Chatting to two friendly women behind the counter in the red painted Toronto bookshop in the summer 2005, on a day when I felt very alone in my new city thousands of kilometer's from my home in New Zealand, was a happy way to while away time I suddenly had on my Hands. I’d never been in store dedicated solely to cooking and loved the idea. Alison cheekily asked me if I’d thought of working in Toronto. I planned to continue my painting practice but this was proving catatonically lonely in our apartment where I knew no one. I left her with my number not expecting to hear from her.
Long story short my Westie dog McGregor and I worked at The Cookbook store until Feb 2007 when we moved to New York, my forte found in window displays and talking up the beauty of New Zealand. The fact that I loved food and cooking helped in spades. It was a pleasure to be spending my days with convivial company and meeting new people daily. On my return to TO in 2010 I helped out at some fab celebrity events.
Highlights were meeting culinary stars and local cooking heroes! Cheeky Gordon Ramsay and Nigella Lawson were stars, Ricardo was infectiously charming, Giada de Laurentis a lovely girl who chewed gum while she blissed out in the store and Julia Child’s nephew Alex Prud’homme a true gentle man.
Alison and Jennifer inspired me to cook, introducing me to wonderful recipes like Nigella’s luscious Guinness chocolate cake, new foods, ingredients, techniques and best of all directing me to all the wonderful foodie spots that abound in Toronto.
But it was the customers who made my day! Visits from tiny Dina were always fun, I still make her Prune Plum Kuchen, a never fail Jewish cake that has become a standard in my repertoire. Others visited to pat Mcgregor on his cushion by the door. Chatting to customers needing to introduce a son to cooking or buy a gift for a bride. Directing culinary students to the serious cheffy books and the Mum’s on a day out in the big city to the latest releases. Each day was an adventure and we never knew quite what would unfold. Book delivery days were hectic, making spaces for new arrivals, leafing through books, salivating over images, recipes and the lovely words that weave the spell of food magic.
The Cookbook Store IS Alison and Jennifer. The A Team that has been together forever. The rest of us have been lucky to keep company with them for a time in our lives. I miss these ladies and I congratulate them on keeping such a wonderful iconic store relevant and real. Fabulous in this day of online recipes and TV chefs.
Happy 30th to all at The Cookbook Store.
XO Julie Wood
Cookbook Store employee 2005-2007
Currently living in Auckland, New Zealand