[image-1]When his mother signed on as a consultant for a new Italian restaurant in Atlanta, Hazan moved to the South and got his feet wet in his first restaurant kitchen. "I was supposed to keep them true to her recipes," Hazan says of his time there. He made all the pasta and desserts for the restaurants, which allowed him to stay away from the kitchen during the hectic service hours. "That wasn't my best place," he says. "It wasn't my kind of thing."
Despite that, Hazan took a gig as executive chef at a soon-to-open restaurant in Portland, Ore., in a move that surprised everyone, including him. "I took a call [in Atlanta] for the chef," he says. "It was a head hunter and they offered me the job."
It was a good move for his career, although not because of the restaurant itself. During the months it took to get the new spot ready for the public, he had time to pen his first book: The Classic Pasta Cookbook. The path to his first cookbook started back at his mother's cooking school in Bologna.
"Like everything else, it was all about who you know at the right time," Hazan says of his first cookbook deal. He was teaching a pasta class, where he met a student "who was friends with a DK [publisher Dorling Kindersley] editor who wanted to start a new line of cookbooks." He got a call, was offered a deal and said, "Sure." Simple.
That's where his career really started.
"I don't know if everyone is like this, but that first book took the least amount of time to write, maybe nine to 10 months," says Hazan. His second Every Night Italian took five years from start to finish, and his third How to Cook Italian took over three years. "I think you use up your ideas in the first one."
In the years since The Classic Pasta Cookbook, Hazan managed to shift from a career as a restaurant chef to one as an established and esteemed author and teacher, with four books in print and another in the early stages. His first three books gave him insight into the cookbook process, lessons he remembered when he set down to write his latest: Thirty Minute Pasta.
During production for his first book, Hazan was in Bologna while the photography was being taken in England. After a brief visit for author photos, and to give the stylists an idea of what some dishes should look like, he had to hope for the best from afar. "It wasn't the age of digital," he says, "so they'd mail Polaroids to me." When the stylists had trouble finding pancetta in London shops, he overnighted them a single slice for a shot.
After Hazan delivered the manuscript, there was almost a year of edits, copy edits, page proofs and photography. "I don't know what it's like to carry a child, but..." Hazan says. When Classic Pasta came out, it was a huge commercial success.
He sold his second book to Maria Guarnaschelli, a famed cookbook editor who was then working at Scribner and editing the revamp of Joy of Cooking. Scribner published that second cookbook, but by the time it came out he realized the publisher didn't meet his needs. "Partly, it was the photographs," he says. Classic Pasta done by DK was loaded with pictures. The Scribner books were more dry, with photographs clustered in just a couple of sections. "The best connection they had to the recipes was a page number."
It was an aesthetic choice, but also a practical concern. "Go to a bookstore and watch people flipping through cookbooks," he says, "and they'll spend more time with the ones that have more photos." Although he was more interested in casual cuisine, Scribner also convinced him to devote his third book to a massive, comprehensive tome of Italian recipes. "I kind of felt that my mother had already written that book."
Hazan moved his latest book Thirty Minute Pasta to the photography-friendly Stewart, Tabori & Chang, and codified many of the lessons he's learned from the innumerable cooking classes he's taught across the country, as well as in the cooking school he started with wife and, full disclosure, Creative Loafing contributor Lael and Marissa Allegrini, of the famed Allegrini Italian wine family.
[image-2]In the process of composing the book, he rethought some of the longtime cookbook traditions. "People always write a list of ingredients with measurements," he says. Problem is, like many accomplished cooks, Hazan never measures. Instead of forcing the reader to know how many onions they'll need for a quarter cup, he simplifies it to half a small onion. He's also become dedicated to recipe testing, and prefers to do it himself. "Others can't know how I wanted it to turn out," says Hazan.
Besides the new book, Hazan is also working on a television show with A La Carte Communications, which produces shows like America's Test Kitchen and Martin Yan's China for public television. "I originally had a meeting with the director of programming for the Food Network, and he loved it but said it wasn't for them," says Hazan. "I think they said it was 'PBS material.'"
For Hazan, the TV show is a natural extension of the career he fell into but grew to love, a way to teach cooking classes to a much bigger audience than the 30 or 40 he might reach at kitchen stores around the country. He's also working on his next book, the topic of which is still a secret but will likely be devoted to more home cooking.
"Eating together is not what we do just because we have to eat," says Hazan. "That's a clue for the next book."
See two exclusive recipes from Giuliano Hazan's Thirty Minute Pasta: Tagliatelle with Chick Peas and Linguine with a Pink Shrimp Sauce.
Photos by Andrea Hillebrand, in collaboration with Peter Bernard