With a helpful, knowledgable staff, unparalleled selection, and rabidly devoted fanbase of world-class chefs, Kitchen Arts & Letters on the Upper East Side has earned its reputation as the best little bookstore in America for cookbooks and all other food-related publications. Eater takes a look around the basement of the shop, filled with thousands of volumes of rare/signed/wildly out-of-print books and magazines, and has a chat with owner Nach Waxman about the state of the business.
On Not Having Something For Everyone
“I’d be surprised if we order 50 percent of what’s published. We know what our customers want.”
On What Chefs Want
“They buy books the way you would go to a show at the ICP, or an artist would go to see something at the Met, or someone would go to Carnegie Hall to hear a musician — not to copy anything but to take inspiration.”
On Why the New René Redzepi Book Is Going to Sell
“It’s the perfect book for New Yorkers but is not necessarily something a Barnes & Noble will have.”
On Amazon, Indirectly
“We had somebody in the store recently and they spent half an hour sort of browsing through something on the shelves and finally settled on a book and one of them said to the other: ‘Oh, I can get it online cheaper.’ It’s so common that you can’t even get mad at it anymore.”
On Amazon, More Directly, Pt. 1
“Amazon may catch on to it, but they’re slow, and they’re surely not going to sell books that are $120 or $149 that we know we can sell. . . We have Michel Bras’ Essentials, which was done in France. It’s 120 bucks and we have sold over 600 copies. Payard Desserts, when all is said and done, maybe 60 copies? First of all, it is widely available elsewhere. And then it’s 40 bucks, or less than that. To order the Bras from France, you have to put up the dough. Very, very few people have it.”
On Amazon, More Directly, Pt. 2
“Sometimes a book that is perfect for us, like the original Modernist Cuisine, the retail price was $695. We immediately knocked it down to $595. Amazon was selling it for $467. We could have sold that book forever. But we can’t compete. Amazon wants that customer base, to sell toasters and everything else. Books are loss leaders.”
Read the entire feature here.
[Image: Daniel Krieger]