When the late Archie Casbarian asked Kit Wohl to write a cookbook about his restaurant, Arnaud’s, he sent the lifelong food and wine enthusiast on a culinary-writing path that has resulted in 11 books in less than 10 years.
Wohl, who heads a New Orleans advertising, public relations and marketing firm, was the public and media communications manager for Arnaud’s when Casbarian asked her to write her first book celebrating the French Quarter restaurant. Soon after Pelican Publishing released “Arnaud’s Restaurant Cookbook: New Orleans Legendary Creole Cuisine” in the spring of 2005, Wohl began work on her “New Orleans Classic” series that celebrates the cuisine of her native New Orleans.
The prolific author and photographer recently released “New Orleans Classic Creole Recipes,” the eighth book in her classics series. The lushly photographed book represents the continuation of Wohl’s exhaustive exploration of the diverse flavors, cultures and history that comprise New Orleans’ unique culinary customs, this time featuring more than 50 recipes from the city’s most celebrated traditional restaurants, including Antoine’s (Crabmeat au Gratin), Upperline (Fried Green Tomatoes with Shrimp Remoulade), Dooky Chase’s (Crabmeat and Shrimp Farci), Casamento’s (Oyster Soup), Tujague’s (Beef Brisket with Horseradish Sauce) and L’il Dizzy’s (Shrimp Creole). Each easy-to-follow-recipe is converted from restaurant quantities and tested for the home cook.
Wohl works from her eclectic, light- and art-filled home of 35 years. The soaring space is complete with an expansive test kitchen, studio and garden room for photography. She said her path to becoming a cookbook author was a circuitous one.
“Not many people ever told (Casbarian) no, but in this case, Archie, a friend, gentleman and restaurateur, had no idea what furies he’d unleashed,” she said. “In retrospect, he did know me too well.”
Following the publication of the Arnaud’s book, Wohl resumed her career in marketing, advertising and public relations, a field she entered with Warner Brothers. She founded her own agency in the 1970s, representing entertainment and hospitality-oriented businesses such as the Royal Sonesta Hotel, The Ritz-Carlton, Canal Place, The Jackson Brewery, Semolina, Jax and Dixie beer, Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits and Al Copeland Enterprises.
It was through the latter that she managed Copeland’s high-profile World Powerboat racing tours, through which she traveled with the likes of Kurt Russell, Don Johnson, Chuck Norris, Caroline the Princess of Hanover, Constantine II of Greece and Donald Trump.
Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath gave her the opportunity to follow a different path.
“The Arnaud’s cookbook success and Katrina’s push inspired me to create the Classic series,” she said. “My work with chefs and restaurants, design, writing and photography from the agency business made it a logical transition.”
The “New Orleans Classic” series came to life, and Wohl quickly turned out her books on “Desserts,” “Appetizers” and “Seafood.” The 2009 publication of “Gumbos & Soups” garnered recognition as a “Cookbook-of-the Month” from Gourmet Magazine, unusual for a small 96-page, 50-recipe book. The year 2012 brought “New Orleans Classic Cocktails” and “Brunches. New Orleans Classic Celebrations” was published in 2013.
“Pelican Publishing has exported the series to 12 other cities so far,” Wohl said. “I’m especially proud of author Erin Hicks Miller’s work, ‘Houston Classics,’ and author Grace Bauer’s lovely ‘Los Angeles Classic Desserts.’ ”
Additional cookbook titles by Wohl include “The P&J Oyster Cookbook” (Pelican Publishing 2010), written in conjunction with the Sunseri family. It was named “Cookbook of the Year” by New Orleans Magazine.
“The James Beard Foundation’s Best of the Best: A 25th Anniversary Celebration of America’s Outstanding Chefs” (Chronicle Books, 2012) featured profiles of and recipes from each of the 25 chefs to win the Best Chef Award presented by the esteemed James Beard Foundation.
“I decided to take my appetite on an adventure,” she said. “There’s not much more fun than cooking with top chefs, here and across the country.”