It’s nothing new to see a cookbook that focuses on the food, but the concept behind MENÜ has certainly caught my eye. The book tells the larger story of twenty-two chefs who are changing the gastroculture in Budapest, Hungary. With a mix of culinary talent, the design celebrates the concept of food as community in an experiential way. Wanting to convey its similarity to that of a rare object, MENÜ is a limited edition print collection of stories and food.
While the text in the main book is in Hungarian, the entire book is translated into English and put in as an addendum in the back. Not that you’d really need the translation, anyway. Most of the recipes and tutorials are shown through intricate line drawings and high-res photographs to capture the dedication of the chefs and the experience of Hungarian cuisine. Only 1000 copies were made so that the authors provide the “unique experiences that a rare object can give.”
The hardcover of the book was bound in a natural canvas—great for emphasizing the tactility of cooking! I enjoy that the book features a blind embossed title, because it sinks into the earthiness of the canvas. The books were numbered manually (adding to the sense of rarity), and to top it off, the book has three colored ribbons, one for each author so favorite recipes can be marked – how convenient is that? For sections featuring color images, the authors used a thick offset stock. A finer, natural white shade of paper, was used for the English translation sections for ease of reading. The paper choices in MENU highlight the minimalistic nature of the cookbook and let the overarching story come to life.
The interesting thing about this project is that since only 1,000 copies were run it could have easily printed offset or digital. If I’m involved on project like this, I’d quote it both ways to see how the numbers fell then adjust my paper specs accordingly. With that being said, I have to say that with a smaller quantity I’d be opting to run the best paper I could. So instead of using “thick, offset stock” (read printer house sheet), I’d make sure to specify a sheet with a nice hard surface so the images pop off the pages. When it comes to balancing this type of imagery and text, I’m a sucker for a tactile coated paper in a silk finish (have you seen/felt Utopia Premium Silk? – OMG, so luxe). I like silk because it offers the best of both worlds, a beautiful, uniform rich feeling surface with great ink snap, yet its surface finish is gentle enough to easily read the copy. If I needed to convey a very rustic feel, I’d opt for a smooth uncoated text and cover paper with a nice hard surface to avoid any chance of a mottly appearance, perhaps in Mohawk Superfine. For the cover stock, you can easily replicate the canvas feel with a deeply embossed, cloth-like pattern paper such as Eames Canvas in 120#C. Whether digital or offset printed, a cookbook like this definitely leaves me hungry for more.