Soul Searching: Winston-Salem Chef Timothy Grandinetti of Spring House Harvests a Cookbook

Chef Timothy Grandinetti of Spring House

In a century-old southern mansion that is now home to Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar, chef Timothy Grandinetti has added a new reason to throw back a bourbon smash. He has recently placed his first Spring House cookbook, entitled Soulful Harvest:  Signature Recipes, Timeless Techniques and Culinary Reflections on the shelves of his restaurant. In a literary coincidence, the lounge in Spring House is known as The Library Bar, in homage to the space which formerly served as the offices for the Forsyth Library.  

Soulful Harvest is a lifetime in the making for chef Grandinetti, who has been chronicling his recipes and culinary reflections for decades. This year marked Spring House’s fifth anniversary, which seemed like a good time to put all those notes in one place. Months of photography, writing and editing, production meetings, parties, and cocktails later, his ode to progressive Southern cuisine and the house that built it took shape. In a matter of months, with a little help from the spirit of Spring House, he went from handwritten scraps of paper and old photos to holding a finished cookbook in his hands.

Here’s what chef Grandinetti had to say about the journey.

Why do you think Spring House was the catalyst for finally publishing your first cookbook?

Spring House is very special. It is this gorgeous hundred-year-old Southern mansion, one of the last bastions of the Roaring 20’s Millionaires Row in this old tobacco town of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I am originally from Hudson, New York, and I have cooked all over the world, so in Spring House, I’ve combined everything I love about Southern food with touches of cuisine from these other places and my French culinary training. It’s a very eclectic menu that changes with the seasons, so that’s the direction we took when we launched Soulful Harvest.

Chef Timothy Grandinetti of Spring House

Why did now feel like the right time to produce Soulful Harvest?

It’s not about recognition or a vanity project but, rather, the true telling of a story as we crept up on five glorious years at Spring House. I had already been documenting and chronicling this boondoggle for so many years, but this time at Spring House helped me capture and curate the hundreds of recipes I wanted to include. There are 190 recipes and 164 photos, and that was after I made significant cuts to the original list.

You’ve been on a few television shows and won several awards for fine dining, but you’re also known for your love of barbecue. How have you worked that into a cookbook based on your experiences at Spring House?

When I first came to North Carolina, someone introduced me to a plate of Lexington Barbecue. I was completely floored. Since then it has become a passion of mine so much so that we host the Sweet Summer Luv Luv Barbecue Festival every year. Several prominent pitmasters have joined us over the years, like Ted Reader and Ray Lampe. I have several barbecue recipes in the cookbook including my favorite grilling techniques and tips for beginners.

Chef Timothy Grandinetti of Spring House

Spring House is credited with helping revive the Downtown Winston-Salem food scene. How do you hope the cookbook will continue that success?

I think there is a little bit of an apprehension when people see Spring House because it is elegant, but the cookbook makes us much more approachable as it really conveys our love story of food. The cookbook does a great job of introducing and showcasing gracious Southern hospitality. We love delicious food, great wines, and fun, fantastic conversation – that is what Soulful Harvest is all about.

Marketing is a huge part of selling a cookbook and you have opted to sell Soulful Harvest through the restaurant rather than through the digital marketplace. How do you plan to get the word out to generate sales?

Soulful Harvest provides a real, personal link to me and to Spring House, so it is an emotional connection. I believe this is what will drive sales more than anything because our guests feel a sense of ownership toward Spring House. People resonate with personal stories, so in addition to the almost 200 recipes, it is like a blueprint to what drives us. Every day, this is our life on a plate and between these pages. We are also already relying heavily on Fishbowl, OpenTable’s email system. Plus, since our menus revolve around the four seasons, we have lots of seasonal events planned.

Chef Timothy Grandinetti of Spring House

You’ve dedicated sections of your book to introductions from people you admire, including some who have worked for you. What advice would you give to aspiring chefs about chronicling their careers in the hopes of someday having their own cookbooks?

One of the sections of the cookbook, McMillen’s Missouri, references Justin McMillen, a sous chef I worked with in Missouri. I have several staff members who have been with me for many years, so I firmly believe in mentoring and challenging young chefs to ignite their careers. I say, write it down. Write it all down. Save things that are meaningful.

For a chef and restaurant owner, what was the most challenging aspect of the publishing process?

Understanding the distribution model and trying to work within the confines of a system that is constantly changing can create confusion and delays. Just in the eight months between when I began working on this project in earnest and received the actual book, there were new advances in print on demand and cover size, as well as paper choices. There were other choices also, like going through a traditional publisher or indie publishing, and I chose to independently publish to retain creative control over my content and be the final creative decision-maker in all aspects.

Chef Timothy Grandinetti of Spring House

What would you do differently next time?

I would have the entire cookbook finished including all of the recipes before shooting photos. Even in the final hours of pre-production, I was tweaking ingredient measurements and triple-checking preparations. After all of the photography was complete, I still felt some images were missing, but it wasn’t cost effective to reshoot.

Speaking of photos, you insisted that all the food featured in the photos be edible. Why and how did that decision impact the final cookbook?

In food photography, so many dishes are doctored with inedible elements to enhance their appearance. It was important to me that people got to enjoy the food we cooked for Soulful Harvest and that sharing spirit shows through in the photos. Our Spring House photographer, Katie Sams of Red Boat Photography, shot the pictures because I wanted the plates to reflect Spring House — rather than over-styled stills that could be from anywhere.

How did you come up with the title?

I went through several variations of titles. But the premise of the cookbook was always the same – I wanted to share recipes throughout the seasons at Spring House. The farm community here is very supportive and I wanted to honor those producers but also share my experiences and techniques to make the cookbook solution-based for home cooks trying to learn.

How have you enlisted the help of the community and existing diners to promote the cookbook?

We are very fortunate to have a healthy following of community leaders including Allen Joines, our wonderful mayor who graciously provided the opening quote for the cookbook. Plus we have a lot of group business partnerships with other local culinary businesses whom we have supported through the years. We look at Soulful Harvest as a celebration of all of us and our love of Winston-Salem.

Chef Timothy Grandinetti of Spring House

What are your plans to use the cookbook to introduce more diners to Spring House?

Spring House is a beautiful place, but it is a neighborhood place. We are excited that so many young people want the cookbook, and we are encouraging a social sharing campaign for people to come have a drink and pick up a cookbook and share those visits on social media. We’ve also planned cookbook specific dinners as part of a rewards program so people can attend events around specific dishes and sections featured in Soulful Harvest.

Kelly Merritt is an author and freelance journalist specializing in culinary travel. Follow her on Twitter @kellywrites + Instagram @kellymerrittwrites + Facebook at KellyMerrittWrites.

Photo credits: Katie Sams of Red Boat Photography.