• NZ Booklovers

Interview: Julie Biuso talks about Shared Kitchen


Julie Biuso is a much-loved New Zealand cookbook author, who has won many awards and her career cooking and writing about food has taken her around the world. For her latest cookbook she has teamed up with her daughter Ilaria, who has been involved in the book shoots since she was young. Shared Kitchen is shortlisted for the NZ Booklovers Lifestyle Awards for 2021. Julie talks to NZ Booklovers.


Tell us a little about your book.

Our aim was to put together a collection of recipes that people would actually cook, rather than a book with clever aspiration recipes that many people would never make. The emphasis is on mid-week family cooking but that’s not to say we haven’t included some recipes that are a bit more fancy-pants for special occasions. We celebrate vegetables and we like to use herbs, spices, garlic, ginger and the like to add something extra to our food.


The recipes are built on strong foundations, so a little bit of tinkering and putting your own stamp on them won’t ruin the result. We include recipe notes to fill in any gaps and to explain unusual ingredients and we give substitutes where we can. The photography is gorgeous and was shot on Waiheke where I live, mostly in my home kitchen using a domestic oven.


What inspired you to write this book?

Before Ilaria – my daughter and co-author – left to live in France, and later the UK, we cooked together a lot. When she returned from Europe she stayed with me on Waiheke, then I stayed with her most of last year. We shared kitchen space a lot, and we were always nattering about food and what we were cooking and about ideas for the web site. I asked her if she would like to co-write a book with me and she jumped up and down with excitement.


What research was involved?

It’s my 17th book. I spent 33 years as a magazine food editor over various titles, so I guess you could say there is 33 years of research as a foundation for the book.


What was your routine or process when writing this book?

I love the start of a book project, defining what, who and how. There’s also the luxury of time, to research and plan. Ilaria and I did lots of chatting at this point. Next step is collating the recipes. They are developed over a long period, tested and re-tested many times before photography begins. The photography is always full-on, but I enjoy that process, too. Once that’s all done, comes the ‘extras’ like the glossary to supplement the Recipe Notes. That’s the bulk of the book, but the last third is the editing, checking, rechecking and re-reads. This last bit is early morning-late night stuff because suddenly – and it happens with every book – what seemed like a generous deadline, shrinks at this point, just when you need more time!


If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

Oh, I think Ilaria would play piano, but I most definitely would not be allowed to sing.


If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?

Well, there was Julie & Julia so I guess our movie would be Julie & Ilaria. I’d like Sam Neill to play me (he’d look cute in a pinny and he’d insist on good wines!) and Ilaria’s plumping for Ricky Gervais to ensure there’s plenty of clever witicism. We laugh our heads off at small things, especially anything ironic, so getting in some good humour would be very fitting.


What did you enjoy the most about writing this book?

I enjoy doing things that will be helpful and useful, so there’s always a good feeling writing a book. It seems to have a purpose. Involving Ilaria was a great idea as it was just an extension of what we already do, and it ensured I got to see lots of her! Bringing in another opinion, another bunch of taste buds, and young energy gave the project a boost.


What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

I had a lie-in. It was only for a day, but I wished it had been for a week. Covid-19 shaped our days at the time so the Champagne had to wait.


What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

Shuggie Bain. A sad, tiresome tale of alcoholism destroying lives, but the writer transported me to a time and place and after a few chapters with ‘Hoo's it gaun?’ and suchlike I was reading the book in the Scottish accent. Ilaria’s now reading it.


What’s next on the agenda for you?

I write a weekly recipe-based newsletter for Shared Kitchen website (www.sharedkitchen.co.nz) and columns for Dish magazine and I have a regular slot on Radio NZ. I also run a market stall at Waiheke’s Saturday market, so that all keeps me busy enough. Ilaria works full-time for a research company, but we always find time to talk about food and recipes, so another book of course! I loved working with Ilaria on Shared Kitchen and we’ve currently got heads down working on ideas.