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Do celebrity chefs produce ghost written cookbooks?


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#1 Rail Paul

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 05:28 PM

Julia Moskin of the New York Times recently penned a piece that appeared to imply that Rachael Ray and Gwyneth Paltrow used the services of ghost writers in their recent cookbooks. Both writers took exception to the article, as did Mario Batali, who was also linked to the article.

Eater notes the spat has drawn some big names (Regina Schrambling, Steve Cuozzo, etc) into the discussion. One that I would raise is how does one NOT use a ghost writer, recipe tester, collaborating editor etc and deliver a quality book. I've used recipes from many books (the early Martha Stewart cookbooks come immediately to mind) where recipes weren't field tested for time, measurements, etc. Figuring out where the editor, etc end and the writer begins could be a subject in itself.

Or, as Paltrow put it, "No ghost writer on my cookbook, I wrote every word myself."

Moskin's response deals with definitions: she clarifies the difference between ghost writing and "ghost-cooking," or when someone is hired to invent recipes for a cookbook. It is the latter that, as she writes, "carried a strong stigma in the food world."



Today's NYT response:

...and we heard from a number of people named in the article, including Jamie Oliver, Rachael Ray, Gwyneth Paltrow and Mario Batali. All four have acknowledged, in print, working with collaborators on their books — but all objected to what they saw as the implication that they were not the authors of their own work.

While the article dealt with a wide range of assistance, it became clear that the notion of “ghostwriting” carried a strong stigma in the food world. It suggested that the food itself — the ingredients, the flavors, the techniques — was invented by someone else. This does sometimes happen (call it “ghost-cooking”), and the chefs who engage in it are the objects of a special kind of scorn.


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The original article to which the authors objected has a picture of Ms Paltrow's cookbook and mentions her ghost writer, Julia Turshen. The other photograph is of April Bloomfield's book and her ghost writer, the estimable JJ Goode. Ms Ray's ghost writer is identified as Wes Martin.

“The team behind the face is invaluable,” said Wes Martin, a chef who has developed recipes for Ms. Ray and others. “How many times can one person invent a new quick pasta dish?”

Mr. Martin, and dozens of others like him, have a particular combination of cooking skills, ventriloquism and modesty that makes it possible not only to write in the voices of chefs, but to actually channel them as cooks.

“It’s like an out-of-body experience,” Mr. Martin said. “I know who I am as a chef, and I know who Rachael is, and those are two totally separate parts of my brain.”

Employing writers and recipe developers has long been routine; chefs, after all, have their own specialized skills, and writers are not expected to be wizards in the kitchen.

Ghostwriting is common among business leaders, sports figures and celebrities. But the domesticity and intimacy of cooking make readers want to believe that the food they make has been personally created and tested — or at least tasted — by the face on the cover. And that isn’t always the case, especially for restaurant chefs.

Food ghostwriters come in many different flavors, including the researchers who might spend days testing every possible method of cooking beans for Bobby Flay, the aproned assistants at the Food Network who frantically document everything that the “talent” does on camera in order to produce recipes for the Web site, and the (slightly) more literary work of writers who attempt to document a chef’s ideas, memories and vision in glossy cookbooks.


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#2 nuxvomica

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 05:51 PM

if Ray and Paltrow are considered "celebrity chefs" then i guess i shouldn't be surprised that collaborators credited on the cover are considered "ghostwriters"
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#3 Daisy

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 06:06 PM

if Ray and Paltrow are considered "celebrity chefs" then i guess i shouldn't be surprised that collaborators credited on the cover are considered "ghostwriters"

Yeah, my first thought was that neither one of them is a 'chef'.
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#4 Wilfrid

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 06:25 PM

Wow, what an absolute nothing story. Thanks, Times. I'll go with Wikipedia on this one:

A ghostwriter is a writer who writes books, articles, stories, reports, or other texts that are officially credited to another person.


In the Times story, I can see Goode's name on the cover of Bloomfield's book.

#5 Sneakeater

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 06:56 PM

GUYS. Co-authors contribute to the writing of books. And the Times is ON IT.
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#6 Rail Paul

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 07:11 PM

GUYS. Co-authors contribute to the writing of books. And the Times is ON IT.


In April Bloomfield's case, Mr Goode's name is on the cover in the picture offered. I'd agree that makes him a co-author, or something similar. I don't see a similar reference on Gwyneth Paltrow's cover for Turshen.

In fairness, a cookbook requires much more collaboration than many other forms of literature. Recipe development, conversions for more common ingredients, sources for materials, fact checking, testing the recipe among cooks of various skill levels, etc. I'd be very surprised if any cookbook didn't have an army of participants.

“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

...Jonathan Waxman


#7 Wilfrid

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 07:34 PM

Turshen is credited on page 6.

#8 Wilfrid

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 07:35 PM

GUYS. Co-authors contribute to the writing of books. And the Times is ON IT.


:lol:

#9 Rich

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 07:47 PM


GUYS. Co-authors contribute to the writing of books. And the Times is ON IT.


:lol:

Don't laugh, it's the biggest story where the Times got the facts correct in 47 years.

#10 Suzanne F

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 09:18 PM



GUYS. Co-authors contribute to the writing of books. And the Times is ON IT.


:lol:

Don't laugh, it's the biggest story where the Times got the facts correct in 47 years.

No, they didn't. For one thing, Barbara Kafka is not a "hobbyist" but a professional food writer, and it is clear that she has cowriters: see the cover of Vegetable Love: "with Christopher Styler" is a clear statement of his work, along with the second acknowledgment (after Andrew Marvell).

There is much merriment about this issue, or consternation, or both, at S&S these days as we rush to get Rachael Ray's The Book of Burger (yes, that is the title) ready for the printer. The e-mails have been flying. There was a vast army behind Ms. Perky, developing, testing, writing, and overseeing "her" recipes, which we on the S&S team had to put into coherent, consistent style because "her" people did not. This team included a writer; content editor (and at least one assistant), production editor, and copy editor; several cold readers; several proofreaders and sluggers; another army of typesetters; and possibly others that I'm not aware of.

She is certainly not alone in this, and yes, it is disingenuous for her--or anyone in similar circumstances--to deny the huge number of helpers behind them.

And shame on Julia Moskin for getting her facts wrong.

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#11 Wilfrid

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 09:22 PM

I don't know why Rachael appears to be denying it. It seems to me it's expected and completely normal.

Surprised that Moskin apparently didn't attempt to contact the subjects of her story for comment.

#12 balex

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 02:47 AM

It is completely normal -- and that is why we have two different words "author" and "writer" to reflect the difference between the two roles (though I see that dictionary definitions do not reflect this)

#13 Rail Paul

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 09:30 PM

Gwyneth Paltrow visits Rachael Ray's TV show to refute claims of a ghostwriter, Eater reports

Last week, The New York Times inferred that I used a ghostwriter on my cookbook, My Father's Daughter, which to me means someone else wrote the recipes and the text. That is not the case. My Father's Daughter was a three year labor of love, a collection of the food I make and serve loved ones, an ode to my dad. I had lots of tremendous assistance with things like note taking, recipe testing, logistical planning, but the recipes and words are all mine and come from my heart.


Report

“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

...Jonathan Waxman


#14 Wilfrid

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 02:51 PM

Next, the Times will discover that books are edited before publication. And editor, for example, would have substituted "implied" for "inferred" in the above paragraph - meaning that the words weren't entirely Goopy's own.