Annick Giroux – Hellbent For Cooking: The Heavy Metal CookbookJune 10th, 2010 by Anthony CW Morgan
Montreal, Quebec’s Annick “The Morbid Chef” Giroux began penning a cookbook that collected metal band recipes as far back as 2007, though initially abandoned the idea due to the difficulty in contacting bands. Recipes she had collected surfaced in the sixth issue of her metal fanzine Morbid Tales, released in January 2009. Ian Christe, metal journalist and founder of Bazillion Points, purchased issue six of Morbid Tales, prompting him to contact Giroux with a view to publishing a cookbook of recipes she had collected from heavy metal bands. This paved the way for November 24th, 2009’s Hellbent For Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook, its name influenced by the prime 1978 Judas Priest cut “Hell Bent for Leather” (from Killing Machine).
Hellbent For Cooking collects over a hundred recipes from thirty countries, whether they be England’s Yorkshire pudding, Germany’s beer crust pizza, Italy’s spaghetti barracuda, Norway’s fårikål, Greece’s country lamb exohiko, or Brazil’s churrasko, and so on. Bands which contributed include Thin Lizzy, Mayhem, Anthrax, Kreator, Sepultura, Destruction, Possessed, Obituary, Accept, Doro, GWAR, Toxic Holocaust, Saint Vitus, Amebix, Uriah Heep, and Budgie, to name a few. To discuss Hellbent For Cooking, Annick Giroux was interviewed via email.
Roughly five to six years ago, you bought a thousand recipe cookbook at a garage sale. In what ways did that book improve your cooking skills, and inspire you to experiment with certain dishes and flavours?
Yes, that’s right. I think I bought that book for a dollar or something, I told myself I would pretty much never get tired of it. It had tons of genuine recipes from all over the world, and taught me how to create sauces, mix spices, do curries, etc… the basics, really. I would make recipes from it pretty much everyday for a long period of time. This definitely enabled me to experiment and create my own dishes using the ingredients I loved most. Just tonight I made a killer spicy tofu and lentil Ethiopian-ish stew. It was so good. But back to your question – the big cookbook was not the one responsible for sparking my passion for cooking; it was mostly my love for good food that did it… although that book did amplify my cooking passion.
You said that you opted to write a cookbook in 2007, though why did you actually opt to write a cookbook (Hellbent For Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook)?
I wrote Hellbent For Cooking because I love cooking, metal and food and thought that asking musicians for their favourite recipe was a great concept for a cookbook. I didn’t really decide whether to do it or not, I just really had to do it. It sounded like so much fun… yet at the same time it was such a challenging and ambitious project. I learned a lot while doing it, like how to lay out a book, contact labels and industry people, how to do self-promotion, food photography, coordination, research etc. It was great.
You’ve admitted that you weren’t professionally trained and are self-taught, so what gave you the courage to actually bite the bullet and complete a cookbook? Given the amount of cookbooks already published, is it daunting to think of your book being on bookshelves with the usual suspects from the world of television?
Good question. It is a combination of things. First of all, I love projects – they keep me going at a fast adrenaline-fuelled pace, as well as making me learn new things. As a graphic designer who loves cooking and eating, I thought it was a really good challenge to undertake this huge task. Ian Christe, my editor, pushed me a lot to accomplish it – on top of giving me total creative liberty (which really helped unleash my creative juices). As for sharing bookshelves with mainstream “suspects”, the cookbook was designed and created by myself – a metalhead, for like-minded metalheads who happen to also love cooking. If it happens to interest other groups of people, then great. If it turns on new people to good metal and good food – then that’s even better.
After purchasing issue six of your fanzine Morbid Tales, issued in January 2009, Ian Christe from Bazillion Points approached you and asked if you’d like to issue a cookbook through his publishing company. How did things develop from there, and why did you feel Bazillion Points would be an appropriate outlet for publishing Hellbent For Cooking?
Yeah, that was quite funny because in late 2007, I wanted to contact Ian Christe to see if he was interested in releasing Hellbent For Cooking. I remember he had only the Swedish Death Metal book (written by Daniel Ekeroth) in his book roster back then. I was kind of shy to contact him (even though I knew him because he had ordered past issues of my ‘zine) and eventually lost a bit of interest in the cookbook so I never ended up contacting him. Of course, I did not hesitate one second when he sent me his offer in 2009. Bazillion Points is hands down the best publishing company out there in my humble, biased opinion. Ian is totally honest in what he does, and puts all of his energy into publishing the best books possible. What makes him so different from bigger publishers is that he spends hours and hours on each individual book to make sure they are as high quality as possible. He also has similar musical tastes as me, so we totally agreed on a bunch of things.
Late 2004 is when you launched your fanzine Morbid Tales. Could you provide an overview of its history thus far, and a personal description of the type of topics Morbid Tales might cover?
Morbid Tales was meant to be a local fanzine, promoting upcoming shows, giving addresses to local record shops as well as reviewing metal albums and interviewing underground metal bands. Back then, I thought it would be cool to have them at every record shop around, and to distribute them at shows, etc… Instead, once I posted a small ad in a forum and created small flyers that I sent out, I started getting interest from metalheads all over the globe. I soon plunged head first into the world of international underground metal and fanzines, and as I released new issues – I got in contact with many individuals that shared the same passions. I tried my best to cover what I thought was interesting in a fanzine: album / single / demo reviews, show reports, record shopping guides, news (although this quickly became obsolete) interviews with bands both underground and legendary as well as interviews with other people involved in the metal scene. I also worked hard to do interesting layouts that gave a certain “atmosphere” to the articles…
You’ve been nicknamed “The Morbid Chef”, which likely stems from the name of your fanzine. How did you come to be christened “The Morbid Chef”, and what are your thoughts on that nickname?
This is actually a name I gave to myself – like you said, because it had to do with the fanzine. I was looking for something cool and a bit more original than “The Metal Chef”, so I came up with this one… I like it a lot, because it suggests many different things. Haha.
Could you talk me through the selection process you underwent in deciding which groups to approach and request recipes from? Given the fact you were relatively unknown at the time, was it difficult to be taken seriously when requesting recipes from groups through email, MySpace or post?
The group selection was very important to me, as it was one of my ultimate goals to introduce people to good metal – which is not necessarily always featured in mainstream magazines. At the very beginning, I looked into my collection and wrote down the names of my favourite bands. That yielded a good amount, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss on any, so I actually went country by country on the online metal encyclopaedia (metal-archives.com) and wrote down my favourite bands’ names, websites and contract info in an Excel spread sheet. That alone took about three weeks – but it made me discover tons of new and obscure metal bands. I contacted and sent out four hundred individually written letters (by e-mail, MySpace or snail mail) and ended up with more than a hundred recipes. Of course, it was very very hard to be taken seriously at the beginning, but when I got Ian to back me up, it went much smoother as he and his publishing company was already well known in the metal scene.
Given the fact that over a hundred recipes from thirty countries were collected for Hellbent For Cooking, were there certain recipes which particularly inspired you to delve further into the culinary habits of certain cultures?
Oh yes for sure. The book is a great introduction to typical recipes from more exotic cultures. I had never made true Mexican food, and Xibalba’s recipe for the gigantic funeral tamale pie (mucbi pollo) really interested me in making Central and South American stuffed corn breads – like pupusas, tamales, arepas… I can’t wait to visit these places one of these days and taste them first hand.
Hellbent For Cooking‘s cover says that the hundred and one recipes contained within the book are “basic”. For you personally, was that an important element? That irrespective of their cooking skills, any given reader can purchase the book, and still be able to cook any of the recipes contained within?
Indeed, that was very important – as sometimes you get cookbooks that have totally impossible recipes and end up doing only one of them. I wanted the book to be a handy tool in the kitchen, and for cooks of every level to enjoy as much as the next one. This is also one of the reasons why I wrote substitutes for unusual ingredients (rook pie or spaghetti barracuda anyone?) and put conversions for all measures…
Photographs of the recipes obviously appear inside Hellbent For Cooking, so with that in mind, how important do you feel presentation is? It’s something that’s stressed in restaurants, though is it as important as is generally stressed?
I think presentation is tremendously important, as you generally eat your meal first with the eyes. If it looks good, you start salivating and the food tastes even better. It is also important to show how something should look like if the cooking reader is inexperienced and / or don’t know how the finished meal looks.
In an interview with AOL’s Noisecreep, you said that metalheads are “not culinary degenerates by any means”. Do you feel that’s a perception the general, non-metal loving public hold, and that your book goes to some lengths to combat that perception?
Oh yeah, a lot of the general public see metalheads as pizza eatin’ and beer gurgling subhumans. Although they got the beer (and sometimes subhuman) parts right, we are mostly a well-educated crowd who enjoys the finer things in life like good metal, good food, and nice artwork. The book clearly reflects this lifestyle, and I think it achieved it. At least, some people have told me that the book broke all the stereotypes they had for metal. Cool.
You’ve professed that you love listening to seventies era Judas Priest, something that spawned the cookbook’s name. What do you love about Judas Priest’s seventies material, something that is perhaps missing in eighties, nineties and noughties Judas Priest material?
Judas Priest is one of my favourite bands ever, and although I love eighties and nineties Priest (my first album was Painkiller (1990) back in high school), I feel that seventies Priest had much more soul and sounded fresher – on top of having better lyrics. My favourite albums are Sad Wings of Destiny (1976) and Stained Class (1978). They were so ahead of their time back then, I mean – the song “Exciter” pretty much invented speed metal. And the riffs my friend, the riffs are just superb. Sadly, too many people nowadays forget that real metal should be based on riffs.
Now that you’re slowly gaining a reputation as “The Morbid Chef”, is that a reputation you aim to build upon? In the form of future cookbooks, and other culinary ventures?
I have been approached for some very interesting projects, which I am currently looking into. I can’t go much in details, but if it happens, it will happen in the summer. I am letting my imagination go wild once again, hahahah. On the other hand, I have just recorded an EP for my band Cauchemar – which is doomy heavy metal (I sing and play bass) and I’m about to release a new fanzine called Les Templiers, the first French-language doom metal fanzine ever written. Haha. A commercial suicide.
In any case, thank you very much for this fun interview. Long live Omega’s Apple.