As owner of Mindy's Hot Chocolate and former pastry chef at Charlie Trotter's, mk, and Marche, James Beard award-winner Mindy Segal has been on the front lines of innovation in the Chicago restaurant scene for many years. And she believes that her cookbook Cookie Love, hitting stores tomorrow, will be part of a different type of innovation for Chicago chefs—helping to usher in a time where more top local chefs expand from the kitchen to the page.
"Not many Chicago chefs have written books so it's a very exciting moment in Chicago," Segal says when asked about her book's impact on the local food scene. "There are going to be other chefs here that are writing books so it's going to become more prevalent, and that really vilifies Chicago and our ability to have a voice in the food community."
The book, nearly 300 pages filled with 60 recipes, includes cookies stemmed from personal and nostalgic memories passed down from her mother, as well as some you've probably had at the Hot Chocolate pastry case. A self-proclaimed "cookie nerd," she's quick to point out that cookies—and memories of cookies—cross into all forms of humanity. Her book isn't for professionals, she says, they're for "people who like to bake," and that may help demystify what Chicago diners may have seen in the past as pastry cooking confined to professional kitchens.
"My stories are not unique," she says. "I know everyone has stories of childhood memories about cookies. They influence you to be the person or the chef or the mother, father, brother, aunt that you are."
Not only do most Americans have nostalgic stories about baking at home, most also have similar memories about store-bought cookies. One of the most interesting facets of the book are the few recipes where Segal twists mass-produced cookies, including Oreos, Manillas, and Nellas, which is indicative of her cooking style.
It's a whimsical style of food that has become prevalent in Chicago restaurants. Maybe, as Segal hopes, Chicago chefs writing books will become more prevalent too.
Cookie Love goes on sale tomorrow on Amazon.com, at Mindy's Hot Chocolate, and "where ever books are sold." Mindy Segal will hold a book release and book signing party at Hot Chocolate on April 20, where she'll bake every cookie in the book and chef Amanda Barnes will cook savory food. Tickets cost $75 and can be purchased by calling the restaurant. She will also embark on a promotional tour on April 7 in New York, and make local appearances beginning April 22.