From Cooks to Books

Roz Crowley – From Cooks to Books

Food writer, journalist and former broadcaster, Roz Crowley stands in her office overlooking her County Cork garden. A contributor to many Irish and international publications such as the Sunday Times, Sunday Business Post, Wine Ireland, Cara, and Slow Food Magazine, Roz points at the flat ceiling overhead. ‘I used to have my office on the upper floor, but when a feng shui enthusiast told me that its slanted roof wasn’t doing my creativity any favours, I moved down here.’ Perhaps it’s this openness to new concepts and ideas that led Roz from her initial work as a food writer to diversify into the publishing world. Now a successful editor, author and journalist, Roz’s company Onstream Publication’ has been the force behind many of Ireland’s bestselling books.

In the early 1980s, Roz approached Catherine Rose, founder of Arlen House, with a proposal for a celebrity cookbook, ‘a novel idea at the time.’ Unable to work within Roz’s timeframe, Catherine advised Roz to undertake the project herself, and gave what she describes as ‘the best piece of publishing advice ever – find a printer you can trust.’ She credits Arlen House for helping ‘The Celebrity Cookbook – They’ve Made it – a Recipe Week from Irish Personalitiescome to life. The book, which included entries from Gay Byrne, Ronan Collins and sketches by her father Frank Sandquest, was an instant success.

Her early work on RTÉ local radio demonstrated first-hand the public hunger for cookbooks.  ‘There was no one talking about food at the time; I was doing a slot on Alf McCarthy’s lunchtime programme based around food, wine and health, a connection that’s now taken for granted, when people started writing in for recipes.’ Roz is passionate about supporting people who grow their own chemical-free food and who care about their produce. This, combined with her love of cookbooks, led her on the path to producing so many of Ireland’s successful food books, including A Pinch of This: Tastes of Home Cooking with Kerry Chef Frank Moynihan and the much acclaimed ‘Kinsale Good Food Circle Cookbook – Recipes from Ireland’s Gourmet Capital.’ An encounter with wine historian Ted Murphy resulted in their collaboration ‘A Kingdom of Wine – A celebration of Ireland’s Wine Geese’ of which she was the contributing editor. It was subsequently awarded first prize in the wine category at the World Gourmand Cookbook Awards 2007.  Onstream’s World Gourmand Awards don’t stop there – her own book, Our Daily Bread – a History of Barron’s Bakery (the Cappoquin bakery which uses brick ovens) came second in the 2012 Paris Awards, and My Goodness – easy, wholesome food by Liz Nolan recently won the Award for Best Vegetarian Ireland.

 ‘In terms of food books, I like to work with people who really know what they are doing. I help to produce and deliver a book that tells what the chef is about, enhancing their profile and exposing their skills to a greater public – and most importantly, to create more awareness around good food.’

Although food writing led Roz on a path, her books are not exclusive to food and wine. She does prefer to publish high quality and mainly non-fiction books in areas of travel, health or the arts. ‘In the early 1990s no-one was talking about men’s health when I published ‘Tackling Men’s Health’ by Dr. John O’Riordan. Gay Byrne’s research team didn’t want men’s health on the programme in case it would worry people, but once David Norris reviewed it on Bibi Baskin’s show it sold well.’ Dictatorship: My Teenage War with OCD was shortlisted in the Irish Book Awards 2016. ‘It was terrific for 16-year-old first time author Rebecca Ryan. Ryan Tubridy was a great supporter of that one.’

Roz states that as a multi-tasker – editor, producer, and publisher – at Onstream, she does ‘pretty much everything except write the book. I turn a raw manuscript into something that sells.’ ‘I look for authors who are genuine and truly interested in communicating something that is important to them, and, of course, like any publisher, I have to be grabbed by the subject.’ She cites one of Onstream’s latest releases You OK, Christy? Memoir of a Survivor by Christy Fleming, an autobiography encompassing his life including the horrors of industrial school and the camaraderie on the battlefields of the Congo. ‘There is so much to tell all in one book. This is the story of a survivor.’ Another of Onstream’s latest books Hibs! A History of Cork Hibernians FC 1957-76 by Michael Russell was recently launched.  ‘The writing is so good and the players and their personal stories so absorbing that the book could appeal to anyone.’

Roz Crowley Picture: Miki Barlok

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