Across Australia, hospitality operators have turned to takeaway to keep their businesses ticking over during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, a Victorian-based design duo is following suit.

Introducing Take Away, a series of cookbooks that gives restaurants and creatives a way to keep busy and earn some money during the Covid-19 shutdown.

Take Away is by brothers Vaughan and Nathan Mossop (also behind design studio Neighbourhood Creative). They came up with the idea after grappling with the reality that the current situation is going to hit their bayside home city of Geelong – and other cities around Australia – hard.

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“This whole coronavirus nightmare is a real threat and could shut down a lot of places,” says Vaughan. “There are a lot of places that may not survive the next three months. That would be really detrimental anywhere, but especially in a place like Geelong.”

Vaughan, former design manager at Melbourne’s Hardie Grant Publishing, has worked on cookbooks for Melbourne vegan-dining maven Shannon Martinez (Smith & Daughters) and Aaron Turner (of acclaimed Geelong fine diner Igni). But Take Away is a departure from the traditional format.

Each book in the series is around 80 pages, made from a template inspired by Penguin Classics, with bright, pop-art-inspired covers and black-and-white interiors. The smaller, fixed page count is ideal for first-time authors to dip their toes and for established writers and chefs to publish something a little more niche.

Here’s how it works: would-be authors contact the Neighbourhood Creative team with a pitch. Accepted titles will then be made available for pre-sale at $20 (plus $5 shipping), the fixed price for all books in the series. If a book gets 100 pre-purchases within a 10-day period (meaning production is financially viable), it goes into publication.

Four to six weeks later, a book is posted to everyone who supported the project. If a project doesn’t reach that funding minimum, the money raised will go to the venue as a donation.

Vaughan has enlisted food journalist Simon Davis to help with the editorial direction. Davis has worked on projects for Gordon Ramsay and Bill Grainger, as well as The Whole Fish Cookbook by Josh Niland of Sydney’s Saint Peter.

Naturally, with strict social-distancing rules in place, Vaughan understands projects won’t be as collaborative as traditional cookbooks, but he provides advice on photography and illustrators. The author will have final say, and creatives are paid out of the money raised at pre-sale stage.

The main thing, Vaughan says, is ensuring the rights to the book remain with the author.

“It’s basically a piece of merch for someone’s cafe, restaurant or bar,” he says. “We wanted to create a series of inexpensive, standard-format paperback cookbooks where authors make a large majority of the profit and retain all rights to their work.”

The concept will launch with two cookbooks: Tacos Y Liquor by Aaron Turner – a collection of recipes and thoughts about his recently opened but temporarily mothballed Mexican restaurant in Geelong – and a book from Geelong West Social Club, which takes a deep dive into the cafe’s popular bagels. Both are available for pre-sale now, and Neighbourhood Creative is currently accepting pitches for future cookbooks.

“The idea is to give [venues] a product that they can sell to generate some income,” says Vaughan. “Even if it’s to keep the lights on for a week, it’s something. It’s also something to generate some revenue for me. I’m a designer, and we’re not exactly flying through this thing either.”