February 28th, 2017 | Posted By: Magdalena Wszelaki | Posted in Articles

Behind-the-scenes of my upcoming cookbook


UPDATED:  February 15, 2018

The cookbook is done!  See below to order your copy NOW

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Let me share this with you: Writing a cookbook is the toughest book genre to pick. I have found that writing the medical/ nutrition / food chapters of my book to be a breeze as compared to the recipes, photography and testing of the recipes.

You probably own several cook books. Do you know what goes into creating them? I certainly did not know what I was signing up for. And I fear no hard work and challenges.

If you want to know, here are a few lessons I wanted to share with you:

1). I’m a wing-it kind of cook. I cannot follow recipes, hardly ever did and measuring amounts feels like pressing a brake on creativity. But, when writing a recipe, especially for one of the biggest publisher in the country, I had to learn to play by the rules and get disciplined which means writing the exact amounts and steps, and developing a recipe style sheet (to make each recipe consistent) that took me 4 weeks to complete.

2). It took months to find a photographer I connected with. Many I interviewed felt transactional. For me, it’s the past 2 years of my life so I wanted someone who gives a damn about food and healing.

Then, the photographer needed to get into my head to know what style I like. The mistake many cookbook writers make is to expect for the photographer to telepathically know their style. It took us 6 weeks to create and finalize the vision boards of props, style, mood and lighting before the crew went shopping for props and backgrounds.

I don’t know about you but I never thought you can fuss that much about a darn pot, pan, plate and fork!

3). Professional food photography takes way longer than you think. On average, 45 minutes to 1 hour goes into styling alone (not even cooking) a dish. Photography only takes a few minutes.

I picked a photographer who shares my passion for healthy food (the fabulous Gabriel Cabrera who excels at color and composition) and who does not use hair sprays, glues, artificial colors and a suitcase of chemicals to make food look good. Believe it or not, this is the industry standard.

4). Therefore, the freshness of food is key. We daily get fresh veggies from sources closest to the farmer. If they wither, we dunk them in icy cold water to perk them up. It works.

In this picture here, Gabriel, on the right, takes time to pick the perfect parsley leaf.

5). We have been shooting between 5 to 7 recipes per day, depending on their complexity. The crew consists of 4 people: a food prepper, stylist, photographer and on-site editor. I have been blessed with a highly talented and sweet team with the best attitude. They are on their feet 12 to 14 hours a day for 12 days straight with no breaks. Respect.

Gabriel arranging the kombu seaweed in the Mineral Vegetable Broth for the past 10 minutes to get the perfect swirl and a beam of light that brightens it.

6). The cookbook will feature 140 recipes and 80 photos. Many photos have a few dishes in one shot, so not many recipes will go un-photographed. My author friends tell me that people do not make recipes that have no photos.

7). All recipes need to be independently tested. There are 3 people testing them right now and it amazes me that no matter how many times I check a recipe, there are still these occasional errors they catch.

8). All my recipes, where possible, offer paleo, AIP, low-FODMAP and anti-candida diet modifications. I had to hire someone to check and double-check that the modifications are correct and the testers are testing them too.

9). We are only using natural light. Vancouver in winter can be moody – it was supposed to be cloudy (a good thing as it’s a natural light diffuser) but then we got 9 days of straight sunlight which makes shooting hard because now the light needs to be diffused with various props which take time to set up.

Is your head spinning yet?

I’m attaching a few photos that you might find interesting from the behind-the-scenes of photographing the cookbook in a beautiful studio in Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada.

Before the food is plated, the composition takes a chunk of time to get it right. Having a big screen monitor really helps.

Then, nothing should be spilled to stain the surfaces (turmeric terrifies every food photographer).

The attention to details is mind boggling – this spice mix cannot have a single lump.

Now, the last star anise is making it to the table for the scene to be photographed.


Doesn’t look like much, right?

And this is the final result:

We are not done yet (as of today) but here is a quick collage of some of the photos. I hope you like them!


The book is called Cooking for Hormone Balance. All the recipes are free of gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, nightshades and it’s very low in sugar.

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If you want to be in touch and hear about it, sign up to my newsletter here (and get the 15 Breakfast recipes gift, too), or send it to women who you think will benefit from this blog and the book.

Sending much love.

6 Comments to Behind-the-scenes of my upcoming cookbook

  1. Thanks for sharing! That was very interesting and wow – what a ton of detail goes into a cookbook! Final photos are beautiful. Good luck with the book.

  2. So glad you’re bringing out a cookbook… but don’t know if I can wait another year! I’m dying to know what the recipes are!!! 🙂

  3. looks beautiful, magdalena! can’t wait to read the book when it comes out, to get new ideas for recipes. thank you for putting in so much effort to make it great. good luck with the rest of the process

  4. I look forward to this book. I have a similar cooking style being that it is mostly Paleo / AIP; however, I tend to go for savory over sweet. I have recently started to try to create my own recipes for my blog, but it’s difficult when you are one of those people who will go to Trader Joe’s or Sprouts, pick your ingredients on the fly, only to come home, spread out your ingredients, and let it flow together. What I am starting to do to make it is is I will brainstorm (usually on my way to the store or before I leave the house or work), gather my ingredients at the store, write down an outline of what I plan to do with the amounts blank. Then I measure the amounts I am using after I go by sight. Once I’ve settled on the amount, I update the recipe. In the end, sometimes I update, rearrange, or add steps, but it’s mostly already there. This is making my recipes more repeatable and shareable, which makes the people I share my food with a lot happier. I can’t even count how many times I’ve gotten that disappointed look after declining a request for a recipe simply because I didn’t have one!

  5. […] I also had the privilege of re-living my much loved food photo assistant gig and working with an all star team! After years of stalking Gabriel of Artful Desperado fame on IG, I had the chance to work with his delightful (and hilarious) self in RL, along with my friends, Bri and Anguel from Natural Girl, and the photographer extraordinaire Stefane. Being part of a cookbook shoot is probably my most beloved thing to do, and I feel so honoured to have been involved somehow on three shoots now. Magdalena’s book should be out sometime next year, but you can catch a sneak peak on her site, Hormones Balance. […]

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