Ten Bazillion Years: The Annick Giroux Interview

Bazillion Points, the heavy metal publishing house founded by Sound of Beast author Ian Christe, turns 10 this year. To celebrate, Decibel has corralled 10 authors from the BP stable to discuss their own works and what it’s like to part of the world’s heaviest publisher. 

Annick Giroux, Hellbent for Cooking

It doesn’t matter whether you’re here for the metal or here for the cooking; Hellbent for Cooking—featuring recipes painstakingly assembled and battle-tested by Annick “Morbid Chef” Giroux is where it’s at. As a culinary manual, Hellbent for Cooking is exceptionally user-friendly, with a light, cheeky tone and (mostly) easy-to-follow instructions, plus additional insights from Giroux designed to coax readers into having fun in the kitchen. Giroux has been a bit busier than she lets on since the book’s release in 2010, both as a promoter of the Wings of Metal Festival in Montreal and vocalist of Cauchemar, whose 2016 LP Chapelle ardente is kinda the perfect soundtrack for working through recipes from the likes of Pagan Altar, Reverend Bizarre and Trouble.

In the intro to Hellbent for Cooking, you sort of describe the “aha!” moment that led you to creating a heavy metal cookbook, but not the mechanics of putting it together. How long did it take you to assemble the manuscript and how close to your initial vision would you say it ended up?
At the very beginning, Hellbent for Cooking was just a section of a fanzine (Morbid Tales #6). It was made rather primitively in black and white in just a few days and only had 20 or so recipes! For the pro-looking color cookbook itself that was released by Bazillion Points, my deadline was six months and I followed it to the letter. I basically turned down all social invitations and dedicated myself entirely to research, writing, cooking, photographing and laying out the recipe pages. It was an exciting time, I’m not normally an early bird, but I was always up super early during that period as I was excited as hell to see which new recipe had dropped in my inbox! The book turned out very close to what I had hoped because I designed it myself. Perhaps I was missing a few of my favorite names and some countries, but that could always be arranged in a future edition [Laughs]! Who knows!?

Who did you reach out to first for recipes? And who was the hardest “get” among the artists profiled here?
My first step was to pull CDs from my collection and reach out my favorite bands. I was active in the fanzine scene, so I knew quite a handful of people already… most people were very surprised but intrigued by my idea. Some were insulted, thinking it was just a gimmick or a joke, but I was absolutely dead serious. The hardest artist to get was… Philomena Lynott (late Thin Lizzy vocalist/bassist Phil Lynott’s mother)! I called her in Ireland, but neither of us could decrypt our accents, so I wrote her a letter. Finally, she sent me her son’s favorite recipe. How amazing is that? I also have a few failed attempts of reaching out bigger names like AC/DC and Rob Halford’s management, but nothing came of it. Judas Priest is one of my favorite bands, and I would have loved it so much to have something from him. I even spoke to Wendy Dio on the phone when her husband was still alive, but it didn’t work out—I was really hoping for some obscure Italian family recipe!

How many times did you cycle through each of the recipes in your own test kitchen?
It depends on the recipe—most of them just once if they tasted good, but I remember redoing the DESTRUCTION Pizza Crust three times until I got something decent!

Which of the recipes in Hellbent for Cooking do you find yourself going back to most often?
The Pictavian Chicken by Shaxul (it falls off the bone, holy fuck it’s good), Tortilla de Patatas, Mummified Jalapeno Bacon Bombs (Autopsy) and Tankard’s amazing Beer Pizza Crust are all favorites in my household.

One of my favorite things in this cookbook is the great pains you took to present the artists in their own authentic voices. The riff on shepherd’s pie from Terry Jones of Pagan Altar includes “enough potatoes for your family/guests” in the ingredient list. This makes perfect sense to the initiated, but did you worry that things like this might be hard for a novice home cook to follow?
Not really. Most of these recipes were written by novice themselves. When Terry Jones gave me that recipe, he said “you can write what I know about cooking on a postage stamp in foot high letters, but for you I will have a go” so I assumed his recipe would be easy enough for everyone to follow [Laughs]!

The food styling and photography in Hellbent for Cooking is particularly lovely. What are some tips for good plating?
Thank you very much! To be honest, I am looking at the book right now and I am cringing a bit at my photos as I learned so much about food and beautiful presentations in almost 10 years since the book was published, but I took a lot of influence from other cookbooks and restaurants, taking mental notes on how to present food in an appetizing way. Perhaps these tips are not just for plating, but for some good food photography, outside (in the shade if possible) is the best place to take photos if you don’t have good studio lights. Always make your plate look inviting and ready for action, show your soup’s texture in a spoon, or the cheese texture by stretching it a bit… the inside of your cake by taking a little bite or placing it in an angle so you see its content. Add color with fresh spices, use colorful and super fresh ingredients (in season, if possible). Damn, I’m getting hungry here!

I gather your original vision was to issue updates and musings on food on the book’s website, but it currently redirects to the Bazillion Points site. What happened there?
I’m not really sure what happened there! I did give a few recipes for some blogs online, but it never really went further than that. I did go on an 18-month trip after the book was released, so I might have had no time for it.

Besides owning a good quality chef’s knife, is it worth splurging on any other kitchen implement?
A large cutting board or surface! I recently bought one from a local artisan and it’s changing my life [Laughs]! I’m pretty simplistic in my kitchen to be honest. Of course, when cooking larger amounts, a high-quality food processor is a lifesaver.

What is your favorite Bazillion Points book besides your own? And what’s your favorite cookbook besides your own?
Swedish Death Metal! I must have read that book six times already. I also really loved Mark Evans’ autobiography Dirty Deeds. Also, Murder in the Front Row and Only Death Is Real. For cookbooks, I currently love my collection of early 1900 pieces that I inherited from my mom; I love discovering old ways of preparing traditional Canadian cuisine. I would love one day to cook like a grandma.

You were a prolific ‘zinester before the publication of Hellbent for Cooking. How did becoming an author of a book in a physical format significantly change your life?
[Laughs]! That’s a good question! When the book came out, I was constantly being recognized in concerts and festivals: “Hey, you’re that cookbook lady!” It doesn’t happen much anymore, but it always sparked up funny conversations. I’m now a singer in a band, and because of the cookbook, the promoters always try to impress us with insane catering; which is fucking awesome! But as for writing a physical book, I don’t really see a huge change besides having a name that is a bit more known.