Friday, April 3, 2009

The Cook’s Library

An appreciation.

Sadly, The Cook’s Library is closing. After twenty years in business owner Ellen Rose has decided to close. Citing the poor economy, the abundance of chain bookstores, as well as readers ongoing defection to the Internet, as reasons for her decision.

I wish I could say I was a regular visitor. I’ve been to the small sho3-26-09 006p on Los Angeles’s Third Street a handful of times during the various periods I’ve lived in Los Angeles -- and each time was a treat. A whole store devoted solely to cookbooks, and books related to food and cooking! For anyone interested in food it was a very special place. And even though I didn’t make it in as often as I’d have liked, just knowing it was there was a comfort. Ellen, and her helpful and knowledgeable staff, only added to the experience. They all have such a passion for cooking and cookbooks, and would help locate the most obscure titles. Or discuss a dish, a chef, a restaurant or anything else food-related. If they didn’t have whatever it was you wanted, they’d order it for you. But more than likely they’d have it in stock.

It was a place in which one could spend hours: browsing, reading, drooling, and I usually left with at least one new cookbook for my collection. Many a well-known chef – and the lesser-known too – have frequented the shop. Author book signings took place at the store often. A number of world renowned chefs and foodies have been by to sign their most recent books and cookbooks. Signings also happened at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market on Sunday mornings. Several years ago I attended one with my friend Jeremiah Tower when his cookbook ‘Jeremiah Tower Cooks’ came out. It was an inspired place to hold a book signing. Right there amongst all the amazing fruit and vegetable stands, and those of us there to shop. This speaks to how the store was run and why it was so popular.

Another memory of an afternoon spent in the store was the day that my friend, Jill Foulston*, a book editor from London, and I hung out there for several hours. Jill is an inveterate foodie, we met at an amazing dinner in an Italian hill town, and we love to talk food. Earlier the same day we had spent a couple of hours lingering in the cookbook stacks of the Central branch of the Los Angeles Public Library in downtown Los Angeles (yes, the library has cookbook stacks!) After lunch at the fun and very hip, ‘The Restaurant’ at the downtown Standard Hotel we headed up to the Cook’s Library. By the time we left the store a few hours later she had a handful of books and I had one of my now favorite books - ‘Dinner at Miss Lady’s – Memories and Recipes from a Southern Childhood’ by Luann Landon. The book is about meals that the author’s grandmother, Miss Lady, prepared. I bought it as research for my own project about my great-grandmother, her home garden, and the meals that came out of it.

The shop is closing April 30 and is currently selling off it’s inventory. Robert and I went in last weekend. He’d never been and I wanted him to see it before it closed. All books were 20 % off. I bought a book that I didn’t have but that holds special memories for me: The Silver Palate Cookbook. When I first lived in New York City in 1982, the Silver Palate, a little food shop on the Upper West Side, was among the more popular gourmet food shops. I’d come from San Francisco’s Oakville Grocery to work in Dino de Laurentiis’ food emporium, DDL FoodShow, as a cheese buyer. The gourmet food industry was still fairly young, the community relatively small, the stand out stores at the time were Balducci’s, Zabar’s and Dean & Deluca but Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins’ tiny shop was different. They had well-prepared food, nicely displayed, in even nicer packaging. Geared towards take-out and catering, it was easy to stop by after work to grab dinner, or on the weekend to pick up food for a picnic. Their book, published in 1982, was full of all of the dishes everyone grew to love. I now have the 25th Anniversary Edition on my shelf thanks to the Cook’s Library.

If you love food, and cookbooks, and have yet to visit the Cook’s Library hurry over to see what they have left before the doors are locked for good on April 30th.

*Jill has edited: ‘The Joy of Eating: The Virago Book of Food,’ and ‘The Virago Book of the Joy of Shopping.’

The Cook’s Library
8373 W. Third Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Bookmark and Share


  1. nice post. it's always sad to see wonderful places like this disappear. I have my eye on a bookstore in SF and one in NY and hope they stick around for a long time.

  2. Thanks! It is very sad to see so many independent bookstores going under. I will miss The Cook's Library.

  3. Charles, Great piece. (I'm going to apologize now if you get a post twice. I just wrote a comment and it disappeared into the cyber-ether.)

    The demise of independent bookstores is distressing. There are several in SF that I'd really hate to see the city lose.

    Great blog! I look forward to reading more. Steven Gdula

  4. Steven, thanks for the compliment(s). There really isn't anything like going into an independent bookstore -- we have a couple down here in LA that I hope can hold on. Cheers.

  5. It's so sad to see independent bookstores close, especially really unique ones like The Cook's Library. The internet is fantastic and fun, and Amazon convenient, but I really think we are losing something--a bit of our humanity, perhaps--when stores like The Cook's Library close. Nice post.

  6. I'm very sorry to hear this. Nothing replaces actually purusing a cookbook in a well-stocked bookstore. For those of who LOVE cookbooks, closings like this are a loss.