Writing a cookbook has been a life goal of mine since I was a teen - I’ve always loved writing, and obviously food as well! So I was super stoked when approached by the Allen & Unwin team (Thanks for putting the god word in Bets!).
The Keepers project kicked off around the same time we launched Kitco - October 2019!
I had around a year to start working on the recipes and write the book.
Obviously a main concern of mine was keeping the Pepper & Me Club pumping and exclusive - We now have over 1000 recipes on that platform! From a multitude of contributors. The Club focuses on budget friendly, every night meals spanning across all different food types. We also have loads of easy baking, sweets and nibbles.
To keep Keepers special, I wanted these recipes to be a collection of signature dishes, created by me, recipes that you would use when entertaining friends or family, celebrating a special occasion or feeding a crowd. They are not complex - but very sure to impress!
The recipes in Keepers do not have such a strong focus on using Pepper & Me products. The products are certainly used throughout the book, but it needed to be in such a way that the buyer and reader did not immediately have to go out and buy 20 different products to use the recipes. I’ve kept the recipes just using a few of our staple products, and things like our BBQ sauce or Aioli can easily be replaced with whatever the reader has at home.
Obviously once we get you all hooked on the P&M cult bandwagon - there will be no going back to sub par condiments - but I've tried to create this book so it’s not overwhelming.
I first started the recipe content summer '19/'20, spending a lot of time with Jess Gray, who runs the Pepper & Me Club and is great at helping me refine ideas or suggesting seasoning tweaks when it comes to recipe testing. We headed off to Nelson for a week, to attend the BBQ master class with Dave, and spent a lot of time in the sunshine with a cider, getting rough recipes written.
Then covid hit us like a freight train in March! I thought being stuck at home would be great to get some writing done, but safe to say although we did a LOT of eating, and cooking - no recipes made it onto the computer.
Once we got back to Level 2, Bets (from Magnolia Kitchen) and I headed off to a treehouse retreat in Titirangi - for an internet free three days in nature - we hauled our firewood up, and sat in the trees writing for a solid three days, tossing ideas back and forth, flavor combos, recipe ideas and trimming the fat on what wouldn't fit.
Once the writing was finished, thus began a series of dinner parties with friends to further test the recipes - Lord knows you guys have seen me make that dark chocolate pecan pie, salmon fillet, saucey mac n cheese and beef wellington a few times!
Then the fun part began - I got to work with the most amazing team at Flash Studios in Auckland to shoot the book, and Jo from Delivision food styling who made my cooking look all beautiful and fancy. We had a few great blocks of shooting days - then Covid round two sent me home very suddenly one evening!
A month later and we got the book finished - A family shoot in Ponsonby at Jo’s place to get the author shots and some amazing pictures with the Kids and Shannon.
The shoots were just the most amazing times, the team were so clever and supportive - I feel like this book is just as much Jo & Mels as it is mine!
In true Cherie style we had all my friends roll in and out of the set, Bets came to do dishes, Rhi came to film our announcement video, Jess brung tiny baby bear in - Remy even came to open Champagne on completion!
Out of all of the Pepper & Me journeys and achievements this book is really the first thing I will stop and pat myself on the back for. I'm exceptionally proud of this book, and the journey to creating it has been such a ride. I can’t wait to share Keepers with the world on April 8th, and I hope everyone loves it as much as me!