A rose called by any other name may smell as sweet, but a cookbook collaborator by the name of “ghostwriter” is anything but.
When renowned cookbook collaborator Julia Moskin wrote a piece for The New York Times called “I Was a Cookbook Ghostwriter,” she described the ins and outs of working with famous chefs, from developing and translating recipes for them to the pages, to following them around the kitchen, taking what are tidbits of ideas and turning them into full-fledged chapters. She also name-dropped, including names like Bobby Flay, Rachael Ray, and Gwyneth Paltrow among the celebrity chefs who have used ghostwriters for their cookbooks. That is where the shish kabob hit the fan.
According to Eater, Paltrow took to Twitter to blast the NYT, saying that she wrote her entire cookbook herself, and that it should check its facts. Ray felt much the same way, saying that she works with her food stylist on books, but that she writes each recipe herself.
In a follow-up to the article, Moskin writes that when she referred to herself as a ghostwriter, she meant, “That work can include transcribing scribbled notes into logical sentences. Measuring out ingredients and putting them in order … The food itself, and the story that surrounds it, usually comes from the chef in varying stages of page-readiness.” She does not, however, recant any of her commentary about the chefs who she says employed help, in one way or another.
Bobby Flay went on “The Today Show” to clear up the issue. Flay, who has worked with Moskin, says that the issue is absolutely the term “ghostwriter.” He maintains that if the term “collaborator” had been used, there would be much less of an issue, but that the term “ghostwriter” carries a stigma that the chef actually didn’t do any of the work on the book.
Regardless of the terminology, The New York Times did not print any corrections to the article, and the celebrity chefs who have spoken out against the article have not yet said that the whole affair is water under the bridge. Let that be a lesson that a hastily written word may land the writer and publisher in hot water.
Brion, Raphael. (2012, March 19). Gwyneth Paltrow denies using a cookbook ghostwriter. Retrieved from http://eater.com/archives/2012/03/19/gwyneth-paltrow-denies-using-a-cookbook-ghostwriter-too.php. (2012, March 19).
Brion, Raphael (2012, March 23). Bobby Flay chimes in on cookbook ghostwriting. Retrieved from http://eater.com/archives/2012/03/23/bobby-flay-on-the-cookbook-ghostwriting-scandal.php. (2012, March 23).
Forbes, P. (2012, March 14). Rachael Ray denies employing cookbook ghostwriters. Retrieved from http://eater.com/archives/2012/03/14/rachael-ray-denies-employing-cookbook-ghostwriters.php. (2012, March 19).
Moskin, J. (2012, March 13). I was a cookbook ghostwriter. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/14/dining/i-was-a-cookbook-ghostwriter.html?_r=2&ref=dining&pagewanted=all
Moskin, J. (2012, March 19). More about chefs, their recipes and who writes cookbooks. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/19/more-about-chefs-their-recipes-and-who-writes-cookbooks/