The Piglet

Flawless Cookies and Pizza Chicken: A Look Back at Piglet Round One

March 16, 2018

Aaaaand, we’re off! The first round of The Piglet lives, and boy did these judges put the 16 competing books through the wringer. Their arguments were so ironclad, it’s like they wanted commenters to boing right off and over to the next review.

To catch up on the fun, here’s the tl;dr version:

Dinner vs. Salt Fat Acid Heat

Judged by Brett Martin

It seems whoever picked the Piglet heats were plotting a rowdy first heat: “Let’s take the two big-time cookbooks of the year and make someone pick a favorite—in the first round! There’s bound to be an upset! Commenters will go wiiiild!” But there was no upset, only applause: Brett Martin did the impossible job of building a faultless argument for why Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat would be the advancing to the next round. There was Caesar salad. There was pizza chicken. There was even applause for his Michael Pollan stab. Martin: 1, Editors: 0.

Six Seasons vs. Gather

Judged by Evan Kleiman

The most shocking revelation in Evan Kleiman’s review of Gather and Six Seasons is that she hadn’t heard of Six Seasons before The Piglet. How? The book has been drooled on all over the internet. The author started the kale salad trend, for goodness sake.

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While flabbergasting the book hadn’t hit her desk before now, this fact also made Kleiman the perfect, unbiased judge for this heat. She moseyed through the two very seasonally-driven, location-specific books in her seasonally-driven Los Angeles kitchen, and while Six Seasons unshockingly won, you've got to feel a tad bad for Gather. It was originally published for the UK market. Its imperfect metric conversions are more common in UK translations than anyone would like to see, and its landscape-based organization makes it difficult to translate to, well, just about anywhere else. To even the playing field, what would a UK writer say about Six Seasons? They might bat a snow-frosted eyelash at the two additional seasons those West Coasters enjoy.

Autentico vs. Bangkok

Judged by Garrett Oliver

In the first month of 2017, we may or may not have called it: 2017 will be the year for Asian cookbooks. Oh, what's that? Three Asian cookbooks in The Piglet? And, oh, what’s that? All three won their first heat? Moving right along…

Garrett Oliver was having such success with his cookbooks, he was at risk of getting smug. But ultimately Bangkok advanced to the next round because it "is more fun to hang out with; [the author's] descriptions of life in that city are like paintings; she isn’t judging me; her recipes work and the food was totally slammin’." Even without finding duck eggs. (New York, where are the duck eggs?)

Ducksoup vs. Kachka

Judged by Wendi McLendon-Covey

Some people’s stories are so singular, they can’t not turn into books. Many people felt that way about Asha Gomez’s My Two Souths, which won last year’s Piglet. Others feel that way about Bonnie Frumkin Morales’s story and the resulting cookbook, Kachka: her big, rowdy family; her uber-popular, vodka-soaked Portland restaurant, her refined but homey takes on her family’s home cooking. Even the story behind the name “Kachka” is memorable (it’s waiting for you in the introduction of the book). Wendi McClendon-Covey fell for Kachka’s upbeat infectiousness (and its shkvarky with buckwheat blini) over the sumptuous, languid, delightful Ducksoup. Then again, if her roles say anything, McClendon-Covey likes a rambunctious dinner party. (Hey McClendon-Covey fans, she’s going to be in the next Goosebumps movie!)

Onions Etcetera vs. The Pho Cookbook

Judged by Bonnie S. Benwick

In her review of Onions Etcetera and The Pho Cookbook, it’s clear Bonnie S. Benwick hangs out with cookbook nerds. You know, the ones who know Ina Garten’s Rule of Ingredients Lists. The ones who have a radar sense for images that don’t match up with their recipes, who totally understand why there are cookbooks devoted entirely to jerky, schmaltz, and 5-ingredient instant pot recipes—even if they themselves would never use such books. (Yep, these are all real books.)

After putting these books to the test (through a pizza lens...), Benwick ultimately chose the one that taught her more—and it happened to be 198 pages shorter than its competitor. But she didn’t judge these books by their appearance—you can “bet your fine-mesh skimmer” on that.

The Art of Flavor vs. Night + Market

Judged by Sarah Michelle Gellar

The Prinze household loves The Piglet! After Freddie judged last year, Sarah Michelle went for it this year. She was tasked with judging two rather demanding, not-entirely-usual cookbooks: The Art of Flavor and Night + Market. She made one multi-course dinner from each—over one weekend—and chose a winning book using one of the best barometers we’ve seen during this competition: the energy around the table. “As we sat down and ate, the moment felt livelier, the flavors more exciting, and the memories unforgettable,” she writes. Even if you did hustle to a thousand markets and dirty every utensil in your kitchen, does any of it matter if the people at the table are entirely enthused and enjoying the meal? Good happy ending, Buffy!

BraveTart vs. Tartine All Day

Judged by Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi Wilbur edited this fine tournament for years, and she always instructed judges to read the introduction to every book first. What's the first thing she did with her two books? It wasn't read the introductions.

Nevertheless, she eventually does her due diligence with these two titles—one of which is a perfect cookbook with no faults whatsoever. (Could it really be?) She baked her way through BraveTart and cooked and baked through Tartine All Day, and it wasn't the flawless cookies or cakes that led to BraveTart's triumph. It was the history lessons of each sweet. Really! Did you know there's a precursor to Snickerdoodles called Snip Doodles? Now you do.

Kaukasis vs. King Solomon’s Table

Judged by Stephen Satterfield

Stephen Satterfield’s work is never just about the food, but connecting what’s in the kitchen to history, people, and politics. So when he chose the book that was more cookable and not as expansive in narrative (though still full of story), it came as a surprise. His stomach had a big say in this decision. When speaking about King Solomon’s Table, he writes “[Joan Nathan’s] display of knowledge becomes an avalanche.” Also, he doesn’t like how she cuts her bell peppers. The stomach gets what it wants.

Ready for more Piglet? Tune in next week for our 2018 Community Picks and March 26th for the start of round two.


The Piglet—inspired by The Morning News' Tournament of Books—is where the 16 most notable cookbooks of the year face off in a NCAA-style bracketed tournament. Watch the action and weigh in on the results!


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Linda Evans
    Linda Evans
  • Emily
  • Rhonda35
  • FJT
  • TheFritschKitchen
Editor/writer/stylist. Author of I Dream of Dinner (so You Don't Have To). Last name rhymes with bagel.


Linda E. April 2, 2018
Here we are on 2 April. I've followed round2. I've read the first semifinal. When does the second semi-final, and the final, appear? This year's Piglet has almost been bad enough for to to think that next year I won't bother. Not the books, not the reviews, just the organisation. Don't you care about it any more?
Emily March 28, 2018
A few people have posted a link to the bracket, but why isn't it updated?? Come on, Food52.
Rhonda35 March 22, 2018
I'm glad for the delay between rounds - I wasn't up to speed on Round 1 so the break gave me a chance to catch up. Having said that, what's up with the disappearing bracket everyone is whinging about - your people need their bracket and they need it now!
FJT March 16, 2018
Another one here who is disappointed that round 2 is so delayed! Please, please, please put the bracket back up at least. Can’t find it anywhere and I’d like to see what the match ups are for round 2. Its disappearance has been commented on through round 1 and I thought it should have been fixed by now.
TheFritschKitchen March 16, 2018
Why is the Piglet so stretched out this year? No round two for a full week?? What a disappointment
James F. March 16, 2018
I’m assuming a delay behind the scenes.
SandraH March 16, 2018
We assume the judges for each round need a certain amount of time to read and cook from the books chosen in each progressive round and then write up their judgments, but I’m not sure on the timing for all this behind the scenes either. I was hoping the next round would start on Monday but it sounds from The FritschKitchen it will be somewhat later. Will be exciting to see what happens when it does!
Joanna S. March 16, 2018
We hear you! We're getting round two ready as quickly as we can, but do need just a little more time. We can't wait to share the next judgments with you!
SandraH March 16, 2018
Thanks, looking forward to it!
Saga March 26, 2018
And... the bracket?
Joanna S. March 26, 2018
You can find the updated bracket here: