This year we’ve brought L.A. restaurants into our homes through takeout and delivery, and now we can bring them home via our bookshelves—and help keep them afloat at the same time.
Australia’s popular Take Away book series is landing L.A., raising money for restaurants through a crowdsourced publishing program that aids chefs and venues hit hard in 2020. This means some of the city’s top culinary talent will be writing books, many for the first time ever, and your purchase sends money directly to the chef and their team putting it out into the world.
The initiative launched in March under Somekind Press, both founded by friends with a background in publishing and ties to the Australian hospitality industry. In the last seven months Somekind’s Take Away series has raised more than $200,000 for—and published more than 20 books by—fine dining restaurants, neighborhood joints, a bakery, a farm and even a gelato cart. In Los Angeles, its first stop is Kato.
Somekind tapped the husband-and-wife team of Ken Concepcion and Michelle Mungcal, owners of Chinatown cookbook shop Now Serving, to curate the first foray into the U.S. and they’re kicking it off with Jon Yao’s stellar Taiwanese tasting menu restaurant.
“Kato represents so many great things about L.A.,” says Concepcion. “It’s immigrant-based cuisine, they’re really good at what they do, obviously, and it’s like the idiosyncratic Michelin-starred restaurant in a strip mall that serves Taiwanese food. It’s one of the few things you can really find in L.A. and maybe not anywhere else.”
Yao’s book is already available for preorder, and will share nine mistakes he and the Kato team have made since the restaurant’s 2016 opening as well as detail dishes and moments that helped put Kato on the culinary map. Concepcion can’t divulge the other participating restaurants just yet, nor their topics, but the Australian series tackled subjects such as the cheesemaking process, pie recipes, food sustainability, charcuterie and wine, and tips on fish cookery from a multigenerational wharf restaurant. One restaurant even devoted a book to every ingredient in their garam masala.
Chefs, somms, restaurateurs, makers and bartenders alike all choose their topic, and they retain the rights to all of their words and recipes. The rest of the format is just as streamlined: A restaurant’s book will get announced, then be available for presale over a 10-day period. The book needs to sell a minimum of 100 preorders in order for it to go to print, and if it doesn’t, all of the preorder funds are sent to the restaurant, minus Somekind’s $50 listing fee. If it does go to print, the majority of proceeds benefit the restaurant, with the rest going to any writers and illustrators involved in its creation, and a sliver circulating back to Somekind.
Each book runs $20 before shipping costs, and gives restaurants and bars another revenue stream to help weather the storm.
“It’s one of the few silver linings right now,” says Conception, who’ll be curating somewhere between 12 and 15 L.A. books. Some of the Australian restaurants, he shares, have even been approached by conventional publishers to do larger books based on their Take Away run, which just goes to show that there’s never a shortage in demand for delicious words.
Kato’s Somekind Take Away book is $20 and available for preorder now.
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