Behind the scenes of publishing a cookbook

What it takes to publish a cookbook

Author: Francesca - Mr Lee's Team

Damien was known for saying that he 'didn't have time for cancer', he was never afraid of trying new things or venturing into new adventures and he was always up for a challenge. His work ethic and dedication to his businesses was unrivalled and in the past twelve months, when most of us have stayed in and binged watched Netflix, Damien was busy writing The Noodle Cookbook!

Damien and the team put a lot of effort, hard work and time into putting together 101 healthy, delicious and quick noodle recipes but what did this process actually involve? We want to give you an insight into what goes on behind the scenes of publishing a cookbook.

The concept of the book

The first step when writing a cookbook is figuring out the concept of the book. The main idea behind The Noodle Cookbook was to harness Damien’s passion for food, more specifically his love for South East Asian cuisine. Damien was born and raised in Australia, where the food scene has a heavy Pan Pacific influence, and his father was originally from Singapore which meant he grew up eating traditional Singaporean dishes. Damien’s love for food was combined with Chef Executive Andy Chu’s deep knowledge on Chinese food and his background in the gastronomic industry and with Jackie Kearney's expertise, passion and love all things noodle.  

For Damien it was important to take the readers on a sensory journey through the Asian content at the same time as offering the audience a step-by-step guide to making healthy, great-tasting and quick noodle bowls.

Defining the target audience

The target audience greatly influences the way a cookbook is written. The Noodle Cookbook team had to consider many aspects of the intended readers: were they going to be beginners or more experienced cooks? Would it be easy for them to find the ingredients in their usual supermarkets? How much free time would they have to dedicate to the kitchen? What equipment would they be accustomed to using?

One of the principal objectives of the book was to make it accessible to a wide audience. The recipes collated in the book had to include easy to find ingredients, had to be simple and quick with a low level of difficulty and had to appeal to a broad range of palates.

Decide the structure of the book

Once the main concept around the book was established, the team began to curate the structure of the book. Damien, Andy and Jackie had a huge repertoire of recipes, some written out on their computer or saved in their mobile phone notes and others handwritten on loose pieces of paper!

The team went through each recipe and started to look at the countries these mapped out for. Whilst some originated in China and Japan, others were in line with Singaporean cuisine or had a strong Thai influence and there were also quite a few Vietnamese dishes. Once the sections of the book were created, the team were left with a handful of recipes that didn’t quite fit in any of the chapters but were actually some of Damien’s favourites.

The Mr Lee’s Favourites section was curated around Damien’s childhood dishes and what he remembered from family dinners and celebrations.

Development and testing phase

This stage involved cooking the recipes, noting down each step, watching out for any variations in technique and paying close attention to the ingredient quantities, weights on the scales and spoon measures.  

The recipes were then tested by a group of people who followed the cooking instructions to the "T" in order to detect errors and differences in the final versions of the dish. This helped to fine-tune the recipes, finding out what worked and identifying points of difficulty or unclear instructions.

Writing up introductions

Once the steps for each recipe were ready, it was time to write up the introductions. Damien wanted these to build a relationship with the reader, not only allowing them to understand and discover the story behind each dish but also getting them to laugh by adding elements of Mr Lee’s Noodles characteristic humour.

Taking mouth-watering photos

The visual accompaniments of the recipes are also another essential element of a cookbook as they are what make the recipes come to life. The food photographs in The Noodle Cookbook are aimed to stimulate the emotions and induce elements of excitement and happiness for good food.  

The 2-week photoshoot for book involved a lot of cooking, prepping, styling and lighting to get the perfect and most accurate images. The long days and the piles of washing up were totally worth it as we finished up with some really drool-worthy photos.

The Noodle Cookbook photoshoot

Design and layout

With the recipes written up and the photos ready to go it was time for the designer to work on the layout. Choosing the font, resizing images, fitting the text, adding elements of decoration, selecting the appropriate colours as well as designing the book’s cover, were all important elements of this phase and they all had to be in line with the purpose and content of the cookbook. The Noodle Cookbook’s practical and simple layout and the bright and vibrant colour palette come together making an easy to navigate cookbook.

The Noodle Cookbook cover

Edit, edit and edit

The final stage involved a lot of back-and-forth calls and messages with the editors to perfect the details of the book. Paragraphs had to be moved around, introductions had to be made shorter and wording had to be changed but once this was completed and everything was approved, the book was sent to print and… et voilà!

Damien was extremely thrilled with the final result of the cookbook and we couldn’t be prouder of announcing the launch of The Noodle Cookbook as part of his incredible legacy. Now available to order on our website or with your preferred bookstores; Waterstones, Amazon and WHSmith.

Mr Lees Team