On March 6, 2012 the Gourmand Awards were held at Les Folies-Bergère in Paris, the Grande Dame of old theatres, dating back to 1890. Now in its 17th year, the Awards is the brainchild, and continuing labor of love, of Edouard Cointreau. The Awards and subsequent four day Paris Cookbook Fair are designed to recognize the efforts of cookbook and wine book authors and publishers. In all, there were 163 countries participating for 2011, numbering thousands of entries.
When I received notice, three months ago, that I had won “Best Professional Wine Book USA” I was stunned. I wasn’t even aware that I had been entered. When I learned that I was short-listed for “Best Professional Book in the World” I was truly gratified, but felt out of my league when I saw the competition from Italy, Czechoslovakia and France. Ultimately, Italy’s “Illustrated Historical Universal Ampelography” won that category, but I came in runner up, which was quite thrilling and wholly unexpected.
I traveled to France to attend the finalist awards and it was well worth the effort. The evening was a seamless and professional gala with around 1,300 people in the audience of the theater, a red velvet and gilt nineteenth century classic. Hosted by Edouard Cointreau on stage at a podium, it began with wine awards, followed by cookbooks and special recognition for books published to support charitable causes and fundraising. The range of cookbook categories was even more extensive than wine, with exotic offerings from Australia, Patagonia, Malaysia, India, Sweden, Tibet, China, France and everywhere in between. The finalists all looked like books I wanted to read!
At the conclusion, a festive champagne reception was held in the lobby with Grosset champagne from Cointreau’s own family, poured by Le Cordon Bleu students in starched white hats, also part of the Cointreau family legacy.
The following day, I gave a talk about wine importing in the USA on the first day of the Paris Cookbook Fair, signed a few books and thoroughly enjoyed myself with a seemingly appreciative audience. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that wine was flowing freely during the talk.
The rest of the well-attended show was going on all around us – cooking demonstrations with chef celebrities, foreign book rights negotiations, amid displays of new food items and finalists books from the Awards. It had all the feel of a broad market professional book fair in the US, Frankfurt or London, and is certainly a testament to the hard work and dedication of Edouard Cointreau and the staff of Gourmand International and Gourmand Magazine.
The experience motivated me to continue work on another book, one I hope will be in contention for an encore performance at the Gourmand Awards, but the next time it would be nice to win Best in the World category so that I can give a speech on stage. I had one all prepared in French, just in case, and I’d like to think it won’t go to waste!