I'm pretty familiar with the book because when it was in the design stage, Karin and Traci had me do some minor editing on the chapter introductions. Traci, a Salt Lake City artist, was referred to me by a food writing friend, and I appreciated the opportunity.
I've had hundreds of cookbooks cross my desk during the 17 years I spent as a food editor. "Cook The Part" is different from anything I've seen before. We've all seen those shows on TV where a crowd of people enjoy a fabulous dinner party. But pulling something like that together in real life is more daunting. You can spend several days making dishes, and then end up too exhausted to enjoy your own party. Or the episode shows everyone merrily helping out in the kitchen. Great, except that it often results in a lot of chaos.
But this book switches things up — you don't do all the cooking, your guests do. It gives you step-by-step instructions on how to host a dinner party where everyone divides into teams, cooks part of the meal and then sits down to enjoy it together.
Karin has divided the menus and recipes into tasks for various teams to complete, and she has all the logistics organized. There's a timeline to follow so that the entree isn't going cold while you wait for the appetizer to be finished.
The recipes are global in scope, such as authentic paella loaded with seafood, handmade Italian pasta with sauces, and Baja fish tacos. But they are broken down into steps so that you don't need a lot of culinary training to make them.
The social aspect is great, too. Instead of sitting around trying to make awkward small talk, people are working together, sharing a laugh or two, and bonding.
Karin is even speaking to businesses on how to use the book as a team-building experience. The one drawback is that you do need some space to accommodate one team chopping veggies for a salad, another team working at the stove, and another team mixing up the dessert and yet another team doing the appetizer. It's still tough to fit everyone into a cramped apartment.
"My advice to people with small apartments is to modify the plan as you see fit," Karin told me. "I recently heard from one group that prepared the paella together. Instead of preparing all of other courses in the chapter, they served the Manchego and fig appetizer with some olives, someone made a salad from one of the other chapters in advance and they served a purchased dessert (flan)."
Karin got the idea for the book through many years of participating in gourmet groups and hosting many cooking parties at her home. Many of the themes and recipes were tried-and-true favorites of Karin and her husband, Gary.
"I started making spreadsheets so that when our houseguests arrived, I could simply refer them to the spreadsheet," she said. "I'm certain that my accounting background had a lot to do with the organization of the book."
Karin said organizational aspect of the book was the most challenging — breaking down the recipes into logical tasks, dividing the tasks among various teams, and creating a proper timeline. It required lots of testing and tweaking, "although practicing the chapters with friends was one of the most rewarding aspects of the book," she added.