In honor of back-to-school month, I’ll be reviewing a new cookbook every week and will give away a copy of each one.

It is hard not to let artists or chefs’ personalities affect my feelings about their work. I avoid interviews of actors I admire because if they sound unlikeable, I can’t get past it while watching their films.

Many years ago,  as a youngster while at my first job in the specialty food industry, I attended the Aspen Food & Wine festival. During the opening cocktail hour, I scanned the crowd and found myself amongst the greats – Jacque Pepin, Pierre Herme and Charlie Trotter.  I overhead a conversation Charlie Trotter was having with someone that really turned me off. Though he ran one of the most famous restaurants in Chicago, I never got past my unfortunate eavesdrop and never dined at his establishment.

Luckily, my magnet works both ways and attractive personalities draw me in.  A few months ago, I was asked by an acquaintance at the Harvard Common Press if I would host a gathering of bloggers in Chicago to welcome new author, Michael Natkin. Before the event, I hadn’t yet discovered his blog, Herbivoracious.

A few dozen bloggers gathered at Heaven on Seven in downtown Chicago to get a glimpse at Michael’s new book and meet the man behind the meatless recipes. Michael is not a professionally trained chef nor is he a professional photographer. The father of two has traveled the world, embraced vegetarian cooking and found success in the culinary world through his blog and his new book. You would think that along with his success and accolades would come a healthy portion of ego or a large dose of self importance. Not so.

At the Chicago event, I found that Michael was gracious and thoughtful, taking the time to converse with the attendees. He has a soft warmth about him and though I spent very little time talking to him myself, I found him likable.

Over the following weeks, as I leafed through the pages of Herbivoracious, I was captivated by the beautiful, straight forward photography. Many of the recipes are a bit out of my usual comfort zone using spices or ingredients that aren’t normally in my pantry. But after reading the authors brief forward to each recipe, each seems more approachable and possible. More friendly. More likable.

Michael’s recipes have a unique flair. His photography is mesmerizing. The book is beautifully designed. Tying it all together is a dose of Michael’s warmth and his gentle encouragement for omnivores to explore more vegetarian cuisine and for vegetarians to expand their repertoires.

The author writes, “I propose to bring you a collection of vegetarian recipes that are so full of flavor, so pleasurable to make and to eat, and so satisfying that, if you are an omnivore, you won’t give a second thought to the fact that they contain no meat. If you are a vegetarian, you’ll be able to greatly expand your repertoire of everyday and special-occasion dishes.”

Whether you are an omnivore, vegetarian or vegan, I’m quite sure you will find a recipe or two in this book to add to your usual routine. At the very least, you will enjoy the colorful photography and the story of a self-trained man who I think deserves all the success that comes his way.

This giveaway is closed. Congratulations to Robin who won the copy of Herbivoracious.

If you don’t win, this hard cover book is on sale at Amazon for under $14!