Take Away is one of the many fun, clever business ideas that launched in Australia as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Inspired by the iconic Penguin Classics paperbacks, Geelong-based Vaughan Mossop (who also runs design studio Neighbourhood Creative) and Simon Davis launched the cookbook series to help local restaurants, cafes and bottle-os survive the dramatic drop in trade.
But rather than simply recruiting these businesses and giving them a book deal, the duo decided to do things differently – they set up a crowdfunded publishing house called Somekind.
Here’s how it works: would-be authors and venues send Somekind their pitch, and accepted titles are then made available for pre-order to the public for $20 (plus shipping). If a book receives 100 pre-orders within a 10-day period (making production financially viable), it goes into publication.
Four to six weeks later, an 80-page paperback with a bright, pop-art-inspired cover is posted to everyone who supported the project – and anyone else who wants to buy a copy. If a book doesn’t achieve the required pre-order minimum, Somekind effectively acts as a crowdfunding site and the money raised goes to the venue as a donation.
“This whole coronavirus nightmare is a real threat and could shut down a lot of places,” Mossop told Broadsheet in early April. “There are a lot of places that may not survive the next three months.”
The latest set of titles released for pre-order are mostly focused on businesses in New South Wales. There’s one by O Tama Carey, the chef-owner of Sydney’s respected Sri Lankan eatery Lankan Filling Station (subhead: “a tale of 10 spices and a curry powder”), and a guide to minimum-intervention booze by pioneering inner-west bottle shop P&V Wine & Liquor Merchants. (“Is it possible to become an iconic Sydney institution in just three short years? With P&V, the answer is a definite yes,” says the Somekind website.)
There are also a couple of titles from restaurants in the coastal town of Woy Woy: Tropicana Pizza Pizza and the family-owned Woy Woy Fishermen’s Wharf, which has been serving fish’n’chips since the ’80s. (According to the blurb the owners will share over 20 recipes, “along with all the tips, tricks and technical wizardry necessary to have you banging out sensational, simple seafood in your own home”.)
And from Hobart, there are books from the exemplary wine bar Sonny and the pub Tom McHugo’s. Plus, this Friday Somekind will be announcing titles by two well-known Melbourne operators. (Check Instagram for updates.)
Food journalist Simon Davis oversees the editorial side of things at Somekind. He’s worked on projects for Gordon Ramsay and Bill Grainger, as well as The Whole Fish Cookbook by Josh Niland of Sydney’s Saint Peter.
Mossop points out that 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 ... The idea is to give [venues] a product that they can sell to generate some income. Even if it’s to keep the lights on for a week, it’s something.”