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Sara Foster's Southern Kitchen

My New book Sara Foster”s Southern Kitchen is available nationwide April 5th. It”s been two years since I started working on it for publication. The time has gone by so quickly, I can”t believe it”s finally here.  I thought I would share with you some of the behind the scenes insight of  making a cookbook.

This is my fourth cookbook and probably the one most dear to my heart because it has so many family recipes and memories. Working on the books is an extension of being in the kitchen and a different outlet for creativity. Collaborating with the photographer, co-author, prop stylist, food stylist, editor and designer are similar to working in a restaurant with the chef, sous chef and front of the house co-workers. Seeing the process through from beginning to end is the same satisfaction and commitment of working a busy night in a restaurant or catering a large party.

There are many things I enjoy about this process; here are a few of my favorites, first coming up with the concept. My new book, Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen was inspired from my grandmother’s collection of recipes, (most of them hand written on small pieces of paper) and my love of southern ingredients. Cooking locally and seasonally is something I grew up on and having a backyard garden made it easy. Many of these recipes are rooted in southern tradition but made modern and my own with simple techniques and cultural influences.

Putting together the table of contents is probably the hardest part of the book but it ultimately becomes  the outline for the book. It allows you to start developing and testing the recipes to get them just right. Often, this means testing each recipe 5 or 6 times, which can be really fun, filling and demanding.  Testing is actually different from cooking as most of us know it. You have to be very precise in your measuring and timing, I like to have other people test my recipes because they’re not familiar with them. They’ll use different equipment with different stoves and ovens.  And of course there is the tasting. Everyone has a different sense of what tastes right for them.

I work with a co-author on my books because I like having someone to bounce ideas off. Also it allows me to focus on the food and the recipes, which is the part of the book I enjoy most, and have the most experience with. My co -author  for this book is Tema Larter. Tema and I have a conversation about a recipe, or I  tell her  an antidote, then she writes the headnotes, sidebars, chapter introductions and more. There is also quite a bit of editing which is key to outcome of the book.

I am responsible for photography and styling. This means I  find a photographer I want to work. I usually pull shots from magazines and collect them for a year or so before shooting, then I go back and see which photographer’s work I’ve pulled most often. For this book I worked with Peter Frank Edwards, a great photographer from Charleston.  Next I decide what recipes will look the best in photographs, prepare and style the food for the photographs, pull props (dishes, plates, glasses, silverware, linens, etc. that will be seen in the shots). I have a huge prop closet because I like to collect. And, lastly, I’ll work with the photographer to set up the shot. I  work with another stylist, Wendy Goldstein that helps with food and props, and makes the day go smoother.

Here”s a short video Peter shot while we were working on the book.

At this point we turn the book in to our editor and go through a series of edits, usually to shorten the first assembly. Once we have the final edition we can start the layout and design. The publisher is  responsible for this process, but I like to get involved because, of course, I have a vision. This  is the first time you get to start seeing it as a complete book and not just recipes. Choosing  color palettes, fonts, styles and photos make the pages come to life.

I look forward to using my cookbooks for years and years with the pages of my favorite recipes eventually stained with oil, butter or sauce. I know everyone has their own favorites and you want to be able to see and feel them lying on your counter as you refer to them.

We will be posting recipes from the book over the next few weeks, so check back with us in our recipe section.

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  1. Sara – Thanks so much for sharing this! It’s such a process and a mystery to most — maybe especially to those who do it, too!
    Just the taste of the book you leave here looks wonderful.I am looking forward to seeing it. Best VA

  2. Judykay Janney says:


    One day in Barnes & Noble, while browsing through the cookbooks, I found your 3 books. I bought them and have followed you since then

    I have been patiently waiting for this new one to add to my collection of over 300 cookbooks, that I read, cover to cover
    Congrats on your 4th book, its sure to be a success,

  3. Sara
    I love all your cookbooks and have eaten many, many times at Foster’s. I think Southern Kitchen is by far your best cookbook! I got one for myself and 2 more for gifts. I have one question–I read that cooking chicken in a brown paper bag can be harmful as the glue that holds the bag together can be toxic and that bacteria which might be present in the bag may not be killed by cooking. I just wanted to find out if you had researched this before I try it. I look forward to cooking all the recipes in Southern Kitchen–so far we love those we have tried!


  4. Yes, I did research it, and you are correct there are minimal toxins in the bag. No more than like a beer can chicken, cooking over a charcoal fire, or other novelty recipes of this kind. You should always use a new bag, not one that has previously been used! And if you have concerns, always use a plastic oven bag. Thanks for your feedback, glad you are enjoying the book, Sara

  5. Thank you Sara for answering my comment! I look forward to trying this recipe and the many others in your book!

  6. Ritchie Longoria says:

    Sara, My son attended Duke for 4 years (’02-’06) and I was lucky enough to have had many wonderful meals at your Durham Cafe. My wife and I just saw that you were in Memphis signing your new cook book yesterday the 13th of April. Actually we were excited because we thought the signing was tonight (14th)…Don’t leave yesterdays paper out on the table. We think a signed copy would make a great gift for our new Daughter-in-Law and we were wondering if you had other stops in the Memphis area in the next few days? My wife actually ate at your place in Durham last Sunday. Duke had Alumni events this past weekend so she really wants your book as well.

  7. I love every one of your cookbooks. The first one I bought several years ago, “Foster’s Market Cookbook” has the pages falling out – it’s been used so much. I believe I have made every thing in it many times.
    I love the new Southern Kitchen! The recipes are wonderful authentic southern staples.
    I will next be making the ham soup w/ collard greens to use the ham bone from our Easter ham.

    Thanks for such great recipes!

  8. Read a review of this book in OKRA, http://southernfood.org/okra/?p=588.

  9. Franna Awtry says:

    Oh Sara… I bought your book about a month ago at Costco. I came home and read it like a novel. I LOVE reading cookbooks. Am avid fan of Southern cooking, as that is my blessed heritage. I made your Granny Foster’s Pound Cake today! I’ve looked for a recipe that used a pound of butter, flour, sugar, eggs, but this is the first time making one. I followed your recipe to the letter, using your Know How with creaming the butter,sugar and eggs. Honey, it’s the best pound cake I’ve ever tasted. It came out perfect! My bundt pan is dark and I lowered the temp 25 degrees and baked it the exact time you stated. Perfection. Sublime. First time! Made your mother, Say’s Peach Cobbler yesterday for a friend’s birthday, again exactly to specs. She raved and raved. Thank you so much! Fabulous book, and a gorgeous one, too!

  10. remember seeing you on martha stewart (weren’t you the giggle puss when her show was still cool) and decided to rent one of your books from the library. I AM NOW ADDICTED to your recipes. will try and order, at least the new one, next week. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE the simplicity and yumminess of them. would love to visit your store one day (i’m a new yorker)

  11. Sara, I bought your latest cookbook at A Southern Season in Chapel Hill, and I’m now addicted to your wonderful homemade pimento cheese. At my latest dinner party, my guests practically licked the bowl clean. I served it as an appetizer with some lovely cracked pepper flatbread from S. Season…YUM! Your deviled eggs are also devine. I am working my way through the book and getting many thanks from my hard-working hungry husband, my daughters, and a multitude of friends. Thank you for sharing your recipes, your family memories, and information on our Southern heritage (I’m from Johnston County). These are the ties that bind us to the South:)

  12. jane qualls says:

    Sara, I am also concerned about cooking a chicken in a grocery bag. Ours all have printing all over them. Would a plastic oven bag brown the chicken as well? What about using parchment paper and folding the sides, etc. closed? I’ve been longing for Southern home cooking since I grew up there and have been thrilled with many of your recipes, but my mother always had a cook and she herself learned nothing from them. Thanks, Jane

  13. Yes, you could use a plastic oven bag if you have concerns about the paper bag. If you use a paper bag do not use one with writing or print on it. let me know how it turns out, Sara

  14. appetite for books says:


  1. […] Posted on 31 May 2011 by Shannon I got busy over Memorial Day weekend and cooked a lot out of Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen. Pretty much every recipe was an unqualified winner, with a couple of minor exceptions. First, the […]

  2. […] came from another Sara Foster book that I’ve been featuring a lot on this blog lately: Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen. (Expect a full-fledged review very soon.) Even though this was a new recipe I was trying, it […]

  3. […] original recipe is from Sara Foster’s book “Southern Kitchen”. I have simply reduced the amounts and tweeted them just a bit to make less. This recipe has less […]

  4. […] is easy to find.  Thanks to EzraPoundCake for posting the recipe, which actually comes from “Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen“.  I made a few changes to the recipe from EzraPoundCake, including roasting the corn before […]

  5. […] but channel Sara Foster and the recipes she updated from her Memphis grandmother’s collection in Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen. Classic angel biscuits with spicy watercress and tangy chevre came to mind…so did warm platters […]

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2694 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd., Durham, NC - Phone: 919.489.3944
Open 7 days a week from 7:30 am to 8 pm