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Are Celebrity Chef Cookbooks Intimidating and Pricey?

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Celebrity chef cookbooks are too complicated, says a survey done by a British company that sells premade Italian foodstuffs. Sacla' — which produces things like "Squeezy Basil Pesto Sauce" and "Italian Tomato and Olive Stir-In" — surveyed 2,000 British adults about their cookery book habits. The results? The average British adult owns ten cookbooks, but 40% of them have never been opened. The survey participants said they were intimidated by words like "ballotine" (how many people are making ballotines at home in the UK?) and "umami," and they shy away from books by people like Heston Blumenthal and Gordon Ramsay. Everybody loves Jamie Oliver cookbooks, though, which isn't exactly a surprise given his sales numbers.

But are these numbers really that shocking? Do they prove, as the Daily Mail dramatically claims, that complicated chef cookbooks are "too much for us to digest"? The results of the survey say cookbook owners on average try four recipes per cookbook. Which doesn't seem that bad? Also, the majority of responders said they refer to their cookbooks about once a month.

The survey participants also say they're most likely to turn to cookbooks for celebrations: for birthdays, Christmas, and other times they entertain. The rest of the time, they're using the average nine recipes they have committed to memory, eating out, or, as Sacla' presumably hopes, using premade premium Italian pasta sauces they bought at the grocery store.

So what can cookbook publishers do to attract the discerning British cookbook consumer? Can the French: 36% of participants found "the prevalence of French terminology in cookbooks irritating." Also, make cookbooks less "cumbersome" while upping the eye candy: 63% of respondents said they used their cookbooks for decoration. Oh, and seriously, cut it out with the ballotine recipes. Here's the press release:


Typical British adult owns 10 cookbooks but has only tried an average of 4 recipes from each 40% of recipe books have NEVER been used

Heston Blumenthal's "In Search of Perfection" and Gordon Ramsay's "3 Star Chef" cited as books most likely to gather dust

Jamie Oliver's books voted most user-friendly

French terminology leaves us baffled and scratching our heads?

British homes are awash with unused and unloved cookbooks that are gathering dust – that's the verdict of a compelling new study which reveals the typical Brit now owns ten recipe books featuring an average of 151 recipes per book*, yet have only attempted a paltry average of four dishes from each.

The survey of 2000 British adults by premium Italian food brand Sacla' found that an astonishing 40% of our cookbooks languish unopened on kitchen shelves and have never been used. Moreover, of the books we do use, the majority (54%) of us admit we refer to them a mere once a month.

Christmas was found to be an important contributor to the accumulation of recipe books, with the average British household receiving two cookbooks as presents this year alone.

Two in three (67%) British adults admitted that they find many of the cookbooks intimidating, indeed the books voted the most likely to be left on the shelf due to their intimidating nature and complex recipes were named as Heston Blumenthal's 'In Search of Perfection' (17%), Gordon Ramsay's '3 Star Chef' (15%), Yotam Ottolenghi's 'Jerusalem' (12%), Gordon Ramsay's 'Just Desserts' (9%) and Marcus Wareing's 'How to Cook the Perfect?' (8%). On the flip side, Jamie Oliver (27%), Delia Smith (15%) and Nigella Lawson (7%) were named as most user friendly authors.

Expensive ingredients (35%), time (30%), complicated recipes (29%) and difficult to source ingredients (27%) were cited as the main reasons we avoid our cookbooks. Confusing terminology can also prove a problem, with words such as "ballotine" and "cartouche" being prime examples of terms we find confusing. A third (36%) of those surveyed also admitted that they find the prevalence of French terminology in cookbooks irritating.

Why we don't use our cookbook recipes:
1. Expensive ingredients 35%
2. Too labour/time intensive 30%
3. Too complicated 29%
4. Difficult to source ingredients 27%
5. Books too cumbersome 25%

Cooking terms we don't understand:
1. Ballotine 45%
2. Umami 42%
3. Cartouche 40%
4. Concasse 39%
5. Chiffonade 38%

The findings suggest that the majority of us (53%) now prefer to find quick and simple recipes via the internet based on the ingredients we actually have in stock. Indeed, 73% of us admit that we prefer to concentrate on simple ingredients cooked well with five ingredients cited as the ideal mix by four in ten of those surveyed (26%).

Clare Blampied, MD of pesto pioneers Sacla', who commissioned the survey, said: "The Italians have taught us that simple recipes featuring four or five key ingredients are the key to successful every day cooking. Perhaps it's time to learn from them and de-clutter our kitchens of complicated books we don't use and embrace the Italian way of cooking fresh, seasonal recipes using simple methods and relatively cheap ingredients."

It's not all bad news for cookbooks however, the average British adult admits that they have a mere nine recipes in their repertoire that they can cook from memory and will still turn to the books on special occasions including birthdays (19%), Christmas (25%) and entertaining (40%).

And, if the recipes don't appeal, then it's worth noting that many culinary books make for excellent doorstops or bookends – this is supported by the fact that six in ten of us (63%) of us admit that we use the beautifully bound books more for decoration than cooking!

Sacla', the Italian food people, have developed a series of simple yet delicious recipes featuring a maximum of five ingredients in response to the survey results. The recipes can be accessed at

· Celebrity Recipe Books Which Are Too Much For Us to Digest [Daily Mail]
· All Cookbook Coverage on Eater [-E-]

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