God's Love We Deliver Cookbook
Nourishing Stories and Recipes from Notable Friends
Compiled by Jon Gilman and Christopher Idone
Suzy Chase : Welcome to the Cookery by the Book Podcast with me, Suzy Chase.
Jon Gilman : Hi, I'm Jon Gilman. I'm a board member at God's Love, and I'm the creator of and compiler of the new God's Love We Deliver Cookbook: Nourishing Stories and Recipes from Notable Friends.
Suzy Chase : God's Love We Deliver recently debuted it's very first cookbook, which is gorgeous by the way. What is the mission of God's Love We Deliver, and what is your involvement?
Jon Gilman : I have been a supporter of God's Love for many, many years, but I joined the board about 10 years ago. The mission of God's Love We Deliver is to improve the health and wellbeing of men, women and children living with HIV, AIDS, cancer, and other serious illnesses by alleviating hunger and malnutrition. What we basically do is we prepare and deliver nutritious, high quality meals to people who because of their illness can't shop or cook for themselves. We also provide nutrition counseling for each person. We help tailor the meal to specifically help support the condition that they're involved with. All our services are provided free of charge without regard to income.
Suzy Chase : Jacques Pépin once told me that sense memories or what he called food memories immediately transport him back to France. Describe your blackberry cobbler mishap that was the inspiration for this cookbook.
Jon Gilman : This book did start over a meal as many great things in life do. It was about three years ago and I was out east at our home in Sag Harbor with a dear friend and mentor, Christopher Idone, who's also a great cookbook author. We were making some late summer meal which involved a blackberry cobbler. As we were sitting at the table, I suddenly smelled the bubbling blackberry juice hit the floor of the oven, and it immediately sent this sort of caramelized berry smell into my brain, which took me right back to growing in the northwest which is where I'm from in Seattle. We started to talk then. Food memory is such a potent factor in our memory banks. It's like music. It's like many things in life.
For me, especially being a chef and cook, it was a very important moment and I started talking to Christopher. We had always been toying with the idea of doing a book together, and we suddenly had the clarity that wouldn't this be a great idea to do a book that's based on people's memories and have them lead to a recipe in particular, so it could be a combination cookbook and memoir. I told him the story of my childhood in Seattle over that dinner. After dinner, we just started making a list of, "Wow. We could ask this one. We could ask that one. Wouldn't this be a great book?" God's Love was at that time going to celebrate its 30th anniversary, and no one had ever done a cookbook for the organization. We thought, wouldn't this be a great way to introduce folks to the organization and use the book as a tool for letting more people know about who we are and what we do?
Suzy Chase : God's Love's kitchen is where food and love come together. Tell us a little bit about the planning and preparation process that goes on on a daily basis.
Jon Gilman : We have volunteers and the kitchen's open every day from 7:00 in the morning until late at night. Each day we are able to cook and home deliver 6,200 nutritious meals. In order to get that done, we have a wealth of volunteers who come in. The way it works is they're different shifts that start. You can have a shift before you go to work in the morning. Say it starts at 7:00 and you're at 8:30 or 9:00. They're shifts throughout the day. They all do different kinds of work. Some people are doing chopping. Some people are doing packing. Some people are doing what we call kitting which is getting everything ready to go into the vans. We also have the ability for volunteers to come in and help us delivery either on foot or go out with our van drivers.
We have a small staff of chefs and kitchen professionals who oversee the volunteers. We work on a cycle, a four-week cycle of different menus so that we can provide variety to people that we're serving. For example, there's pork on Tuesdays, chicken on Wednesdays, vegetarian Thursdays, and then each week they'll be a different preparation of those items os that it gives some variety for the clients that we're serving.
Suzy Chase : Speaking of staff, I find it fascinating that your paid staff make up only 5% of your service pool. Talk a little bit about your impressive volunteer model.
Jon Gilman : Well, it really is the heart of the organization, are the volunteers. We have over 10,000 volunteers a year that come through God's Love. It's kind of unbelievable, but we figured it out that it's 100 volunteers to one paid staff. It keeps our costs very low, and we're always working on trying to obviously raise money to pay for the services we provide, and this really, really helps. I think we figured out that it saves us over $2 million a year in costs for employment by just having these volunteers. The other side of it is really is that it gives volunteers a wonderful ability to give back and to work with great people in the kitchen. You really can tell the difference in the meals that come out of it, because it's as they say all our meals are made with love.
Suzy Chase : This cookbook features family recipes and personal anecdotes from 75 celebrities and friends. What did it take for you to round up all of these incredible folks?
Jon Gilman : Well, the whole process was really ... I never had made a book before, and it was a bit daunting to start with, but having Christopher by my side who had at least nine or 10 books under his belt made it a little easier. The only difference with this book was that we had to corral a great number of people as you mentioned. The way that this all happened is I live across the street in Sag Harbor from a wonderful literary agent at ICM. I went over to her after this fabled dinner and told her ... I basically pitched my idea to her and said, "What do you think of this idea?" She said, "This is a wonderful thing. I love this." She said, "Here's what I want you to do. Go out and find five bold face names that you can get to commit to the project, and then I'll help mentor you along."
What I did was basically hit the ground running. God's Love is an organization that is loved by many and we have a lot of great friends of the organization, but it took a lot more than just having the connection with God's Love. I really had to rely on a lot of personal contacts, but my first call was to Ina Garten, who's a friend. I told her about the project. "I know how busy you are." Immediately she said, "I'd love to help. What can I do?" Then, I called Isabella Rossellini. She said, "Loved to do this. It sounds like a great thing." We then got Danny Meyer, we got Michael Kors and we had, I think the fifth was Joan Rivers. We were basically off. Once we had a sort of core group, we were able to get more to join the force. It took a lot of phone calls, a lot of emails.
Suzy Chase : Oh, I bet.
Jon Gilman : These are all very busy people, so once they say yes, in a moment of weakness, it's then the follow-up of, "Okay, now we need your story. Okay, we need a recipe." Then, at certain points it was, "Well, we hae a lot of pastas. We'd really love to try to get something in this category or that category." It took a lot, a lot of work. A lot of times we had to go through agents or publicists and that added another layer. It took us about two years to get all of the recipes and stories in to test them, to have them all modified so they're in a format that would be consistent.
We did four different shoots over the seasons to get the best ingredients at the best times. We're lucky enough to have this amazing food photographer named Ben Fink who actually was another one of those great calls. I called him up and I said, "Ben, I know how busy you are, and you're always working on so many projects, but would you consider this?" He immediately said, "Yes," and did it gratis for us. The whole book was really a project of love and giving, and we're so proud of the way it came out.
Suzy Chase : It's such a testament to your organization.
Jon Gilman : Yeah. I mean, just from so many is how we do what we do.
Suzy Chase : What is one of your favorite recipes out of the cookbook?
Jon Gilman : One of my favorites is Alice Waters' chicken with 40 cloves of garlic.
Suzy Chase : Yes.
Jon Gilman : I love-
Suzy Chase : That's a hit.
Jon Gilman : It's a simple recipe, but it's easy to make, but it always comes out good. I love the way that you present it with the toasted bread and chicken the smear of garlic on the warm baguette. It was so delicious. Probably one of my guilty pleasure recipes would be the coconut cake that Roseanne Cash put in the book. It is sinfully delicious if you like coconut. Her story is so great. She loves the cake so much herself that she starts her story by saying, "I know this may sound morbid, but I want this cake served at my funeral." Then, the story goes off from there. The stories are the heart of the book. I mean, it's a wonderful recipe book, but the combination of the stories and understanding who that person is and maybe learning a little something new about somebody that you wouldn't have expected. It makes a nice book.
Suzy Chase : Yeah. Last night for dinner I made chef Michael Anthony's sugar snap peas and cucumbers from page 50. I had no idea he had open heart surgery in 2011, but he wrote a really touching story about how he found healing and comfort in the dishes that his restaurant friends brought by the house when he was recovering.
Jon Gilman : Yeah. That was a great story. He's actually a fellow board member and a wonderful man and has really helped a lot in getting some of the chefs on board for the book project. I owe a lot to him for his efforts. What's nice about the book also is that it's such a great New York mix of people. We have actors and we have authors and playwrights and choreographers and chefs. It's a little bit of everything. I think it makes it really interesting reading.
Suzy Chase : Last night I also made Danny Meyer's blue smoke Kansas City ribs on page 202. They were incredible, and I grew up in Kansas City so I had to make these. It was nice to read about how barbecue brought back his childhood memories of growing up in Missouri. I think the idea of food is love really shines through in each and every recipe in this cookbook. Don't you think?
Jon Gilman : Absolutely, absolutely. It really makes you want to invite someone over and have dinner together. The whole idea of memory and food and all that that means for different people, it's a great, great way to celebrate friendship. As someone said, I was talking to someone that we had interviewed for the book, "Cooking a meal for someone is one of the greatest acts of kindness." I think that really shows through in all the recipes.
Suzy Chase : Where can we buy this cookbook, and how can we give to God's Love We Deliver?
Jon Gilman : Well, the cookbook is available through God's Love. We are the publisher, and with the idea. One of the great things about this book project was that I was able to raise all the funds to cover any of the hard costs associated with printing the book so that as a gift item this book, 100% of the proceeds go to feed people that we serve. There's so many charities that say, "Oh yes, a portion of which will go to our programs." This is 100% goes to our programs. You can find the book mostly easily by going to the website, godslovecookbook.com where there are some great audio stories online as well as samples of the book, and you can click a button to buy it right there. In order to make a donation to God's Love We Deliver, the best way to do that is to go to glwd.org and you can see the many ways that you can contribute on that page.
Suzy Chase : I urge everyone to spread the love and buy this cookbook. Thank you so much, Jon, for coming on Cookery by the Book Podcast.
Jon Gilman : Great. Thanks for having me, Suzy.