JOPLIN, Mo. —
When Jeff Scott and Blake Beshore decided to team up on a cookbook, the two men came at the subject from very different, yet, oddly enough, similar directions.
Scott is a well-known media artist who spends his days coming up with new and innovative ways to tell stories. He works in film, photography and printmaking to create new and unique visual messages.
Beshore, originally from Joplin, has degrees in political science and corporate communications from Southern Methodist University and is also a graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School with a background as both a restaurant and private chef.
Beshore was teaching a cooking class in Dallas when he met Scott.
“He (Scott) was doing a celebrity cookbook and I started to teach him the basics. There was a falling out between he and the chef and he said, ‘Hey, you have all these great connections, why don’t we team up together?’” Beshore said.
But, when Beshore and Scott started talking it turned out that neither of them were overly fond of cookbooks. At least not the typical so-called “celebrity” cookbooks that seem to dominate the cooking sections of book stores all across the country.
Beshore said that since so many chefs tend to let ghost writers do the bulk of the writing in their books, the reader is left with less than a complete picture of the chefs or their cooking methods.
“I will buy a cookbook and may get one or two recipes out of it and that’s it,” he said.
What Beshore and Scott wanted to do was the opposite of what passes for a cookbook nowadays, and with the recently published two-volume, 900 page “Notes From a Kitchen,” the two men have done just that.
For starters, there are no recipes in “Notes From a Kitchen.” You might think it would be hard to do a book on food and cooking without recipes, yet “Notes from a Kitchen” is all about food and cooking. What Scott and Beshore have done with “Notes From a Kitchen” is create a book totally from the point of view of well-known chefs from around the country. Basically, what the two men did was camp out with the chefs and let them talk about what they do. All while Scott photographed their every move.
In addition, Scott and Beshore managed to get the chefs to agree to allow access to their private kitchen notebooks. Almost all great chefs keep notebooks to jot down ideas or to plan menus, and almost all of them guard their notebooks with their lives. The result is an intimate look into the minds of some of the greatest chefs working today.
“It’s an all-access, behind-the-scenes pass to the chef’s world,” Beshore said. “It (the book) evokes the emotion of looking over the shoulder of the best chefs in the country.”
Add in the fact that Scott’s photographs make this cookbook worthy of coffee table placement.
Beshore said Scott took more than 100,000 photographs that the two men winnowed down to 1,000 for the cookbook.
“He (Scott) captured moments in a kitchen that most people can’t. He didn’t use a flash and there are no staged photographs. We like to call it ‘kitchen verite’,” Beshore said.
To get your own look at “Notes From a Kitchen,” you can find copies of the book along with Scott’s artwork on display at the Spiva Center for the Arts, 222 West Third St. in Joplin, through May 6. You may also get more information about the cookbook and order copies by visiting notesfromakitchen.com.