Mark Bittman Interview: How To Cook Everything To Go!

by Matt on April 19, 2010

I keep making the joke that I’m slowly becoming the Rona Barrett of food blogging and I think it’s actually becoming a reality much faster than I thought. And you know what? I’m cool with that. A huge reason why I began blogging was to share stories and the personalities behind the food. Interviewing both Alice Waters and Mark Bittman of the New York Times in one week was such a treat for me and I don’t even have a fancy couch or my own band. At any rate, I gave away a few copies of Mark’s new App called How To Cook Everything To Go earlier this morning and just got off the phone with him.  Want to know what he thinks of his app? There’s an interview for that.

Matt: Thanks so much for the phone chat and this quick interview. Congratulations on the iphone app, it’s a beauty!

Mark: You know, I can’t tell you how little I actually had to do with the app! They did an amazing job and they did it with complete respect for the book. They took the book and didn’t make it better but took what was in it to the level it deserves to be electronically. There’s no e-version of any cookbook anywhere that’s as good as this. It’s incredible. And I can say that because I had such little to do with this app!

Matt: Oh c’mon, Mark. You had everything to do with this book!

Mark: Well, you know I’m very proud of How To Cook Everything but I don’t go around bragging about it. But this, well, it’s not my creation in a way so I can really say how terrific I think it is!

Matt: It is terrific! I got it a few days ago and have already used it several times. When I was walking around the market with it I realized how powerful it really is. You can’t exactly lug your book around the market.

Mark: People have been talking about how to make a cookbook useful on a mobile device and this is probably not the end but it’s a start of an era that people have been looking for. There may be an app that’s as good as this cooking wise but I sure haven’t seen it yet.

Matt: I don’t think I have either.  So now that this seems to really work how do you see the future of what you do?

Mark: I’m not sure it changes. It don’t think it’s going to change the way I use the book, I don’t think it’s going to change the way I write books because we know the benefits of print and also the limitations of print. This is really starting to explore the benefits of non-print in a way that works. This app is as good as or better than any cooking website and it’s on a phone. That’s incredible!

Matt: I think the ability to search is what makes it so powerful. I’ve already kicked the tires and used it to shop and answer questions about a few things. The immediacy of having the information right there is powerful. Being able to access all your recipes from the book is pretty cool, too.

Mark: Right. The search thing works. The shopping list works. The timer works. All of it works. We kicked the tires too and really love the interface.  We kept saying we can do more, we can do more and the team did.

When we began we kept thinking that we’d stick the book in an app but the book had so many unique characteristics to it.  The sidenotes, the techniques, they all took the book to another level. We wanted to explore the boundaries of apps in the same way the book did.  And the proof is in the pudding – it’s selling like hotcakes already!

(How did Mark Bittman know I had pancakes for lunch?)

Matt: Do you own an iphone?

Mark: Yep. But I haven’t had the app any longer than you.  I didn’t have an iphone during a great deal of the development time. I was borrowing one and looking at mock-ups online but I finally broke down and “lost” my blackberry!

Matt: How long did it take to complete the app?

Mark: We were aiming for last Christmas but I’d say about a year. It’s been a long time. Just know that it was because there were so many people working really hard, it’s so dense with so much and it kept taking longer and longer. The result is that it’s quite amazing and gorgeous. People are happy. Even I’m happy and I’m a tough person to please!

Matt: Any plans to turn any of your other titles into apps?

Mark: Well, it’s not entirely up to me. Everything is up for discussion at this time. We wanted to go with the biggest and best possible thing first and this is it. And with this two dollar price (the app is currently $1.99-matt) it’s practically free. I think that’s only going to last a week or two, I’m not sure how long the promotion is on. We all wanted to make the How To Cook Everything To Go app the most powerful possible and also the most powerfully appealing. Whether it gets sliced and diced or if we do a How To Cook Everything Vegetarian app, just know there will be more.

Thanks Mark! And big thanks to Culinate!