From bookseller to book publisher and vice versa, Mika Bereket, owner of Good Egg, has had a unique experience

When Mika Bereket closed the doors in 2018 to Good Egg, his beloved Kensington Market cookbook store, due to a dispute with the owner, the reopening was never a guarantee. And that he would be so welcome in a Toronto now on the other side of a global pandemic was barely within his imagination.

Bereket was devastated and exhausted as she liquidated her store, watching a legacy she had built fade book by book. Yet as a Toronto-raised woman steeped in food culture from the beginning, Bereket, who worked in bookstores for most of her life, was not going to turn her back on what had always been her passion. “I grew up around the corner from Kensington,” he says. “My mother did all her shopping right here and I always accompanied her.”

Bereket took cooking classes as a child and was inspired by the different ingredients available on her “stomping grounds.” Although she learned a lot from her Eastern European mother’s cooking skills, her interest in cooking grew out of a desire to diversify from her mother’s commitment to the foods of that region. Being in Kensington Market and Chinatown attracted Bereket to Asian dishes, which he would recreate at home.

Good Egg, a culinary bookstore and gift shop, is back at Kensington Market.

A self-proclaimed “jerk” as a high school student, Bereket used to head to what was once the bookstore to wipe out all the bookstores, Pages on Queen West, and treat herself to a cookbook. He preferred the Pepins to the Phoenix and, as a teenager, he found their hearts on PBS cooking shows. Long before “Top Chef” existed, Bereket believed in the chef as a star who had magical access to worlds unreachable for those unfamiliar with cooking.

It’s no wonder, then, that the longtime cookbook seller decided to become a cookbook publisher, naming her label after her beloved store. “It was something I’d been thinking about for years,” says Bereket, “and had often casually chatted with multiple James Beard award winner Jennifer McLagan about one day doing it.”

Bereket’s reopened store, stocked with elaborate hardcover books with beautiful photographs, may seem at odds with the basic approach of your own publishing project. But, she argues, she is not a “fancy” eater. “If there’s a giant shrimp with a head,” she says proudly, “I’m the first to eat the head.” This kind of zero-waste consumption is a sensibility that made its way into Bereket’s foray into independent publishing.

Mika Bereket's culinary bookstore and gift shop promote written books that focus on fast foods that use fewer ingredients.

Good Egg’s first book, McLagan’s “Blood,” a lean and purposeful paperback dedicated to cooking with the titular liquid, It sold out its first print and was named one of the Best Cookbooks of 2020 by Bon Appetit and The New Yorker. Since then, Bereket has published “Limes” by Cory Mintz, which, like “Blood,” is affordable and digestible, accessible to young cooks who may not have the funds for the typical hardcover.

This minimalist approach fit in perfectly during the height of the pandemic, which saw a resurgence of home cooks with time on their hands and limited access to ingredients. And because many Torontons were spending more time in their kitchens, Bereket saw an opportunity to open a store in the market once again, albeit a few blocks south on Augusta Street. “I felt a slight sense of responsibility for doing what I could to help people start cooking,” he says.

Mika Bereket's culinary bookstore and gift shop promote written books that focus on fast foods that use fewer ingredients.

Good Egg 2.0 now has an interest in books written during the lockdown that focus on making easy meals with fewer ingredients. “These kinds of books are full of advice on how to stock our pantries and, in general, be more efficient in the kitchen,” says Bereket. She hopes this modern approach to recipe writing will appeal to young cooks who are exploring Kensington for the first time.

But what if this clever cure doesn’t work? “Of course there are a lot of new dispensaries,” he says, “that can only lead to one thing: snacks.” She is confident that this cannabis-induced condition will attract some curious and hungry new cooks.

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