McReynolds’ cookbook wins culinary awards

Stone Edge Farm Culinary Director John McReynolds won two major awards Sunday as the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) announced its book awards Sunday in Chicago.

McReynolds seemed quite surprised when his “Stone Edge Farm Cookbook” won the Julia Child First Book Award and then topped it off by winning the association’s all around Cookbook of the Year Award.

Jill Hunting, a former Sonoma resident who now lives in Pasadena and is a longtime member of IACP, served as editor of McReynolds’ book and nominated it for the awards. She also said she had helped McReynolds with two previous book proposals that went nowhere, as often happens.

So along came self-publishing of sorts, with the substantial backing of Mac McQuown who owns Stone Edge Farm and who also generously supports Sonoma’s middle school gardens.

As McReynolds explained at Readers’ Books and at his most recent Ramekins class, “McQuown wanted a book done and so I had to write it.” McQuown efficiently hired an excellent team, including Dan Gustafson as project manager, Hunting as editor, Fairfax designer Jennifer Barry, and photographer Leslie Sophia Lindell.

Stone Edge winemaker Jeff Baker, viticulturist Phil Coturri, and garden director Colby Eierman all contributed essays to the book. Brigette McReynolds served long hours as proofreader.

When contacted late Sunday, McReynolds said, “In the few hours leading up to the ceremony, I was feeling a nervous excitement – what if I won? Then I'd have to go up to the podium and find something witty, interesting, and heartfelt to say in front of hundreds of writers, editors, agents, publishers and other glamorous folks from the food world. The first category that I was nominated in was Best Book by a chef or restaurant, which was won by Susan Goin with her book, ‘A.O.C. Cookbook.’ I was actually a little relieved (that I didn’t wine that) and (it) gave me a chance to relax and start enjoying the show.

“By the time the next category came along, the Julia Child Award for First Cookbook, I was feeling a little more confident. They read the names of the three finalists and then announced my name and the name of the cookbook. I had won!” he said.

“Years ago,” he continued, “when I was attending the California Culinary Academy, I won a scholarship competition sponsored by Julia and Paul Child. I felt an instant connection with her when I met her and her husband and was particularly pleased to have an award with her name on it.

“I practically bounded up to receive my award and addressed the audience with thanks for everyone that had worked on the book, including my writing mentor, Antonia Allegra.

“By this time, I was just plain happy and relaxed, knowing that I had one win under my belt, so there was no real pressure. The next category we were nominated in was for Best Photography. I was sitting next to our photographer, Leslie Lindell, and we were not chosen. Honestly, I was so pleased to have won anything, that I was not disappointed, nor was she.”

There was another surprise waiting for McReynolds.

“There is one last award called the Cookbook of the Year which is the biggest award, much like the Best Picture at the Oscars. They announced “Stone Edge Farm Cookbook” was the Cookbook of the Year. I was stunned,” he said. “I asked Jill, who was sitting next to me, if I should go up and she said of course because I had won. I again ran up the stage and uttered my heartfelt thanks and accepted my second award of the night. I joked to the crowd that it was a good thing I stuck around because I didn't even know about this award. I was no longer nervous – just grateful and full of appreciation.

“It was a beautiful and exciting night that I'll never forget!”

McReynolds has cooked and researched cooking around the world, including at George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch. He was founding chef and co-owner of Sonoma’s Cafe LaHaye before he became culinary director at Stone Edge Farm.

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