the flavor equation – what goes into making a book cover


Nik Sharma

Hey Friends, I’m a multi-award-winning and best-selling cookbook author and photographer.

All week I’ve been sharing the various elements that make up the concept of my upcoming cookbook, the various pieces that make up The Flavor Equation. Today I will do something a little different, and take you behind the scenes to walk you through the thought process of selecting the book cover, and share some covers that we ultimately passed on.

I will reveal the final cover with you tomorrow Monday, April 27, 2020 via my newsletter, if you haven’t signed up yet, you can do so here. I’ll also share it here on my blog and on my social media, so be sure to follow me on Instagram.

Today, I get to take you behind the scenes and show you some of the different cover choices and the thought process that went into selecting the cover for my newest (and second) cookbook, The Flavor Equation: The Science of Great Cooking.

I will reveal the final cover with you tomorrow Monday, April 27, 2020 via my newsletter, if you haven’t signed up yet, you can do so here.

I shared my personal story on how I started cooking in my first cookbook, Season, but in The Flavor Equation I go deeper into everything I find fascinating about food and cooking. The Flavor Equation is a science-based cookbook in which I combine science with food and cooking using recipes.

The Flavor Equation = Emotion + Sight + Sound + Mouthfeel + Aroma + Taste

But how would I be able to translate all these elements in the equation to photos, and choose one that captured it all to make it the cover?

Luckily I have a great team at Chronicle Books that worked closely with me through the entire process of book and cover design.  I had photographed the book in stages and delivered the images to my team early on, so we had ample time to play around with ideas.  “Our biggest design challenge was selecting the perfect photograph,” explains my designer, Lizzie Vaughan. “We had plenty of gorgeous imagery to work with. There are many levels of approval before a cover can go to print, and from presentations early on, we realized that the hook would be to use a photo that nodded to science and cooking. We ran the gamut. Almost 100 variations!”

Lizzie is a talented designer and also a very patient person. She could take whatever I attempted to communicate and translate that onto paper. Book designers are truly underappreciated heroes in the book world; I might come up with the ideas and visuals, but Lizzie made all of what you see come together in one package.

Lizzie sent me eight different versions using various photographs from the book. The marketing team and other departments at Chronicle Books also weighed in. While the first eight covers were gorgeous, I still wanted a cover that effectively communicated what this book is all about. We weren’t there yet.

We returned to the drawing board and looked at all the book’s different photos. Lizzie created another set of potential cover designs, and we culled them down to our favorite three. I even sought the help of a few friends whose artistic opinions I value and trust.

We first considered the golden beer foam photo you see below. It almost reminds me of the cosmos (my agent Maria Ribas, also described it as interplanetary). I can immediately think about the crackling sounds and toasty aroma emanating from the foam, but this could also be too abstract.

NikS_TFEQ_BEEROption 1

Another option was the sweet potato photo you see below (I should tell you this is a very easy and tasty recipe that I think you will love in the new book!). But I did not want a hero shot of a recipe on the cover for The Flavor Equation. I wanted to connect the abstract beauty of food and science in some geeky way. While you can imagine the different textures and tastes and even the aroma straight up with a single glance, this one felt a bit too literal to me

The final choice was the perfect balance of abstract, geek, and literal, and I think it truly conveys every aspect of this book and the concept of The Flavor Equation I wanted to share with you.


Option 2

I can’t wait to share it with you. Watch your inboxes tomorrow as you get to the be the first to see the cover of my new book, The Flavor Equation: The Science of Great Cooking.



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