BookMunch is a restaurant with a difference – it is a book shop, Dubai’s first literary café that houses a big collection of hand-picked titles catering to all ages. BookMunch also hosts regular events for book lovers, book clubs, book signings, readings, arts and culture amidst a delicious menu created by none other than Fiona Archibold, the renowned food stylist and chef together with Dareen Charafeddine, the owner and MD of BookMunch.
Among the several events that are hosted in this award winning café, one of my favourites here is the ‘Cook The Books’. This is an unique monthly event where the host Chef talks about his/her cookbook or some recipes from their favourite cookbooks, followed by a dinner where the menu has been created by the host Chef. I have had the honour to be the host Chef here and create a traditional menu from Bengal – the region where I come from. In conversation with Dareen:
Why do you think printed cookbooks out smart kindle or web?
E-books, love them or hate them, are here to stay. I personally am addicted to cookbooks – the real kind, and love discovering new ones. However, I’m guilty of looking up recipes online a lot as well, maybe because of convenience.. or because I stumble upon a stunning food shot that leads me into an online recipe, food blog etc. For me, both formats are here to stay and honestly feed into each other. Food bloggers are printing their own cookbooks, and printed cookbooks are being turned into e-books. After all, print and digital media can complement each other. Who are we to complain? More recipes for everyone!
Challenges for a book shop like yours – and how cook books are the highest selling books there?
When we opened three years ago, people asked me whether the concept is more of a café or a bookshop, and I couldn’t answer. I myself didn’t know. All I knew is, I loved both and I wanted both the food and the books under one roof. I wouldn’t settle for a restaurant with a reading corner. I wanted our guests to dine with us and be surrounded with books – books that they can read and ideally buy if they like. On the food side, again we never took it lightly and knew what we were getting ourselves into. Eventually, we realized, that’s exactly what people were coming back for. And yes, the books added to the ambience of course. But ultimately, it was all about the food. That doesn’t mean that we will give up on our books. They are fundamental to us and add to the charm of the concept. We sell more cookbooks than any other genre of books- mostly because we are highly selective about them, and handpick the ones that appeal to us. So, it’s always a personal choice as opposed to a commercial one, and I’d like to think that our guests trust us with food, and hence our cookbooks.
And the latest cookbooks that have inspired you…
Spuntino – I haven’t been to the restaurant, but any book with images of New York City can steal my heart. Add to that, two words: Comfort Food! No brainer there. Gorgeous design and layout, and beautiful food shots- recipes seem simple and easy to follow. Our next seasonal menu will definitely be inspired by one of the recipes from this book.
Nopi – So refreshing, yet so familiar, as all Ottolenghi’s books are. I find myself flicking through Nopi’s pages every time I have the chance to, nowadays. Delicious food shots, amazing ingredient pairing, and bold flavors, at BookMunch we love all his books and often use them for inspiration for our salad dishes.
We are excited about the new branch of BookMunch. Tell us more!
The new branch at Bay Square in Business Bay would focus more on cookbooks. In fact, it is interesting to note that the cookbooks have the highest sales among all the books that we stock. That probably answers your question on whether Kindle would overpower actual cookbooks!
Dareen's Recommendations: Nopi by Yotam Ottolenghi; The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson, Spuntino
Bethany Kehdy, the author of The Jewelled Kitchen says “I’d have to say print. I have bought a few cookbooks as kindle but just not the same!”
Dima Sharif, a food blogger and the author of the recently published book on Palestinian cuisine – Plated Heirlooms, says “Printed books will not disappear. A huge amount of people still prefer reading off paper than screens. I am one of them.
“Although food is the first focus of BookMunch, and the shelves were a little bit sparse when I visited just prior to a restock, there is always a gem or two that just beg to be taken home from a collection hand-chosen by the owner. Dareen Charafeddine, the owner and brain behind Book Munch, confesses to hoarding over 250 cookbooks in her own house; that passion is evident in the diversity of the titles. Grab a coffee and excellent Eggs Benedict while you make your choices.” ∼ Sally Prosser, our Food Sourcing Expert.
Read more on Cookbooks ~