Cookbook Craze

Reporter: Helen Wellings

Celebrity chefs have become so popular demonstrating recipes on their TV shows that many are making more money out of their cookbooks than their restaurants. And when we see mere mortals on TV churning out chef-standard dishes - why not stay indoors and replicate them in our own kitchens.

Helen Wellings reports on the latest cookbook craze that's turning out whole families of home chefs.

"One of the most wonderful things to do for your family is to cook at home with fresh ingredients from scratch. Cooking is just not hard. All you need is some really good, fresh ingredients, some instructions and a little bit of confidence and off you go" says Julie Gibbs.

In tough times we're going back to basics staying at home and cooking. In the past few years especially lately we've bought three million cookbooks, that's a hundred million dollars worth and they cater for every taste ability and budget.

"This winter we have seen one of the biggest rises in the sale of cookbooks." Mitch Catlin of Myer says Masterchef mania has propelled unprecedented demand for cook books on casseroles, meats, pastries, desserts, chocolate, other cuisines, the classics, encyclopaedic tomes and TV celebrity cookbooks ... by the dozens.

"People then look to a TV show and go okay well I can do that myself and take it home… Jamie Oliver, Donna Hay, Bill Granger all the big names Curtis Stone from the US, so certainly a name attached to a book tends to give it a bit more interest for consumers because people will have watched them" adds Mitch.

"My job of course is to get them to pick the book up and when we did Maggie's Harvest I wanted to give them a really tactile experience. So this cover is padded and embroidered, if you pick it up it feels amazing" says Julie Gibbs.

Julie Gibbs, Publishing Director of Penguins Lantern imprint is the passionate creator of dozens of dazzling cookbooks including hits by Stephanie Alexander, Maggie Beer, Kylie Kwong, Matt Moran, Damien Pignolet and Jamie Oliver.

"Recipes are really important but it has to be a really entertaining, enticing, inspiring experience. This one's got a beautiful old enamel ladle on the cover, so there's some nostalgia. There's some really good basic recipes. People love baking and there has been a really big resurgence in baking. This book tell you everything about whether your mixture is a bit runny. Then we've got Mini Vietnam this is written by a Huynh Nhut who was a boat person who's come to Australia and started a whole new cooking career. These are his family's recipes. Saving time and energy. Efficient in every way and this has been selling like mad" says Julie.

The top-selling cookbooks - "4 Ingredients" for under $20, has sold almost 700,000 copies, and despite costing $130, Stephanie Alexander's "The Cooks Companion" is number 3 with $12.5 million in sales; then books by Donna Hay, Jamie Oliver, Bill Granger and the Australian Womens Weekly "How to Cook Absolutely Everything" dominate the remaining top 12.

Matt Pitt and 7 year old Josh are passionate home cooks inspired by TV chefs.

"You may see the celebrity in the local area and visit his restaurant which is a plus and then you can come home and cook with his cookbook and try and replicate that in your own household" says Matt.

Matt's favourites - "It's mainly the Australian chefs we keep but its also Jamie Oliver that started this whole rolling effect."

"I absolutely look for pictures in a cookbook because I like to see what the end result is going to be." Fashion buyer, Fiona Gardner gathers friends around to cook from Karen Martini's recipes, and her all-time favourite.

"The Margaret Fulton cookbook. My mother has one from 1969 she got it as a wedding present, she gives really easy recipes, ranging from easy to difficult… from the appetisers pre-drinks… all the way thru to entrees, mains desserts to the biscotti or petit fours" says Fiona.

"I would have at least 150 cookbooks, I've collected them partly because I like the history of the food" says Catrina Hadrel who favours comprehensive books written by famous women such as Elizabeth David, Lindey Milan, Nigella Lawson and Stephanie Alexander.

So what's the secret of cookbook's ongoing success?

"The top selling ones are selling well because the recipes work, the public are trusting the people who are writing them. They're bringing home their fresh ingredients, opening up that book and they're getting results" explains Julie.