"An explosion" is what Bo Masser calls what's happening in the world of cookbooks. The numbers bear him out: more than 23,000 cookbooks were published worldwide last year, with 6,000 titles from 136 countries entered in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards held in Paris last month. Created by Edouard Cointreau "to build a global network of cookbook writers and publishers", Gourmand World has been celebrating cookbooks since 1995, explains Masser, Gourmand's vice president.
Masser is happy to be back in Abu Dhabi this week as part of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. In its second year of partnership with Kitab, Gourmand World is once again bringing star chefs to the fair's show kitchen. Book fair visitors will also have the opportunity to see 650 cookbooks from this year's Paris competition (most not for sale) in a special exhibition next to the show kitchen.
The top winners will be on display: God's Cookbook, by Swiss writer Jamie d'Antioc, which explores how the spiritual traditions of the Levant influenced culinary development, and which won best cookbook of the year; Essence: Recipes from le Champignon Sauvage, a dessert book that garnered second place; The Natural Kitchen by the famed Swedish chef Mathias Dahlgren, which came in third; and A Boy After the Sea, a cookbook out of the UK that won the Best Fish and Seafood award. Award-winning cookbooks of local chefs will also be on display: Pisces Cookbook from Dubai's Madinat Jumeirah, recognised by Gourmand World as one of the three best fish cookbooks in the world, and Green Food Fun, which won the Best in the World Award for Translation for its Arabic text by Flora Majdalani (supported by the Mohammed Bin Rashid al Maktoum Foundation). Suzanne Husseini, the television chef and writer from Dubai, was given a special award for her contribution to the field of Arabic cooking.
"We had Suzanne on stage in Paris," says Masser. "It was almost magical. She had such a connection with the audience." (Husseini will do five presentations in the show kitchen this week.) Connection is what the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards are about for Masser. "Food reaches between cultures," he says. "Some people say Gourmand World is a real peace movement. From your stomach to your heart. It's the start of understanding."
The Gourmand World Cookbook Awards exhibit will be open the same hours as the show kitchen: Tuesday, 5pm to 10pm; Wednesday and Thursday, 9:30am to 1pm and 5:30pm to 10pm; Friday, 4pm to 10pm; Saturday and Sunday, 9:30am to 10pm.