Acclaimed cookbook author Joan Nathan found her way to food writing from a very different, if related, field. Armed with a master’s degree in French Literature, she took a job as foreign press officer to Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek. Inspired by his habit of conducting meetings over meals, Nathan wrote and published her first cookbook, The Flavor of Jerusalem, in 1975.
The success of Nathan’s first book was followed by the publication of The Jewish Holiday Kitchen in 1979, An American Folklife Cookbook in 1984, and Jewish Cooking in America in 1994. Jewish Cooking in America was an instant hit, winning both the Julia Child Best Cookbook Award and the James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook.
In addition to writing cookbooks, Nathan helped found New York City’s Ninth Avenue Food Festival. In March 2001, Nathan published The Foods of Israel Today, which contains recipes from Muslim and Christian as well as Jewish traditions.
On April 30, 2001, she was awarded the Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America award for lifetime achievement from the James Beard Foundation.
Nathan is the host of the PBS television show Jewish Cooking in America with Joan Nathan, based on her award-winning book. The show combines recipes, history, and visits to chefs. Nathan contributes articles to Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Cooking Light, Hadassah Magazine, and the New York Times. Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook (2004) combines and updates the earlier Jewish Holiday Baker (1997) and Jewish Holiday Kitchen (1979).
In 2005, Nathan utilized the research for her new book The New American Cooking: An American Folklife Cookbook in her role as guest curator of Food Culture USA at the 2005 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The New American Cooking won the 2006 International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook Award in the American category.