For McKenna Ganz, exploring new places and celebrating culinary traditions go hand in hand. Her taste for adventure and love of food inspired her to create a fabulous cookbook that captures her experiences abroad and in the kitchen, Will Travel for Food: Recipes from Around the World. We caught up with her to learn more about food photography, her creative design process, and why she chose to make a test book along the way.
1. What inspired this cookbook?
I’ve always been obsessed with food and travel, and a couple of years ago, when my husband and I sold our house and all our possessions to travel, I started writing down everything I ate. It was a way for me to remember a place through its food. Thinking about how I would recreate these dishes at home led me to the idea of making a cookbook.
2. How did you collect and store content for your book while traveling?
It started by just making notes on my phone and taking pictures of all my food. Once I had a decent collection of dishes, I started organizing them in Excel. The work of actually recreating the recipes and photographing them didn’t start until we moved back to the States.
3. Tell us about your creative process for designing this book. How did you decide on the trim size, format, and color scheme?
I am a cookbook fanatic! I love reading other people’s cookbooks. My favorite ones are the ones with large format pictures and a lot of free space around the text. I tried out a few different layouts before picking one. Once the book was finished, I ordered one copy just to see how it would look in print and realized the font was huge compared to other books, so I went back and changed it before ordering more, and I’m super happy with how it looks.
4. How did you choose the imagery for the cover of your book?
This part was tricky for me. It was actually the last thing I did on the project. I played around with different food pictures and markets but ultimately ended up with the picture of a restaurant booth from a place in Scotland. For one thing, I loved the colors, but more than that, this book is really a tribute to all the amazing restaurants we ate at while traveling. What better way to honor them than by putting one on the cover?
5. How did you decide on the organization and sequence of your recipes?
There are so many different ways to organize a cookbook, and originally I wanted to organize by country of origin, but it made the book too choppy, with too many sections. I chose to break it up by meal category instead because it felt like it had the best flow.
6. How did you approach the photography for your cookbook? What sort of gear or equipment did you use?
I used a combination of my Nikon and my phone. I used very minimal gear and worked with natural lighting as much as possible. I’m a big fan of cookbooks that showcase the food without too many props, so I tried to do that as much as possible in my book.
7. Which tools or software did you use to create your book and why?
For photo editing, I used GIMP. It has great functionality, and it’s free! For the creation of the book, I did everything right in Blurb BookWright. I found it to be super user-friendly, and it gave me complete control over all of the design elements.
8. What advice would you give someone who wants to turn a collection of recipes into a cookbook?
If time is what’s holding you back, just work on it in small chunks. Pick a deadline for yourself and work backward from there. You could give yourself the task of writing, cooking, and photographing one or two recipes per week, and that way, it’s still fun and enjoyable. Or incorporate your recipes into your weekly meal plan, so it doesn’t feel like extra work since you need to eat anyway. My other piece of advice would be to study other cookbooks and decide what you like about their pictures and formats and adapt those to your book.
9. Where do you look for creative inspiration when you’re not on the road?
My garden. I love having an abundance of vegetables because it makes me think creatively about how to use them.
10. What’s the next big thing on your project list? Is there a country or cuisine you’d like to explore? A book you’d like to make next?
My next book will be based on my garden and seasonal vegetables but with inspiration from all over. I love taking flavors from places I’ve visited and coming up with new ways to use them. The hard part will be deciding where to visit next!
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