The International Institute of Culinary Professionals has been recognizing well-written cookbooks with annual awards for more than 25 years. This year, a Colorado cookbook has been selected as one of the finalists in the IACP's American category. Chef Eric Skokan, who owns Black Cat Bistro and and Bramble & Hare in Boulder and runs Black Cat Farm to supply his restaurants with meat and produce, made the list of finalists this year for Farm Fork Food: A Year of Spectacular Recipes Inspired by Black Cat Farm. Award winners will be announced at the IACP annual conference in Washington, D.C. on March 29.
Skokan's book is more than just recipes, though; it also includes a history of his entry into the world of farming, descriptions of how he raises his animals in a sustainably and humanely way, and how the seasons affect the food that makes it onto plates at his restaurants. It's written simply and thoughtfully, with easy-to-follow recipes that range from at-home kitchen basics to advanced-level techniques that Skokan manages to make approachable.
Skokan says it was a surprise and a thrill to find out he'd been nominated for the book award. "I'm really a chef and a farmer," he explains, adding that he was pleased with the results of his first writing effort. Still, to be listed among some of his favorite writers definitely took him aback. "It's like a stranger sees you throwing a baseball and three days later you're in the Major Leagues."
Among the other finalists, Skokan points to Heritage, which delves into the Southern cooking of Appalachia and South Carolina, as one of his current favorites. "I read Sean Brock's book and thought it was spectacular," he says.
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Skokan would like to write a second book, but he's currently busy prepping his farm for the growing season. "Right now I have planting on the brain," he notes. Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are going in the ground this week and onions, carrots and beets are scheduled for next week. Skokan drives the tractor himself during the planting, which will eventually provide thousands of pounds of produce for his menus.
Whether he's being recognized in the field of food writing or is literally working in his field, Skokan's efforts are getting noticed by professionals and diners alike.