Absolute Press was founded by Jon Croft in 1979 and began by publishing collections of recipes from the UK’s top chefs. Whilst today this seems par for the course for many food publishers, at the time it was a radical move – most chefs didn’t want to let go of their secrets, but they revealed them to Absolute Press and with them we formed many wonderful collections of recipes in these early years.
In 1981, Absolute Press published Keith Floyd’s first cookery book, followed by two more in conjunction with BBC Books, both of which went on to become number 1 bestsellers. Keith Floyd became the first true celebrity chef: a real landmark moment in food publishing and the restaurant world and one which shaped so much that came after in those two respective worlds.
In 1994, we published the first of the many titles in the Traditional Aga Cookery series by Louise Walker. It went on to become a bestseller and continues to sell strongly today. Aga and Range cookery is a publishing strand in which we have published and sold in volume and in which we have led the way for many, many years.
In 1998, we acquired the rights to publish a UK edition of the US title, Mexican Kitchen, a James Beard ‘Best Book Award’ winner, and the absolute Bible on Mexican food, which no book has surpassed since. It was to be the first of many significant American buy-ins over the years, which would include the award-winning and universally praised The Cook and The Gardener, by The New York Times’ food critic, Amanda Hesser, and the absolutely charming Mort Rosenblum book, Olives: The Life and Lore of a Noble Fruit. These big-hitting, groundbreaking American books steadily began to form an important part of our list, most recently evidenced by last year’s massive publishing events – Momofuku and The Balthazar Cookbook, books from two of the most highly regarded chefs in the world.
1998 also saw another huge publishing event with the release of The Christie’s World Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wine by Tom Stevenson, one of the world’s leading wine writers, which sold tens of thousand of copies worldwide and was showered with awards. A new fully revised and updated edition of this incredible work is due for publication in 2012.
In 2002, we published The Little Book of Aga Tips, a very sweet, simple gift book. It sped out of the shops faster than we could reprint it and second and third titles were commissioned almost immediately. The potential seemed incredible and the Little Books list grew beyond the needs of thousands of insatiable Aga owners and into food and drink subjects, and on to hobbies, gardening and sports. Today, this series of titles has an incredibly reassuring retail presence and remains one of the stronger selling series of ‘little books’ around. The list expands by half a dozen titles most years, growing into new areas of interest each time it does.
In 2003, we gave The Marmite Cookbook to the world, an incredible phenomenon, both in terms of what it sold – sales now edging towards a quarter of a million copies – and because it of what it made possible: a whole series of branded cookbooks in what has become known as our Storecupboard Range, a range which continues to grow, flourish and which has shot off in exciting directions over the last few years.
The years since have seen Absolute Press cement a reputation for being one of the finest food publishers around. We have remained fiercely independent during all of this time and each new commission begins with the same passion, energy and integrity that began everything 32 years ago. It is no coincidence that we have some of the most coveted of chefs producing books for us, including the double-Michelin-starred Phil Howard, the Galvin brothers, Chris and Jeff, who are loved and admired by almost all in the UK restaurant scene, as well as Michelin-starred Jason Atherton, respected owner of the Social restaurants, with premises in London and around the world.
Recent years have seen further additions to our expanding list of celebrated authors, including the much loved Tom Kerridge, owner of the Michelin-starred Hand and Flowers pub in Marlow, and television chef. Going back to our roots, in 2013 and 2014 we worked closely with Tom to produce two great titles for our list – Proper Pub Food and Best Ever Dishes – which both had accompanying television series with the BBC and went on to be bestsellers.
Food – restaurants, great chefs, food movements – has been there since the very beginning. It has seen us produce benchmark titles on a number of subjects, from gastropub recipes to cooking with offal or game, and from books by the very finest Indian chefs to ones by some of the most erudite and critically acclaimed food writers of their times.
Between Publisher Jon Croft and Commissioning Editor Meg Avent there is almost 50 years of combined food and drink publishing experience. Behind them is a team of creative talent and editorial knowledge and a singular but broad vision to continue to excel at what we know and love… and a conviction to continue to eat and drink well. And on that particular journey we very much hope you might wish to join us.
I do hope you enjoy the list.
Publisher, Absolute Press