When we began to contemplate how we were going to mark the 30th anniversary of AURAS Design, our idea was to produce a book of our past graphic design work. But, really, who wants to look at that more than once? Not that we aren’t proud of the work we’ve done, but we wanted to create something that people would actually enjoy using and refer to now and again.
Then, an obvious idea sprung to mind: let’s make a cookbook. After all, cooking is a lot like designing. There’s a lot of thought put into the ingredients; it takes technique and tools to produce excellent work; and if everything works just right, the end result is pretty tasty.
Maybe that’s why I have enjoyed cooking since I was old enough to hold a spatula. In college, with nothing more than a hot plate and toaster oven, I learned how to prepare meals. AURAS has produced work for hundreds of clients over the last three decades, but now, here’s an opportunity to see what we might have created if things had gone just a bit differently.
In fact, the lure of opening a restaurant has always been a siren call for me. I think I have mentioned it so many times that my more sensible other half, Helen Rea, merely goes “Whoop-whoop”—indicating the alarm bells that should be going off in my head. Restaurants, like Broadway shows and Internet start-ups, are a high-risk long shot. They make running a design studio seem like a sensible business—even these days.
Food has always been an important part of celebration at AURAS. For years, our holiday parties have been renowned for the great food—mostly cooked by us. Our holiday staff retreats were always chosen for the quality of the food, whether it was a limo trip to the Inn at Little Washington or an overnight stay at l’Auberge Provençal. We have always kept ourselves caffeinated and content by stocking the finest foodstuffs for everyone to enjoy.
When our studio was on Kalorama Road, many mornings on the way to work I would stop by Posin’s, the late, lamented D.C. Jewish supermarket, and buy donuts, cupcakes and freshly made rye bread for the studio. The bread was too warm to bag and too delicious not to steal the crusty end slices as I headed down 13th Street.
Having a full kitchen has always been an important part of the plan, wherever our studio has been. The long-time people at AURAS warn newcomers about “The AURAS Ten”—the weight that is bound to be put on from the abundance of good stuff around the shop. On summer afternoons at the Kalorama studio, taking a break for former employee Marty Ittner’s guacamole was a welcome treat; on snow days, I often make a hearty vegetable soup to entice the crew to brave the elements. And all year long there is coffee, whether an afternoon cappuccino break or simply a strong, bracing cup of Peet’s, freshly ground and shipped directly to the studio. For many new employees, the first challenge of working at AURAS was learning to appreciate that super-strong brew. If nothing else, AURAS was way ahead of the coffee-crazed curve.
So, think of Delicious by Design as the restaurant that never was. Within the pages are recipes that have been prepared and tweaked over the years. They are heavy on comfort and powerful in taste. And in the back, we’ve allowed ourselves a few pages for a history of our studio and some examples of AURAS design work.
Renée Comet was excited to become part of this project and brought Lisa Cherkasky along to prepare and style the food. Together we mapped out a simple strategy: every picture should look so tasty that readers might be inclined to lick the page—that was the extent of the art direction. I have always believed that you should let talented people do what they do best and try to stay out of the way.
We’d like to know what you think of this book—especially how you like the recipes—and give you a chance to see some behind-the-scenes action at the photo shoot—plus a few recipes that didn’t make it into the book.
Bon appétit! —RS