It’s a bold move to launch a print periodical at a time when magazine sales are down and people are reading news on their mobile phones more than ever. The stats didn’t really scare Nick Fauchald, who launched Short Stack Editions, a series of ingredient-driven, small-format cookbooks—pamphlets, really—about a year ago. He was able to pull it off thanks to Kickstarter, which Fauchald used to fund the project, and because, well, he’s a bold kind of dude. In addition to founding and publishing Short Stack, he is the creative director for New York City-based restaurant group Happy Cooking and a cookbook author whose latest projects include the Death & Co. cocktail book and Feeding the Fire with Brooklyn restaurant owner Joe Carroll, out in May.
The booklets, whose authors range from chefs, such as No. 7's Tyler Kord, to food writers, such as Bon Appétit's Alison Roman, focus on recipes inspired by a single ingredient. The recipes in Kord's book, for example, all use broccoli, while Roman tackles lemons. Each book is 48 pages, costs $14, and is available at book stores across the country and on the Short Stack website.
Short Stack books first got attention for their striking covers. "The design is meant to be equal parts old and new,” said Fauchald, whose art director Rotem Raffe develops all of the patterns herself. “We tried to evoke those midcentury design elements that now feel cutting edge and modern again." Beyond fancy covers, though, you have the superb recipes, which were developed by some of the heavy hitters of the food world and have made the books such a success that Fauchald has a roster of writers lined up for books through 2017.
We talked to him about why he cares about print, why he cares about recipes, and why Short Stack has proven to be a success story.
On print versus digital: "Kaitlyn [Goalen, Short Stack’s editor in chief] and I had both been working on a lot of digital projects. I started my career in magazines [at Food & Wine] and then helped launch Tasting Table, which was purely digital, and, following that, consulting for new media companies on food apps and e-books. I missed making stuff that you can hold in your hands. And then the reason we went in this direction was that the market was already flooded with new indie food magazines—Kinfolk, Gather, etc.—so that wasn’t an option."
On the single-ingredient topics: "I started thinking about the way we cook right now. I think most folks nowadays get inspired first by the ingredient. I go to the market, I buy some ingredient that I want to eat, like broccoli, but I don’t have a cookbook sitting at home that addresses cooking a head of broccoli. That’s when we go to the computer, open up Google, and type ‘broccoli recipes.’ I wanted an analog version of this, to give people both a resource and an excuse not to go straight to their computers."
On the pamphlet structure: "Back in the 40s and 50s, you got your recipes from these pamphlets that consumer packaged goods came with. You buy a bag of flour, for example, and they give you a book of recipes at the checkout lane. Grocery stores would have tons of these and that’s where people got inspiration. I was always fascinated by how important they were in our food culture, and they disappeared when we started looking to magazines and newspapers [for recipes]."
On why there’s no photography: "Well, it’s cheaper that way. But also, photography really locks you into a time. When you look at a food magazines, you can tell why decade it’s from. Cookbooks from the 90s? Right now they look just horrible! They might look good to us again in 10 or 20 years, but right now, they look hilarious. We didn’t want something that would look out of date. Also, it means that all you’re judging the book by is its recipes. All you’re doing is judging by its recipes. Everywhere in my career, that’s been the most important thing: recipes that people can trust."
On the recipes: "We find authors—or authors find us—who are the best in the business. The recipes they create are smart but easy to execute and very dependable. They work! A lot of the authors are well-known in our food media world, but they’re not celebrity chefs or on TV shows, and they don’t run really famous restaurants, most of them. They’re the unsung heroes of food world. And I haven’t received any emails saying 'This recipe doesn’t work' or 'I tried it and something's off.'"
On good business: "I've worked as a cookbook author and I’ve written recipes for magazines; I know how that work goes and how you get paid (or don't get paid). It’s getting harder and harder for folks like me whose bread and butter is recipe development to find enough work to keep going. There are fewer test kitchens out there, fewer recipes in magazines because magazines are disappearing, we’re getting paid less to write cookbooks for big publishers than we did ten years ago. So I tried to think of a business model that would ensure that authors would get paid and continue getting paid as long as their work was being used. Usually, cookbook authors get paid based on how many books are sold; we pay our authors based on how many books are produced. We run out of an author’s book, we order another print, we send the author another check; so I’m sending my authors checks 2-3 times a year. If we can continue reprinting their books and paying them, it proves that this model works—that there is a way to keep paying writers."
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