Ava Gene’s Chef Lands Vegetable Cookbook Deal

Rising star chef Joshua McFadden and veteran Portland cookbook author Martha Holmberg will team up to dig deep into vegetables for New York house Artisan Publishers.

By Karen Brooks April 1, 2014

Ava Genes chef Joshua McFadden

Ava Gene’s chef-partner Joshua McFadden and Portland writer Martha Holmberg have landed a cookbook deal for a hardback treatise on vegetables. Eat Beat has learned that Artisan Publishers, the New York house behind Thomas Keller’s famed French Laundry cookbook, has commissioned a hardback book of 200 recipes, strong on vegetable wisdom and photography. The still-untitled book, tentatively scheduled to publish in spring, 2016, aims to be a go-to resource for modern vegetable cooking, broad and deep but accessible.

Portland’s reputation as the new Cooklandia continues to grow. In the last two years alone, Portlanders have penned groundbreakers (Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand), singular recipe collections (Le Pigeon: Cooking at the Dirty Bird), and James Beard winners (Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Salt Yeast, among them).  Olympic Provisions meaty, 300-page tome promises to land in 2015, and a grill-happy Ox cookbook is underway, both projects from Ten Speed Press. Meanwhile, June brings The Bar Book, a deep dive into cocktail techniques and recipes from Clyde Common’s bar whiz Jeffrey Morgenthaler and Holmberg, a veteran cookbook author with a confident, no-nonsense approach.   

Even in a city where vegetables are worshipped like the Buddha, McFadden’s take is singular -- at once familiar and surprising, simple but complex -- with attention to detail and texture, and inevitably delicious. Vegetables star at Ava Gene’s on SE Division, which nabbed both Portland Monthly’s Restaurant of the Year 2013 and a recent No. 5 slot on Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurants.

McFadden, who doubles as chef at Roman Candle Baking Co. next door to Ava Gene's, will bring all his cooking experiences to the cookbook table, including time at Bay Area raw-food pioneer Roxanne’s. At Brooklyn’s beloved Franny’s, he may have single-handedly started the kale salad revolution. In 2007, The New York Times called his “shadowy green mountain” of kale, sheep’s milk cheese, bread crumbs, lemon and chili “a veritable raw foods epiphany.” But his philosophy on food and table was gleaned in the late aughts, when he ran the fields and staged weekly, candlelit dinners in the greenhouses of Maine’s Four Season Farm, founded by agriculture trailblazers Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch. 

The book, focused on six vegetable seasons, will explore the raw, the market-fresh, and the preserved. But the bottom line is about sharing a meal at the table. Says McFadden: “This is our Joy of Cooking … with vegetables.” 

Portland Monthly food critic Karen Brooks is author The Mighty Gastropolis, (Chronicle Books, 2012), a deep peek into Portland’s food scene and maverick chefs.

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