Canadas Book Collecting Contest 2011-2012 - 3rd Place
AbeBooks was a proud sponsor of the National Book Collecting Contest for Young Canadians Under 30. The contest allows young Canadian book collectors to showcase their books. Any type of collection is welcome, provided it belongs to the entrant in its entirety.
Entrants were asked to submit a 1,500 to 2,000-word essay about their collection, describing important features such as binding, decoration, illustrations and key bibliographical aspects. The size or financial value of the collection was not a determining factor. Instead, the judging panel examined the focus of the collection, how it was put together and the manner in which the books were described.
There were three winners, to whom a first place, second and third place was awarded, who took home $1,000, $500, and $250 respectively. Our friends at the CBC and National Post also threw their weight behind the contest, which was administered by the W.A. Deacon Literary Foundation (DLF), the Bibliographical Society of Canada (BSC) and the Alcuin Society. The 2011-2012 winner was Samuel Jang, from Victoria, BC. The third place prize went to Saskatoon's Gideon Foley, whose essay, "Tasteful Books" is reproduced below for our readers. David Fernandez from Scarborough landed third prize.
Tasteful Books by Gideon Foley
“Chef, it's amazing to meet you. I was able to eat at your restaurant last New Year's and it was probably the best experience of my life.”
“No way,” Chef Achatz responded, both humbled, and pleased at the comment.
“I think what you are doing at NEXT is incredible, and I really hope to be part of it some day.” Then after another 20 seconds of talking, I said, “Oh Chef, I forgot, would you sign my book?” He wrote, “What's NEXT” on the title page and then asked for my name. The trip to Chicago added one more volume to my collection of signed books by the world's greatest chefs. I was able to get Life on the Line signed by coauthors Grant Achatz and partner Nick Kokonas that evening.
Chef Achatz was awarded 3 Michelin Stars for his flagship Chicago restaurant Alinea, which was named the sixth best restaurant in the world in 2011. Worldwide in 2012, there are only 106 restaurants which have been awarded 3 Michelin Stars, with only 10 in the United States. Next Restaurant, owned by Achatz and Kokonas, completely changes its menu every three months; creating an entirely new theme and concept for the restaurant. Rather than booking reservations, diners buy tickets like they would for an opera or sports game. The tickets are sold online and all three months sell out within hours. The goal is to sell three-star cuisine at two-star prices. Themes range from “Paris 1906” to “Thai Street Food” to “Childhood”—a theme designed to bring nostalgic childhood memories to diners through the exquisite creative cuisine.
Two friends and I had driven from Toronto for a book launch for the Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook. The event was hosted by The Aviary in Chicago (a drink bar that serves cocktails put together with the same detail as cuisine at a three-star restaurant). Eleven Madison Park was awarded its third Michelin star a week before the book launch. Co-owners Daniel Humm and Will Guedera travelled from New York City to The Aviary for its first stop on the tour. With a ticket to the event, a book would be included, signed by Chef Humm and Will Guedera. Despite the fact that we would drive in on Sunday morning to be there for 5:00 p.m. and would have to leave the next morning at 4:00 a.m. to be back for school, and the fact that my student loan had not yet come in, I could not pass it up. The opportunity was just too tempting: meet two chefs I have great respect for and get books signed by them in person.
My first trip to Chicago was for the express purpose of eating at Alinea, Chef Achatz' original restaurant. I was able to score a signed book on that occasion. Having brought it with me into the restaurant, the servers were able to deliver it to the chef to get signed in the kitchen. Unfortunately, I was not actually able to meet Chef Achatz, as he left the kitchen early to work on other projects. The Alinea cookbook is certainly stimulating and is not widely accessible. A majority of the recipes require either an uncommon hydrocolloid or equipment typically not found in your standard kitchen: liquid nitrogen, thermocirculators and rotary evaporators among them. These books bind me to the great chef and his great recipes.
Traveling to great restaurants has been a rewarding hobby, and has rewarded me with some great signed books. My collection is focused on great cookbooks, preferably signed. I was able to drive to Toronto from Stratford one weekend when Gordon Ramsay was coming for a book launch. My uncle took me down to the Indigo store on Bay Street. We waited in line to get a wrist band that would allow us to get in on the signing later that night. Chef Ramsay was in town to promote his new book Gordon Ramsay's World Kitchen. This was very exciting for me because I had accumulated a large collection of books by Chef Ramsay. He was one of the greatest inspirations for me to cook. After going to two of his restaurants on a trip to Europe, I realized how good food could actually be. We ended up getting six books signed between the two of us and I had a very nice interaction and photo with Chef Ramsay. The books he was kind enough to sign included several that I had used as cooking bibles in the past, including 3 Star Chef, which has 3-star Michelin recipes. My uncle had got me this as a gift especially for the event. It is large, heavy and beautifully illustrated.
I have also been able to acquire more signed food and wine books, though without actually having met the authors. Chef Rene Redzepi from Noma came to Canada and did a book signing in Toronto and I was able to obtain a copy. Noma has been named the best restaurant in the world for the last 2 years, though the book itself is a disappointment, unless you enjoy flipping back 200 pages to find a photo every time you want to actually look at a picture of the dish being described. Robert Parker's paperback copy of Wine Buyer's Guide 5th Edition is another signed book I own, which remains in fine condition.
I have been interested in Stephen King for years, but his signed books are definitely not as accessible, going for hundreds of dollars per book for signed copies, though my collection has been growing. The highlight (so far) when it comes to my King collection was when Under the Dome was being released. I was living in Saskatoon and noticed he would be in Toronto for a discussion of his new work and signed books would be available. Desperately wishing I could go, but realizing that the middle of November was a bad time to travel as I would be missing university classes to attend the event. My dad, however, took charge and said I simply couldn't miss it, and he flew me out for my birthday. When we got there it turned out that there were 200 signed books available for about 2,000 people. We had to pick a ticket out of a hat, and they would announce the winning colour at the end of the talk. We ended up getting lucky and were able to buy one of the books! It was an amazing event.
I have been able to acquire a few cool King books over the internet as well. A limited edition copy of The Little Sisters of Eluria in a slipcase signed by the illustrator.; The Drawing of the Three first edition signed by the illustrator. A slipcased dual set of The Talisman and Black House, written by Stephen King and Peter Straub, and signed by the illustrator and Peter Straub. A copy of The Dark Tower VII signed by the illustrator. These books were published by Grant Publishers and Cemetery Dance, who I also publish limited edition King books. I have recently ordered limited edition copies of The Secretary of Dreams Part II, and Riding the Bullet, as well as The Dark Tower Omnibus, a graphic novel collection of the Dark Tower series. A limited edition copy of Under the Dome, with illustrated endpapers, and a set of cards with illustrations of the characters, is another recent addition.
The most exciting books I have acquired recently, however, were during the Christmas break in 2011. I was fortunate enough to receive signed copies of both Cell and 11/22/63 by Stephen King. The latter came with a page-long story of how the book was acquired at a book signing in Florida. The seller described how the event progressed, a description of the signing and sent accompanying pictures. This elevated the significance of the book by providing an entire story to go with it.
I have been able to acquire some interesting books by Joe Hill as well. Hill is the son of Stephen King, and shares a similar writing style. I have signed copies of his two most recent novels: Horns, a UK first edition, and the U.S. first edition with a signed accompanying bookplate, doodled with a pitchfork as a humorous reference to the novel. I also have a signed copy of The Heart-Shaped Box, his first novel. There is nothing more satisfying than eating a meal that has been prepared with attention to detail or reading a book by my favourite authors. Fine dining and signed books are my passion.
A Selection of Gideon's Books
The Flavor Thesaurus
by Niki Segnit
A Day at elBulli
by Ferran Adria
Cooking from the Hip
by Olaf Mertens
The Fat Duck
by Heston Blumenthal
Gordon Ramsay's Healthy Appetite
by Gordon Ramsay
The Eyes of the Dragon
by Stephen King
by Stephen King
Cycle of the Werewolf
by Stephen King
by Stephen King
Bare Bones: Conversations on Terror
by Stephen King