Spotlight on Cookbook Collectors: Interview MasterChef Contestant Jessica Glenn

Cookbook Village is excited to post this interview with MasterChef contestant Jessica Glenn for our latest "Spotlight on Cookbook Collectors" article. Our series has seen the likes of all types of collectors: a chef and historical cooking instructor, a comedienne, an antique glass dealer and our original collector, Don Rahm, who has over 4,000 cookbooks. Huge fans of the MasterChef reality cooking show on FOX, we couldn't wait to talk with Jessica, a contestant of the show who likens using a cookbook to "reading a novel." Read on to hear Jessica's story. We were fascinated by her lifestyle.

Tell me a bit about you and why you went on the MasterChef television show. What are your future plans - do you plan to change careers to become a professional chef?

I applied for MasterChef at the urging of my kids at the end of the last series. I am a passionate loca-vore - we have chickens, greenhouse/cold frames for year-round gardening and a beehive in our urban lot sized yard! At various times I have also raised meat rabbits and goats for milk in a larger urban sized yard (less than 1/2 acre). I've heard a lot of chefs talking about eating local, but I wanted to represent practical ways to eat local out of your own yard. Even with a family and a job. I have no interest in being a professional chef; I love working with books! But, I would like to write a cookbook with local recipes all year long from the various regions of the US from Dandelion salad greens in the spring in Vermont to Venison jerky in the fall in Alaska.

How did you start out collecting cookbooks? Did you cook first or collect first, then develop the passion to cook?

I have always cooked because I spent a lot of time with my mother (who is a cook) in the kitchen. She and I are what I would describe as intuition-based cooks, that is to say, we don't tend to follow recipes exactly. For me, cookbooks are more about ideas of new foods and recipes that I will recreate in my own way. Cookbooks are incredibly helpful to me for making a weekly menu: something I consider extremely important if you want to have a well organized family dinner each night.

How many books do you have in your collection?

I have probably 50 cookbooks

What is your cookbook specialization (do you collect a particular category or genre of cookbooks)?

I don't have a specialization for cookbooks but they fall into a number of categories. First, if I am in a bookstore I always find myself drifting to the cookbook section. Trying to be practical (rather than grabbing the first 20 books I see), I usually buy a book from an ethnic cuisine I don't know very well. Some hits some misses with this technique! Then, I have the Alice Waters cookbooks and the Madhur Jaffrey books. These are books that I really cook out of. I learned a lot of technique from Jaffrey's books and a lot about produce recipes from Alice Waters that are easily amended to the season (plus I love her philosophy). Lastly, I have a great number of cookbooks that were my grandmother's from the 40's through the 60's. She was not much of a cook and the recipes, in general, are awful! But I love the notes she makes in the margins and the randomness of her cookbooks always makes me laugh. How many people have a copy of '1000 snacks?'

Do you collect cookbooks to cook or to look?

Mostly to read and for weekly home menu help. I honestly read them like novels.

What is the most valuable cookbook in your collection and how much is its estimated value?

Hmm... I would have to say my grandmother's well worn copy of 'The Settlement Cookbook (The Way to a Man's Heart)' And it's value...? Priceless ;)

What is your favorite collectible cookbook from your collection and why?

I admit I'm biased but my favorite cookbook is the one my mother wrote, 'Throw A Great Party: Inspired by Evenings in Paris with Jim Haynes' by Mary Bartlett. The cool thing about this cookbook is that the recipes are for a crowd - for either 25 or 100 servings. I have a fair number of foodie parties and I use this book all the time. My mom (Mary Bartlett) still cooks for the very popular Parisian Salon where these recipes are regularly used. The book has a good amount of culinary diversity, quite a lot of finesse and plenty of good ole' crowd pleasing recipes. You can't go wrong. And if you happen to be in Paris, go to dinner at Jim's. You won't regret it!

Is there a cookbook title you are seeking but haven't found yet? If so, what is the title and author and what makes it special?

I'd like to see the cookbook I want to write! We'll see how long it takes me to 'find' it.

How do you display and organize your collection (on shelves alphabetically, by certain categories, dates, etc).

I have a bookcase in my kitchen, which may seem funny to people but I love having books in every room. They are definitely not organized alphabetically!

Do you have any advice for someone interested in getting started with cookbook collecting?

I don't think I have advice for the serious collector but for the sentimental collector, such as myself, remind yourself to take care of old books. They may not seem worth it in your 20's but then in your 30's or 40's you may fall in love!


About Jessica Glenn

Jessica Glenn ( is originally from DC but moved to Portland to attend Reed College in '91. As book publicist, cook, squirrel whisperer, musician, and inventor, she's happy to wear a lot of hats at the same time. Jessica's book publicity company of six years, MindBuck Media, produced two bestsellers in 2011. Between chasing around her three teens (13, 13 and 15) and serving on the board of directors to the OHSU's Family Healthcare at Richmond for low income patients, Jessica Glenn uses her wide network of media contacts to ensure the highest level of success possible for authors and their publishing companies using print, television, web 2.0, radio and guerrilla strategies. 

See Jessica Glenn's interview about MasterChef on FOX


Photo: Cheyenne Montgomery