Joe Sayaman and Peter Cortez are co-founders of Mizaplas. They collaborated with Chef Sara Jenkins and Nick Fauchald, co-founder of Tasting Table, to conceive and create Sara Jenkins’ New Italian Pantry.
Chef Sara Jenkins earned her reputation cooking in Florence, the Tuscan countryside and i Coppi, Il Buco & 50 Carmine in NYC. She is also chef and owner of Porsena and Porchetta in NYC's East Village. Peter and I first became big fans of Sara’s cooking devouring her porchetta sandwiches. We were such fanboys that we asked her to be one of the Experts in our previous app, Recco. She had written one cookbook prior, Olives and Oranges, and lucky for us, was ready to venture into the digital space. Along with Nick, we formed Lazy Susan Media. We partnered with Sara to release the first in a series of digital cookbooks -- Sara Jenkins’ New Italian Pantry.
There are tons of iPad cookbooks out there. Some great (props, Jamie Oliver), but most don’t take full advantage of the medium. Many digital cookbooks are glorified e-books, the desperate attempt of scared publishers to appear “digital”. In prepping this book, we wanted to stand out in two ways -- the approach and the experience. The secret to Sara’s rustic Italian cooking is her dedication to sourcing the best ingredients and turning them into simple, approachable dishes. From that insight, the concept of the “New Italian Pantry” was born. In short, if you stock your pantry with 16 favorite Italian staples, you can cook 75+ delicious recipes—either straight from your pantry or with the addition of a few fresh ingredients. It’s the reverse approach of many cookbooks out there, where you usually search by apps, entrees or desserts first, then the ingredients follow.
Cooking the Cookbook
Once we knew what we wanted to achieve, it was time to make this cookbook drool-worthy. Nick worked with Sara to test, write and simplify recipes. The goal was to make restaurant-quality food approachable by making the number of steps digestible. Most recipes don’t go above 3 steps, which makes them seem easy and ensures users touch their iPad as little as possible.
Videographer William Hereford and editor Thor Neureiter, helped us communicate why these 16 ingredients were essential through a series of short, thoughtful videos full of helpful hints and Italian food trivia. In a full-on embrace of the adage, “you eat with your eyes first”, each recipe is introduced as a full-scale photo from Michael Harlan Turkell, whose goal was to make your stomach grumble at first sight. We worked with InFullMobile to ensure the performance and UX did justice to the content.
A tasty app comes down to the details. We took full advantage of the iPad’s features to help demystify cooking while staying true to the fundamentals of cooking -- adding process shots so everyone knows what “cook until brown” finally means. Timers are in-app, ingredients are e-mailable and recipes can be shared on Facebook and Twitter. Illustrator, Paul Beresniewicz, and designer, Sam Mularczyk nailed the rustic but not-cheesy-Italian-chain-restaurant aesthetic. The porcine weathervane and Rome weather widget was a nod to Sara’s upbringing.
Final Thoughts to Chew on
Working on Sara Jenkins has been a super rewarding, learning experience. Editing and re-editing recipes took much longer than expected, and using Adobe Lightbox to turn 1.6 GB of brilliant photos into a smaller app that retained its quality and integrity, was a giant breakthrough. We also decided to host the HD videos on YouTube to reduce the size. Once released, it was great to see how receptive the public was to a new cookbook approach. After only 2 months, we’ve been featured in every major food blog and selected by Apple as a Featured App in the Food and Drink category. By far the best part is the fact that the app has brought more customers to Sara’s restaurants. We’ve been hosting a Supper Club inspired by the app’s recipes to promote New Italian Pantry. The first two installments have sold out in the first two days!
If you are a chef or individual who would like to collaborate with us, send us a note!
About the Author
Joe Sayaman is an Advertising Creative and along with Peter Cortez, co-founded Mizaplas. Uhhhhh...what's that? Well, we both love to eat and chefs are one of the most organized people in the world. Mise-en-place is their term for having everything “in its place”. Once you have all the ingredients in order, your kitchen can work as a well-oiled machine - prepared for any literal or metaphorical fires in the kitchen. The same philosophy can be translated to building apps. So much so that we named our digital production company, Mizaplas. We feel that if you have all the right partners (ingredients) in place, you can build apps efficiently and beautifully despite any roadblocks or metaphorical fires you may experience along the way. For Sara Jenkins’ New Italian Pantry, as well as our other digital projects -- Citydoping NYC, B-Bot, Sun Noodle -- we owe their success to having talented collaborators mis-en-place.