Turning an amateur food blog into an actual career is like hitting a target on the Death Star from a speeding fighter: Unless you’re Luke Skywalker, it’s ridiculously hard. Adam Roberts managed to nail it. This week sees the release of Roberts’s second book, Secrets of the Best Chefs: Recipes, Techniques, and Tricks from America’s Greatest Cooks. He launched his blog, The Amateur Gourmet, in 2004. “I was in law school and abjectly miserable,” Roberts said during a swing through San Francisco last month. After the infamous wardrobe malfunction during Super Bowl XXXVIII, Roberts posted a recipe for the Janet Jackson Breast Cupcake, with a Hershey’s Kisses nipple and spidery pasty done in white icing. Suddenly CNN wanted to do a story. The Amateur Gourmet had gone viral.
In the years since, Roberts has experimented with form, often abandoning the standard food-blog format of memoir setup before recipe payoff. Roberts weaves his recipes and photos into a narrative structure better than any food blogger I know. His new book offers recipes and tips from 50 American chefs, from Angelish Wilson of Wilson’s Soul Food in Athens, Georgia (now closed), to Seattle superchef Tom Douglas. The recipes appear in standard cookbook form, with itemized ingredients and measures. Together they coalesce into a story about the astonishing range of American food, expressed through the diversity of the cooks themselves. “I think my strength is storytelling,” Roberts said. Secrets of the Best Chefs shows that storytelling is possible even with a recipe collection.
Photo by Chris Rochelle / CHOW.com