AJC Decatur Book Festival also a feast for foodies, cookbook lovers

Cookbook fanatics and food-followers, prepare for a banquet: The AJC Decatur Book Festival has set the table with a cornucopia of chef-authors, cooking experts and stars of culinaria. Seventeen luminaries will take the Food and Cooking Stage over the weekend, along with local favorites and the notable names that will introduce and lead discussions and demonstrations with them.

“Putting together this lineup was a delightful group effort,” says stage organizer Susan Puckett. The Atlanta author and regional culinary champion adds, “From Dora Charles, who has such a fantastic story, to Maangchi, who makes Korean food even more accessible, to produce-focused local chefs, there’s something for everyone.

“In addition to showcasing really diverse talent, we’re driving home the fact that Decatur is more than a culinary magnet — it’s a mecca for food writers as well.” Puckett will lead a discussion on the future of cookbook publishing with a publisher and an agent. “People want to know what makes a cookbook successful, and this conversation will offer a look behind the curtain of the publishing industry.”

Food and Cooking Stage highlights include:

  • Maangchi's "Real Korean Cooking: Authentic Dishes for the Home Cook" (12:30 p.m. Sept. 5)

Christened "The Korean Julia Child" by The New York Times, Maangchi will demonstrate recipes from "Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking: Authentic Dishes for the Home Cook." Maangchi helms her own YouTube cooking channel, along with an immensely popular website (www.maangchi.com) where she offers clearly written recipes for Korean classics in her typical friendly style.

  • Cat Cora: "Cooking as Fast as I Can: A Chef's Story of Family, Food, and Forgiveness" (1:45 p.m. Sept. 5)

Trailblazer and "Iron Chef" Cat Cora introduces her new memoir, "Cooking as Fast as I Can: A Chef's Story of Family, Food, and Forgiveness," with musings on Greek heritage, life in the South, same-sex marriage and memorable meals. (For a special Atlanta Journal-Constitution excerpt of her book, go to http://specials.myajc.com/cat-cora/.) A CIA-trained chef by way of Jackson, Miss., Cora also runs Chefs for Humanity, which she founded to help improve nutrition education and offer hunger relief and emergency and humanitarian aid to reduce hunger worldwide.

  • Dora Charles: "A Real Southern Cook: In Her Savannah Kitchen" (3 p.m. Sept. 5)

Dora Charles, former chef at Savannah’s legendary the Lady and Sons, launches her first cookbook, “A Real Southern Cook: In Her Savannah Kitchen,” at the festival. She offers a treasure trove of family recipes passed down through generations, preserving a slice of Southern culinary history.

  • Lisa Ekus and Rux Martin: "The Future of Cookbook Publishing: The Inside Scoop from a Top Agent and Editor" (4:15 p.m. Sept. 5)

Even with the Internet chock full of recipes, cookbook sales are piping hot. And with seemingly everyone with a kitchen writing them, why do they become popular, and what makes for a good one? Lisa Ekus, a high-profile cookbook agent, and seasoned cookbook editor Rux Martin of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Rux Martin Books will discuss these questions and more.

  • Rebecca Lang and Virginia Willis: "A New Take on Southern Classics" (5:30 p.m. Sept. 5)

Festivalgoers will drool over this demo, as Rebecca Lang presents recipes from "Fried Chicken," which showcases the versatility of this Southern staple. A ninth-generation Southerner, she has authored several other books and is a Southern Living contributing editor. Atlanta's Virginia Willis takes a look at recipes from "Lighten Up, Y'All: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome." This veteran Southern food expert with a number of cookbooks under her belt brings a healthier take on classics like seven-layer dip, chicken and gravy and strawberry shortcake.

  • Leanne Brown: "Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day" (1:15 p.m. Sept. 6)

Can you eat well on $4 a day? New York-based Leanne Brown says you certainly can, and shows you how. Originally written for low-income and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, informally known as food stamps) recipients, "Good and Cheap" shows how anyone can eat well every day, and how easy it is to make healthy meals at home.

  • Sandra Gutierrez: "Empanadas: The Hand-Held Pies of Latin America" (2:30 p.m. Sept. 6)

It's always time for pie — in this case, the empanadas that are Sandra Gutierrez's specialty. She'll demonstrate how to make them with a variety of fillings, highlighting their versatility whether they're a snack, an entree, a dessert or fun party food. Gutierrez, a leading expert on Latin cuisine, was a cookbook judge for the 2013 and 2015 James Beard Awards.

  • Kevin Gillespie: "Pure Pork Awesomeness" (5 p.m. Sept. 6)

If there's a Southern food and cooking event, there has to be pork. Few people know their way around a pig as well as Kevin Gillespie of Gunshow, Bravo's "Top Chef" and a multitude of food-related organizations. He'll discuss pork's versatility, along with what you should know about choosing and cooking it — and of course, he'll demonstrate recipes that highlight its awesomeness.