Cookbook Club: How and Why You Should Start One

More food and more friends can only make life better. Grab all your besties and bring your appetites, because we've got the coolest new weekend activity to try!

Alexis at SideChef
February 10, 2020

What is a Cookbook Club?

Cross a traditional book club and a potluck and you get a Cookbook Club. Essentially, just like any other book club, a title is selected, only, it’s a cookbook. Then the group reads and selects a dish to cook and bring to the meeting. The meeting is then a discussion of the book (and each other’s cooking experiences) as well as a feast for all. It’s a magical thing and a great evolution in the wide world of Reasons to See People You Like.

Why you should start one:

Let me count the ways! First of all, it's the kind of book club that is guaranteed to get you experiencing new things in your kitchen and pushing your palate. It’s also great if you feel like you tend to get in cooking ruts or get tired of endlessly searching Google for recipes. But, most of all, it’s a new way to see people that doesn't involve going out, shouting over loud music, or spending a ton of money.

SideChef’s Cookbook Club Best Practices

On recruiting club members

There is no “right” answer to who or how many to have in your Cookbook Club, but we do recommend considering some of the following when building your invite list: Who do you know that loves to cook? Who do you know that likes to eat and try new things? Who might have the time or ability to commit to meeting regularly? Who has dietary restrictions and how can you be inclusive? Would you prefer to have a smaller, more intimate group, or a larger one to account for a bit of drop off each meeting due to crazy schedules? Can this invite be used to make new friends?

On house rules

To avoid confusion, we recommend developing a set of Cookbook Club “house rules.” This can include agreeing on when, where, and how often you’ll meet (i.e. monthly/bi-monthly, or if there will be breaks in meetings around the holidays), how you’ll select titles, and communication around who will be cooking what. Setting all of these standards early can help avoid endless email chains, but keep in mind these “rules” should be flexible in the beginning as you discover what works for the group over time.

On picking your book

There are a few different ways to pick books on a regular basis, but our top recommendations include discussing your next pick IRL at the end of each meeting, especially if you’re a fan of the democratic approach. If this is the path you decide to take, we also recommend having everyone bring two suggestions/pitches to each meeting so you’re not all googling ideas on the spot. Conversely, we also recommend the “host picks” strategy, in which the person hosting each meeting gets to choose.

On cookbook acquisition

Cookbooks can be expensive, but there are ways around this. Both booksellers (we recommend shopping at your local independent) and publishers offer bulk-order discounts, so it’s worth a call to save some money. Alternatively, head to your local library--libraries will often stock cookbooks both on the shelves and in ebook versions which you can send to your kindle through amazing apps like Overdrive and Libby.

On keeping it eco-friendly

A great strategy for keeping your Cookbook Club eco-friendly is to have all participants bring their dish in reusable Tupperware and/or on reusable serving platters. You can also request that everyone bring their own plate, drinking glass, and cloth napkin. This keeps cleanup quick and painless for the host!

Titles we recommend

If you’re looking for recommendations, we recommend starting with any of the books below, written by some of our amazing culinary partners:

Happy Cookbook Clubbing!

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