I don’t know how this whole book thing happened. Cara and I were figuring out how to run this restaurant and we brought in Anna-Vija McClain to help us with booking events. That was her original job. Over good times and laughter, I don’t if I said something out loud about writing a book, or maybe I was talking about the book that I have been working on for a while for Cole that will come out next, but, somewhere we decided to write a book. Anna-Vija got involved and politely said, “I know the perfect person for you guys. Let me bring her in to meet you.” We didn’t see any harm in meeting someone, and of course that person was Stephanie Huffman of Epiphany.
I remember the day very clearly. The girls came in and were sitting at table 40. When I met Stephanie, I felt like she was a person I could hang out with and talk to. I wouldn’t want to spend this much time with someone I didn’t enjoy. It’s been a 12 month process.
We began building a strong team. Getting Ron Manville as our photographer was a great move. With Epiphany and Ron, the process of writing a book began. It was fun and exciting.
The fact that we wanted to – no – the fact that we could, was pretty amazing. During the process we had to ask, “Is there enough here to make a book?” A lot of the information was the progression that led us to Lockeland Table, which was followed by this wonderful organic business that has formed through awesome, amazingly talented people. So, the crazy thing is that we even decided to do it. It wasn’t on the agenda. It wasn’t on the list. The staff is so amazing that we can step aside to dedicate time to this.
At the beginning, it was only an hour or two a week. It kind of started slow, and those meetings were fun. We told Stephanie about ourselves. She made us go to Books-a-Million and she did research exercises with us, looking at what we liked and didn’t like. She taught us the funnel approach—start with what you don’t like or want, and move on from there. I’d never gone to a store before to look at book covers for the purpose of realizing whether I liked them or not. We notice things now about a book that we never saw before – things we have learned through this process. There are so many decisions that must be made to create and publish a book.
That was all neat and fun. Then we got to the recipes. That was work! It was a difficult part of the process and Ally Otey was a great help. I guess I finally got to a point where I just accepted the fact that I was going to have to do it, so I just chopped away. I’m not necessarily a recipe writer. Even though I do realize there needs to be recipes in my kitchen, and we do write those recipes, it was quite a challenge to write a number of recipes.
It was difficult for me to be as thorough in the instructions as I needed to be, at first. I am used to speaking with people everyday who speak my language. The home cook doesn’t quite speak the same language, so I had to back up and add sentences that, if I were in my kitchen, I wouldn’t have to explain. Taking the time to break it down into layman’s terms is important, but it was work. I want the average cook to be able to understand my directions.
The photography is amazing. I worked with Ron quite a bit and was heavily involved. I helped to stage things. I would bring props. When he would come, I was organized. It’s an expensive process so you want to be ready and get it done as quickly as possible. We didn’t want to waste his time, or ours for that matter. The staff had fun helping prepare the food for the photography as well. It had to be perfect, and they knew that. There was a lot behind the scenes that people don’t see or imagine. Photoshoots are a lot of work. I would always send Ron home at the end with something for his wife. That was something he enjoyed. He didn’t eat much himself, but he enjoyed taking food to her.
Ron has taught me how to take better photos with my iPhone and iPad by using the natural light between 4-6pm.
One of the things that excites me about this book is the sentimental factor. It has been an emotional process. When I would take sections of the book home at night to read and proof, those moments would take me to a different place, like a daydream. I have enjoyed the process—the exercise of something that makes me reflect and remember.
A lot of my thoughts, feelings and the story of my life are now documented. Whether I am still here in 20 years, or gone in 20 days, this book, will be on a shelf in my home and other homes, and that’s something special. To know that my son Cole, will read this book years from now—that’s especially exciting. The same goes for Cara. Even people who are closest to us, when they read it, will feel like they will learn things about me and Cara that they never knew.
Though we’ll actually have more than 70 recipes in the book, our book is not a cookbook. It’s what we’re calling an “experience book.” We want you to feel like you’re taking us home with you, in a way, when you take the book home or when you give it to someone who has experienced our restaurant or plans to. Maybe you have a special occasion that you celebrated with us.
I began thinking recently about how blessed we are, to be able to open a restaurant and run a successful business after one of the biggest financial downfalls of the century. I hate saying we’ve been successful, because we all know things can change tomorrow. But we’re sitting here, in a very difficult time in the country and the world. Not only were we able to start a business, but two years later we started writing a book. I mean, who does that?!
We’d love to sign that copy, along with everyone else at our table, and be a part of that moment and memory with you. It will be a special book, or so, we truly hope.