with my old pal David Harpe). I’ve had the opportunity to work for George Lucas making dinosaurs and Terminators, and for the past 12.5 years I’ve been at Adobe, working on After Effects with a group of people that have become some of my best friends in the world. It isn’t easy to step out of that womb. But my passion for food has simply grown to the point where I can’t keep squeezing it in on nights and weekends. As much as I love cooking for friends and family, writing, and interning at restaurants, it has become clear to me that I need  cooking to be my full time focus.

So I’m taking the leap. Am I nuts to give up the security of a good paying, mostly 9-5 job with great friends for massive uncertainty? Probably. Still, March 1st will be my last day at Adobe. After that, I’ll be spending several months improving the blog and promoting the book, and then I plan to open a restaurant of my own in Seattle, probably starting with a series of pop-ups while I develop the menu and find the right space and team.

Here we go!

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Posted by Michael Natkin on Wednesday, January 18th, 2012 in Cookbook Project.

56 Responses to ““So What Is Going On With Your Cookbook?” And Other Life Changing News”

  1. kelly rg
    January 18, 2012 at 7:57 am #

    Congratulations! As a 20+ year veggie and fellow Seattleite I can’t wait to support your new business!

  2. January 18, 2012 at 7:59 am #

    This is SO cool on all fronts. Congratulations. You are going to be successful at whatever you pursue, Michael!

    Marc

  3. Karin Tracy
    January 18, 2012 at 8:12 am #

    Congrats!!! What an awesome leap – as a small business owner myself, I can tell you that you’ll never work harder, but you’ll never feel better about yourself as you lay down to sleep each night.

  4. January 18, 2012 at 8:31 am #

    Awesome news Michael! Giving up a job in high-tech is a huge leap but I’m sure you’ll land on your feet. The book looks great and I’ll be ordering at least one copy. There are very few cookbooks that I actually find useful. Some are fun to look at but that’s about it. I sincerely think yours will be one that rises to the challenge.

    • January 18, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

      Thanks, Ari! That is definitely one of the goals – I only wanted to do this if it would be a book that people pick up, use, dogear lots of pages and spill sauce on.

  5. January 18, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    Looks great! I’ll be pre-ordering the cookbook soon. Swing by D.C. on your tour. :)

  6. January 18, 2012 at 8:59 am #

    That’s such fantastic news Michael! Can’t wait to have a new amazing veggie option!

  7. Terri Sue
    January 18, 2012 at 9:07 am #

    michael,
    wow. this is all great news. what a leap of faith. i probably say that coming from where i have lived for the past 27 years, texas. there are not many vegetarian restaurants here. i know they have a few in dallas, but being energy consious we wouldn’t make the drive to find out. before we moved here we lived in st. louis and they had quite a number of vegetarian restaurants. if we ever take a vacation to the pacific north west you will definately be on the list to do. your recipes are always…….different, and fantastic. i can’t wait for the cookbook.

  8. January 18, 2012 at 9:18 am #

    Congratulations!

    I’m looking forward to your book as I love your blog since I stumbled upon it. Hopefully amazon ships it to europe!
    If I ever come to Seattle, I will be very happy to be able to eat at your restaurant :)
    Laura

  9. Don McAuslan
    January 18, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    Well you may be crazy but this Ballard family will be coming to your restaurant!!!!

  10. melinda
    January 18, 2012 at 10:03 am #

    Can’t wait to come and eat at your restaurant. Congratulations.

  11. January 18, 2012 at 10:05 am #

    What wonderful news!!! How exciting!!

  12. January 18, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    Congratulations on all fronts Michael!!! This is such exciting news. I cannot wait for the cookbook. And scary as it is to leave the field you have been part of for so long, I know that you will be successful beyond belief in all your new ventures. That is so exciting that you will be opening a restaurant! I can’t wait to continue to follow your wonderful recipes and adventures. Best of luck!

  13. January 18, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    Awesome news! As someone who loves to cook, eat, and write, I applaud you. I know it’s been a lot of work to achieve this…congrats.

  14. January 18, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    This is wonderful news! I’m excited for you, and for all the people I’ll be sending copies of the cookbook to, and looking forward to eating at the first pop-up and everything that follows. Good luck!

  15. indigo
    January 18, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    big congrats!!!!! this is sp exciting. very happy for you :)

  16. January 18, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    Congratulations on the book. I’ve been loving your blog for the last several months so I’m looking forward to checking it out. I’m inspired by your willingness to take the leap to do what you love. I’m currently in the process of doing the same (though with different fields) and it’s so reassuring to hear I’m not the only one who is willing to get up a reliable, decent-paying job to pursue a passion.

    Keep posting!

    • January 18, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

      So what is your new field?

      • January 18, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

        Academic librarianship. I never really wanted to have to stop going to college. I am currently in an off-shoot of real estate but intern at a local university and I am getting my masters in Library and Information Sciences at night. Oh, and I try to squeeze in cooking and tasting the amazing Chicago restaurants and blogging whenever I find time in between. Sadly, the latter is always the first to get pushed off for another day. One of the bigger reasons I’m looking forward to graduating this Spring.

  17. January 18, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    Congrats, Michael! I’m very excited for you!

  18. January 18, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    I am speechless and very happy for you. It is a BIG step to leave “almost 9-5 job” to follow your dream. Congratulations! My husband has 17 months left of his medical residency training, after which we are going back home, to Seattle. So I am really looking forward to eat at your restaurant. We live in a meat “country” on the Oklahoma/Arkansas border at this time, and only here we … converted to a vegetarians. Transition was easy, I just quit eating meat “cold turkey’. The challenging part was to find natural and organic produce (non-GMO, no pesticides, etc…). And while other people here hunt for a game, I “hunt” for organic potatoes, non-GMO tofu, and all other stuff. It would be a very happy moment one day to say – for “What’s for dinner?” -” Let’s go to Michael’s restaurant!” Good luck and all the best wishes to you and your family!

    • January 18, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

      Well we’ll be happy to have you back in Seattle, where non-GMO tofu doesn’t require a rifle to track down :)

  19. Sarah Dietschi
    January 18, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    Congratulations Michael!!!

    We can’t wait to get the book.
    Vermont has a huge back to the earth, natural, sustainable food culture.
    Come to VT on your book tour! Stay with us!

    This is all so exciting. Way to go!

  20. swarna mani
    January 18, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    Excellent …way to go….congratulations.

  21. Ben G
    January 18, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    Awesome. I’m sold.

    One technical question though: For measured items — especially things like flour and salt that can vary by volume more than, say, water — do you do the units as cups, Tbsp, etc or grams? One thing I wish more cookbooks would do is use weight instead of volume since things like “1 cup of flour” or “1 Tbsp salt” aren’t precise (which is especially important in baking).

    Just curious why you did or didn’t use precise measurements.

    • January 18, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

      Hey Ben – It is a very good, very fair question which I gave a lot of thought to. Here’s where I landed. For technically precise savory recipes, like those associated with the modernist movement, there is absolutely a need for precision. While I love those kinds of recipes, this isn’t that kind of book so I didn’t think I needed them there. “1/2 cup finely diced onions” is going to be close enough, especially when you consider that every onion tastes different anyhow. For baking, I agree with you 100%. However really the precision there is mainly with regard to flour, as things like sugar don’t vary much. All of my testing is done with 1 cup of flour equal to 4.5 ounces (128 grams), and I certainly encourage you to weigh that. It is also quite useful to weigh baking soda, etc but I don’t think too many people have scales with sub-gram accuracy, so the traditional teaspoons etc work well enough. And then there is salt, which is tricky because the different flakes sizes really do weigh quite different amounts in the same volume, but again requires quite a good scale – 1 gram accuracy doesn’t do it, so I’ve done all of the bulk salting using Diamond Crystal kosher salt for consistency. Bottom line, I figured that cooking by weight just hasn’t caught on that much in the US yet, so I stuck with standard conventions to keep it accessible, but I’m happy to help anyone who has questions about making a recipe more precise.

  22. January 18, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    Awesome news on all fronts. Congratulations, Michael! I literally just jumped up and down re: the idea of a series of veggie pop-up restaurants in Seattle. I so admire your courage, and your willingness to prototype/experiment.

  23. January 18, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    Congrats! huge leap, but you’ll be great!! Lovely news!

  24. January 18, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    congrats chef!

  25. January 18, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

    Wow! Congratulations Michael! I’m looking forward to the book and only wish I lived in Seattle to visit your future restaurant. Maybe on a trip to the US I’ll make a detour. :) All the best!

  26. January 18, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

    Wow, wow and wow! I couldn’t be happier for you, Michael. What an exciting time for you!

  27. January 18, 2012 at 7:19 pm #

    Great news! Congrats Michael!

  28. January 18, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    This is so great and inspiring….Congratulations! Such a big achievement- very happy for you Michael. Love the idea of you opening a vegetarian restaurant.

  29. January 18, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    Congratulations and best wishes on your new career path!

  30. Michelle
    January 19, 2012 at 5:10 am #

    Best wishes! I just pre-ordered the book – your eggplant parma recipe sold me. As I’m sure you know, restauranting is hard work, but you’re in a great location. I look forward to hearing more about your new journey as it unfolds.

  31. January 19, 2012 at 9:46 am #

    Wonderful! So great to see you following your passion! Can’t wait to get your book :)

  32. January 19, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    Congratualtions on the book, and the big move! Best of luck to you!

  33. January 20, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    What wonderful news! Basically, you are doing what I hope to do someday. Bravo to you!! Now that I live in Seattle, I look forward to having a meal at your restaurant in the future :)

  34. Joelle
    January 20, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    Will you also be doing a digital copy of the book for readers and such?

    • January 20, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

      Hey Joelle – yes indeed, there will be a digital version. I don’t know details yet as to whether it goes live the same day as the hardcover and so on but it is definitely coming.

  35. January 22, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

    Congratulations! Your recipes are among the most creative and delicious on the web. You put so much passion into your foods, I don’t know how you ever had time for anything else! Best of luck to you, MIchael, I look forward to seeing what’s next on your journey.

  36. January 24, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    Michael, the book sounds awesome. Get it on the Nook, and I’ll review it for my blog.
    Deal?

    • January 24, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

      I don’t have the details, but my understanding is that it will be on all of the major devices. And thanks for the offer to review it, I’ll make sure HCP gets in touch with you!

  37. January 26, 2012 at 3:14 am #

    Gasp! Gasp! Gasp! Fantastic news. All of it.

    The spread is absolutely beautiful and can’t wait for the eventual restaurant. I’m occasionally in Seattle to visit my sister so I’ll definitely be excited to finally meet you and taste the results from your expert hands!!

    Yum! Yum! Yum!

    Ciao,

    L

    • January 26, 2012 at 8:09 am #

      Thanks, Laura, and please do let me know when you are in Seattle. I’d love to meet you!

  38. January 29, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    Congratulations! I honestly can’t wait to get your book, and I’m so looking forward to eating at your restaurant (or pop-up, or whatever) during one of my next visits to Seattle!

    • January 29, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

      Thanks, Lukas! I hope all is well with you. Got a new book in the works?

  39. February 9, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

    The cover of your book is beautiful! I know it’ll be amazing from page one until the end. I can’t wait to snag a copy!

  40. February 11, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    Congratulations on the book! I can’t wait to try out the recipes. I’m definitely getting the itch to leave my current line of work to do something food-related, so I commend your decision. Very cool!

  41. Anne-Marie
    February 18, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

    I’ve been followiing your blog since I stumbled across it in August 2007. Just like my Moosewood cookbooks from the ’90s, many of your recipes have become standby favorites in my house: the Swiss chard and onion enchiladas, the spinach and mushroom lasagna (and like most people I’m a lasagna snob), potstickers (gyoza), vegetarian Indian tacos, chana masala, and O, holy fungi, the shiitake and morel ravioli in brodo. I love your stories of food, from your cast iron skillet to guacamole. I really appreciate how your recipes and philosophy are not “let’s take the meat out and fill that hole” but “let’s start from the ingredients and build good food.” The food is important, sure, but so is the narrative about that food. I’ve already pre-ordered your cookbook and I look forward to visiting your restaurant when I come to Seattle – seriously, I would make a special trip. You are stepping out into the unknown, but you are not unprepared and we are with you!

    • February 18, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

      Wow, Anne-Marie, you made my day! The blog only started in July 2007 so you have been here since almost the beginning. Thanks for not giving up on me during the embarassing early posts :). I think you just described my philosophy of recipe development better than I ever have. Looking forward to meeting you someday.. maybe you are in one of the cities I’ll be visiting on the book tour?

  42. February 19, 2012 at 5:22 am #

    wow, michael! this is amazing news! i’ve been a fan for a long time and am truly inspired that you are following your passion. i, too, am trying to make a turn on life’s path and get out of the city and onto a farm. don’t know where yet, but if it’s anywhere near seattle, i’ll be sure to stop by your restaurant!

    in the meantime, i look forward to your tour and getting an autographed copy of what’s sure to be my go-to cookbook!

    cheers,
    joyce

    • February 19, 2012 at 8:16 am #

      Thanks, Joyce! You know I’ve been a fan of modernest for a long time too. That’s awesome that you are considering going Green Acres!

  43. Anne-Marie
    February 19, 2012 at 7:21 am #

    Likewise, Michael. Denver area right now…

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