SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – A virtual community of food and beverage professionals established to unite and inspire people during the pandemic through cooking is now expanding its efforts to help chefs and restaurant owners get back on their feet.
Back in March, Katie Stilo of South Plainfield and Anthony Contrino of Staten Island, two food stylists and culinary producers sidelined from their jobs at the Today Show, launched @the_quarantine_collective on Instagram. Over the months that followed, the social media page has garnered thousands of follows and recipes from chefs all over the world.
On June 29, Stilo and Contrino expanded their effort, releasing a digital cookbook designed to raise money to help restaurants affected by the government shutdowns. Aptly titled The Quarantine Collective, the e-book features ‘tips, tricks, and tools’ to ‘empower home cooks.’ There are more than four dozen recipes from chefs across the globe as well as a forward by the Todays Show’s Al Roker, appendices penned by experts in their field, and tips for simple substitutions.
In compiling the book, Stilo reached out to the social media page’s contributors and, the end result was a 60-page book comprised of over 50 unique recipes from professional chefs throughout the world. Among the featured chefs are Emmy-nominated and James Beard Award-winning chef Jet Tila; Mark Anderson and Ryan Fey of Food Network’s “The Grill Dads;” executive chef and author Stephen Collucci; Andrew Whitney of Del Anima in New York City, Carrie Morey of Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, and lifestyle expert Chadwick Boyd, among others.
The Quarantine Collective consists of six chapters – eggs, fruits and veggies, meats, pasta, desserts and cocktails – and features Filipino, Chinese, Thai, Italian, Sri Lankan, Mexican, Greek, Korean, and American recipes, among others. “The book covers all kinds of cuisines. You will definitely find a recipe that you like,” Stilo said.
Additionally, preceding each chapter is an appendix written by an expert in their field. Stilo, a classically trained pastry chef, along with Molly Wenk, a food stylist, culinary producer and host of Martha Stewart’s digital series ‘Frosted,’ teamed up for the book’s dessert appendix while the pasta appendix was written by Contrino, an Italian-American food expert and host of the Today Show’s original digital series “Saucy.” Amy Currie, a James Beard awarded culinary producer, food stylist, and recipe developer, is featured in the eggs chapter; Michele Ragussis, executive chef, winner of Chopped, and founder of Chefs For Disaster Relief, talks fruits and veggies; the meat appendix was written by Matt Abdoo, a Today Show regular and chef/partner of Pig Beach in Brooklyn; and the appendix on cocktails boasts tips from Alejandro Mazza, a Milan-based sommelier and mixologist.
“Before you even dive into the recipes, we provide you with a glossary of information and resources that you can use at any time,” said Stilo, adding that throughout the book, simple substitutions are also provided. “Recipe books featuring pantry staples can be found anywhere; we wanted to give our readers and our Collective more of an informational guide along with the recipes.”
The Quarantine Collective, according to Stilo, also has a strong female presence. In addition to recipes from dozens of female chefs, the book’s design and layout was done by Laura Bacon while its cover art and illustrations were hand drawn by April Bartlet; both Bacon and Bartlet are art directors on the Today Show.
“The book is about 70-percent female and that is great because the food industry is notoriously a male-dominated industry,” she said. “I am really excited to have so many female contributors.”
The Quarantine Collective is an e-book available for download now and all proceeds will benefit the James Beard Foundation’s Open for Good, a campaign supporting the recovery and rebuilding of an independent restaurant industry.
“When we first started the Collective, we wanted to find a way that we could give back not only to the people who have contributed to us, but also to the food community. Knowing that many, including my colleague Anthony, were out of work, we couldn’t do it monetarily at that time. So we decided it would be great to put together a cookbook with recipes from people who were contributing to our page and donate all the money from the sales to charity,” Stilo said.
“The foundation is very notable and recognizable in the food community and its Open for Good campaign is committed to helping restaurants rebuild and survive this crisis and stay open long term,” Stilo continued. “So many of our friends and contributors of the Collective have restaurants and are struggling to keep them open, and we wanted to donate the funds to a foundation that was supporting that cause and giving back to local and national establishments.”
The Quarantine Collective can be downloaded through the @the_quarantine_collective’s Instagram bio, its website (www.thequarantinecollective.org), or through the John Beard Foundation site (https://members.jamesbeard.org/fundraiser/122). A donation of $5 or more will secure a link to a PDF file of the book.
“We are giving people the option of what they want to donate. All the money is going to the campaign, and we hope people will donate whatever they can,” said Stilo. “It’s not about raising a specific amount; for us, it’s about spreading awareness for the campaign, all the hard work that has gone into this book, and empowering people to feel confident in the kitchen and provide them with the resources they need for various cooking techniques.”
Since its launch on March 21, @the_quarantine_collective has garnered some 5,000 followers and, to date, over 260 recipes have been posted.
“I had no idea of what the Instagram page was going to become when we first started it; at that time, it was more of just a hobby and something to keep us busy,” said Stilo, adding that she owes a ‘big shout out’ to everyone involved, including Kristopher Moon from the James Beard Foundation, for their support and for being instrumental in helping ‘bring this book to life.’
“For us to come as far as we have and what we have accomplished in such a short amount of time is really incredible,” Stilo said.
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