An article today in Publishers Weekly revealed that San Francisco-based published McSweeney's is launching a cookbook imprint. The first release will be a quarterly publication from Momofuku's David Chang, to appear as a 112-page print periodical and an iPad app, while the second book ― due this summer ― will be Mission Street Food: Recipes and Ideas from an Improbable Restaurant.
Karen Leibowitz, who is writing the book with Mission Street Food chef-owner Anthony Myint (her husband), says that McSweeney's co-publisher Chris Ying proposed the book to them last summer. The couple has been working on the book even as Myint has been helping to open Commonwealth and transition Mission Street Food into Mission Chinese Food.
"The book is kind of like Mission Street Food itself ― not just one thing," Leibowitz says. "We liked the idea that a cookbook for a restaurant within a restaurant should be like a book within a book." To that end, half the book contains recipes from MSF's two-year run, while the other half will include the story of Mission Street Food and essays on the larger issues the project brings up, such as the restaurant's charitable mission and San Francisco's street-food movement.
McSweeney's Ying, a former professional cook who got to know Anthony
Myint when they worked together for a brief time at Foreign Cinema, says
he has been following Mission Street Food from its first dinner. "When
[McSweeney's] started thinking of doing food books, it was a no-brainer
to do a Mission Street Food cookbook. Anthony's a brilliant chef doing
interesting things with a strong social philanthropy angle."
According to Ying, the genesis of the new cookbook imprint
(which doesn't yet have a name) came from the graphically oriented food
section of San Francisco Panorama, the single-issue newspaper it published in December 2009. He says McSweeney's is taking a similar approach in designing the Mission Street Food book; in fact, Ying
hired cartoonist Jim Rugg to illustrate an eight-page graphic novel about MSF's origins.
When SFoodie told Ying we thought it made sense for McSweeney's to
branch into cookbooks, given how many people now treat cookbooks like art
books ― objects in themselves ― Ying responded with a caution. "We've
gone a little further in the direction of that art book aspect," he said,
"but when you have these gigantic cookbooks that are pretty and
impossible to work with ― that's not so appealing to us. After all,
Anthony is a practical guy."