The ingredients for a bestseller

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 November, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 November, 1993, 12:00am

THREE men gave birth recently. And tonight, corks will fly around the Hilton ballroom when the glamorous baby, The Cutting Edge (Oydssey, $495), is christened.

The cookbook, underwritten by the Hilton, has been, more or less, two years in the making. No expense was spared and estimates for the project hover about $2 million.

Writing a book was a first for the three chefs, an experience wrought with politics and lack of direction.

The idea to do a cookbook crystallised after the euphoria of winning a 1992 culinary competition in Frankfurt. Out of 52 international teams, the chefs from Hong Kong were honoured as the best regional team.

During the two-year period, the careers of the authors changed.

The then-executive chef Franz Kranzfelder left the Hilton and opened Portico restaurant. After a year at Portico's helm, he returned to Europe and recently bought a restaurant in southern Germany.

Austrian-born Winfried Brugger, formerly chef of the Hilton Grill, ascended to Kranzfelder's position. And the then-executive pastry chef Gerard Dubois resigned and opened his own pastry shop.

Brugger, Dubois and Kranzfelder talked independently about their partnership in The Cutting Edge.

What was a most memorable experience in doing the book? WB: The politics. Trying to get the deal together. All the ifs and whens. Working with three chefs is hard. Your style versus theirs.

FK: Shooting the photos. It was an incredible stress because we each were running a business.

GD: Within the time frame (of doing the book), I became a business-owner and a father.

What is a personal favourite recipe? WB: Salmon fritters with fresh horseradish sauce. It was the first dish I ever created. It was in 1986 when I was at the Drake Hotel in Chicago.

FK: Warm smoked salmon with truffle and potato salad. It looks stunning and it tastes outstanding.

GD: Marbled cheesecake. It made me famous and was a favourite with Mr Smith (James Smith, the Hilton's general manager). It's so simple, anyone can make it.

How would your mother (or cooking role model) critique the book? The price? WB: My mother would say ''why aren't there more pictures of you''. By European standards, the price is right for a glamorous book.

FK: My grandmother would say ''it's a nice picture book''. The price in Germany (65DM) is what you'd expect.

GD: My mother would cry. Whatever her son does, price is not important.

What was the last cookbook you actually read and used? WB: White Heat by English chef Marco P White. He reflects on the downside of being a chef and the real drama in a kitchen.

FK: Bradley Ogden's breakfast book. The recipes work. GD: A book on sugar by Ewald Notter, a Swiss authority. It's very technical.

What did you learn about your co-authors? WB: Going into this was a risky project. We've known each other a long time. But you never know. Franz gave me freedom. Although he was my boss at the time, the book never got in our way. Gerard and I are complete opposites. But we became better friends through the book.

FK: We are three totally different characters. What we had in common was enthusiasm (to do the book). Wini is really a good cook. He's come a long way. Wini and Gerard are explosive characters. I had to learn to be more diplomatic. Though technically I was their boss, in this, we were partners. GD: Wini and I became better friends. He always came through at the last minute. Franz, I respect as a friend. What role (non-culinary) did you play? WB: I spearheaded the idea. Doing this book was important. I became obsessed with it and stayed here to do it. I had other offers and I passed them up. Maybe I paid a price.

FK: I kept the idea going for a while but I was in the transition of leaving (the Hilton). Wini really took over. At times, though, he wanted to quit.

GD: Organisation. I was ready with everything six months before we started. I had the recipes and my ideas for the photos. That's the way I work, very organised.