STORY

The making of: Tanja’s cookbook

By David Schnapp (text) and Lukas Lienhard (photos)
A year's worth of work, many discussions and some fundamental questions: How Tanja Grandits' new cookbook came into being.
Cookery books are popular, especially titles that promise quick, healthy meals in 15 minutes. This can't be true of course, as all good things generally take a little more time – as we will see here. At the time of writing this article, Switzerland's list of best-selling books included two titles relating to cooking and one relating to food hacks. Cookery books may well be popular, but they are also extremely time-consuming to make.

Tanja Grandits is an experienced cookbook author with five books already published by AT Verlag. Her sixth book has just been released. She worked on this book for around a year prior to publishing. This included meetings – which tends to be how everything starts these days. Grandits wanted to create a personal cookbook – "my cookbook", as she calls it. She didn't want to portray herself as a top chef but rather as a mother, private host and cook who prepares meals for her daughter and friends and lunches for her colleagues.

Consequently, the book is called "Tanjas Kochbuch" (Tanja's cookbook). And even this title was the product of lengthy discussions during the aforementioned meetings. Other fundamental issues included the colour of the border around the cover picture, whether or not Tanja should look into the camera, which picture is the right one to use, and so on. And this was all before the real work on the book had even begun.

At some point, all of these issues were resolved and it came to the "marinating" process. Tanja Grandits and Zurich photographer Lukas Lienhard arranged dates for the hundred or so recipes to be photographed. Around ten photo shoots followed. Each time, the ingredients for each dish had to be prepared in advance and tables were pushed together in the room on the first floor of "Stucki" restaurant so that the hundreds of bowls, trays and dishes required could be clearly laid out.
Tanja prepared every meal and every drink, and Lukas captured them all on camera. Using the pictures as a template, the chef notes down each recipe by hand. Hilal, Grandits' right-hand woman, then has to magic the recipes into a Word document. Or at least this would be the ideal scenario. In reality, however, the likelihood is that an unexpected event will scupper the plans. For example, one of the team gets sick and has to stay in bed or (less dramatically) after looking at the pictures, the cook realizes that a specific dish needs to be photographed again in a different bowl.

So, there are many things that can go wrong and usually do at some point during the course of the year. Tanja Grandits didn't even know herself whether she would be able to finish what she'd started. "I asked myself whether I really needed this book and whether anyone would actually be interested in it", says the chef retrospectively. The motivation and conviction soon came back, however, and as the publisher eagerly awaited the final photos, texts and recipes, Tanja was preparing the cinnamon knots for a final photo. They narrowly escaped disaster just before being photographed when the author accidentally placed these lines (and the text for the book) on top of the hot buns which were hidden under a tea towel.

We're therefore very fortunate that "My cookbook" by Tanja Grandits finally made it to the publisher, and that it is such a beautiful, warm and personal book full of surprising recipes.

Tanja Grandits: Tanja's cookbook – Vom Glück der einfachen Küche. AT Verlag, 320 pages, CHF 39.90
BACK