I Delivered 50 Babies in Scotland

Irena Chalmers, (second from the right) graduation

Irena Chalmers, (second from the right) graduation

Imagine me: a midwife.

At the time, Her Majesty’s Government insisted that a British nurse had to deliver 50 babies before undertaking special training in a specific branch of medicine. Because I wanted to  study neuroanatomy and neurophysiology, (brain and spinal chord), I enrolled as a student at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and after a few months, struggled, alone, through the endless snow  — on my bike — to find the Moms.

I drank a lot of tea.


Thus I learned the labor-intensive process of writing a food book.

Food Writers Write On

Chef Magazine digital coverI’ve been writing a regular column, The Last Word, for Chef magazine for 11 years. Here is my most recent article, “Bigger & Getting Smaller.” The publication has just gone digital, and is wonderfully easy to navigate. (My piece is on the last page.)

I am fascinated and awed by the astounding technology changes taking place in every field. Publishing too, has been revolutionized. A library in San Antonio doesn’t contain a single book! Every word is online. Continue reading

Book Signing Sighs

I usually hate book signings because, unlike the big shot food folk, no one shows up for mine.

When my first Food Jobs book was published, I was invited to do an autographing at a bookstore. Only two people took a seat. One revealed she was waiting for her friend who was in the ladies’ room. The other told me, (without even a hint of embarrassment — or consideration for my fragile feelings), she had been looking for a place to sit down.

I_ChalmersGFJ2 Signing Talk_10.18.13 This experience is not unusual for those among us who do not have a television presence.

The book signing for Great Food Jobs 2 at the Culinary Institute of America was totally different. Continue reading

Great Food Jobs 2 Will Be My Last Book

GreatFoodJobsBookGreat Food Jobs 2 will be my last book. It is, perhaps, the happiest one too.

This may seem an odd thing to say because I compiled it while undergoing several surgical procedures, intensive chemotherapy and radiation for “intensive, invasive” metastatic breast cancer.

Like so many others who experience these “Treat Ments,” there were days when I could barely stand for more than a few minutes at a time.

That was the not so good part. The much better part was the delight–and luxury of time–I had in remembering this or that thing that happened, and the pleasure in telling tales about my experiences in our lovely food world.

My objective was to offer ideas for a career involving food that previously had not been glimpsed. Continue reading

The Right Time to Write A Book

Dianne-JacobThere are seven billion folk populating the world. Of those seven billion, Dianne Jacob is at the very top of my list of favorite people.

I learn something new every time I read her blog, and I enthusiastically recommend her book, Will Write for Food, to all my students at The Culinary Institute of America.

Dianne is always wonderfully helpful and full of advice. Here she is in her own words, responding to the question:

“How do you know when you should write a book? You don’t, necessarily. Sometimes you just forge ahead because you’re boneheaded or obsessed with such subjects as fermentation or charcuterie … or food writing.

I fell into both categories of personality. I was teaching food writing in 2004 when a student called to say that the head of the school made an offhand remark about me at a party: “I wish Dianne had a book on food writing.  It would give her so much more credibility.” Continue reading

Irena’s Recipe for Publishing A Cookbook

Working Family Cookbook

Irena Chalmers, Working Family Cookboo

Total Time from contract to publication: Far longer than you anticipated.
Level of Expertise: Subject to interpretation particularly if there is wine in your glass.
Yield: One soft-cover and one Kindle edition.
Shelf Life Expectancy: Somewhere between milk and yogurt.


For the Brilliant Idea
Don’t make it too brilliant or no one will understand it. Instead position your title to ride the crest of an existing wave but not one that is already on its way out, i.e. No. No. Not Tuscany again, or cupcakes or bibles.
Cookbook “Bibles” Listed on Amazon
Meatball Cookbook Bible
Barbeque Bible
Best Ribs Ever: A Barbecue Bible Cookbook
New Bible Cookbook
Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible (revised?)
Appetizer Bible
Sexy Forever Recipe Bible
Yogurt Bible Continue reading