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!

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Juli April 19, 2010 at 2:14 pm

I love this app! I am a big fan of Mark and already have Food Matters on my iPhone. I usually use the epicurious app at the market but this one is so much better for my needs and I already used it to buy ingredients for tapenade. Thanks for the interview Matt!

Beth Lee April 19, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Hi Matt, I just found your blog today while researching how to generate traffic for my new blog. I just posted an entry about using my new iPad in the kitchen (http://omgyummy.wordpress.com/2010/04/15/omg-ipad-tempting-technology-in-the-kitchen/). So after reading your blog post about Mark’s new app, I immediately downloaded it to my iPad and am already going to try a chicken recipe tonight. I enjoy the Epicurious app and can see the beauty of Mark’s How to Cook Everything to Go app as well. Hope they make it iPad size soon!

merry jennifer April 19, 2010 at 3:03 pm

I’m also a huge fan of Mark Bittman. I bought his book for my dad for Christmas, and I’m kicking myself for not keeping it for myself. I need to just BUY it already. The app sounds amazing – and since I adore my iPhone apps, I’ll add this to my list. Great interview, Matt!

Anna April 19, 2010 at 3:06 pm

I love you both. Thanks for the interview and for an amazing app. Any plans for an iPad version?

Appetite for Conversation April 19, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Thanks for the great interview!

The French April 19, 2010 at 6:41 pm

I can’t believe this is only $2. What an amazing app. This will make my trips to the grocery store much less painful. Thanks Matt:)

marla {family fresh cooking} April 19, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Look at you getting all these great interviews. Great to see Bittman interview on your bloggie! Need to check out the app.
Trash any hotel rooms lately you Rockstar you??? xo

bigjobsboard April 20, 2010 at 4:33 am

Thanks for posting this interview. I am looking forward to the iPad version of the app. Thanks.

clea walford April 20, 2010 at 6:46 pm

I also immediately downloaded Mark’s app and love it. Thanks for the great interview.

Heather @ Side of Sneakers April 21, 2010 at 9:32 am

What a great interview!! Now I just need an iPhone so I can use this fantastic app ;)

Dawn (KitchenTravels) April 21, 2010 at 2:11 pm

It’s really too bad all these great apps are only developed for iPhones. There are still a lot of us Blackberry users out there who love to cook and would love to have access to this app. The soundbite should really be, “There’s an app for that… as long as you have an iPhone.”

Noel April 21, 2010 at 9:52 pm

I ove Mark Bittman because he does not put on airs and makes cooking food seem accessible to everyone. I love how when he is on TV he always tells you the ‘theory’ of a recipe and how to alter it. I already have this in hard format and bought the veggie one for a friend. At $1.99 it’s unbeatable. I just cooked a recipe from it tonight, the first day I had it, and my only beef (no pun intended) is that when a phone call came in on my iPhone 3GS I was bounced out of the recipe and had to search for it again after the call. I suspect that iPhone OS 4.0 will take care of this problem as it is multi-tasking. I only wish I could buy another $1.99 version for a friend who is getting his iPhone when they release the next one in June/July.

Deborah Dowd April 23, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Freelance work (non-food-related) has made me slow to catch up with my regular blogging so I am just now getting to linking to the new mattbites.com Love the new site and I look forward to catching up with what you have been up to while I have been writing proposals.

The Teacher Cooks April 26, 2010 at 6:54 am

Thanks for sharing this information and I will be checking out this app for my phone!

The French April 26, 2010 at 8:23 am

Hey Matt. Just wanted to say thanks again for this post. I bought the app and am crazy impressed. It’s so well done and easy to use. And loaded with a zillion recipes. I was in the store, decided to make a soup, looked up one of his and was on my way! I’ve been rattling nonstop to people about it ever since:)

Joy April 27, 2010 at 2:27 am

did the app have an metric conversion?

susan April 29, 2010 at 11:40 am

hi matt! i met you, briefly, at food blog forum. fun day. ever thought about teaching some food photography workshops? if so, i am in! i will bring cookies!

Matt April 30, 2010 at 9:47 am

hi Susan! I actually do teach some workshops, I have one coming up in June in Long Beach. I’ll email you!

Arizona Solar May 3, 2010 at 2:46 pm

I was “rattled on to” about this app.. and I am thoroughly impressed. There are a few cooking apps out there but this one blows all of ‘em out of the water. Kudos. Keep it up!
-Sylvia

Jeannie May 6, 2010 at 9:09 am

Just bought it – listed at $4.99, not $1.99. My boss has had the book for 6 months and suggested I get the app. She doesnt have an iphone so she’s jealous.

Matt May 6, 2010 at 9:14 am

Yes, the $1.99 was a special promotional price during the app’s introduction. But still…$4.99 for that app is totally worth it. I use it all the time.

Cicilia Teng May 20, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Hi Matt,

Can you please email me as well re. the workshop?? :)
Thanks so much! XO!

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