Save the Deli

Meet Team Save the Deli

Many of you think that I’m a one man deli machine, chronicling delis, eating myself obese, writing, publishing, and promoting my upcoming book.

I’m flattered, but the truth is that everything I do is done in concert with Team Save the Deli.

Who is team Save the Deli? Well, it’s mostly female, half based in New York, and half in Toronto, with one in Boston, half Jewish, half Gentile, and all talent.

Let’s meet them.

My US publisher is Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and over there, there are two people who are bombarded by my emails on a daily basis.

The most important of these is Jenna Johnson, my editor, co-pilot, and occasional taskmaster. Since acquiring the rights to my book back in 2007 (when she worked for Harcourt), she is the person responsible for changing it’s name from “Death of the Deli” to “Save the Deli”, cutting it down from over five hundred pages, to the svelte three hundred, tightening up the prose, the flow, and the message, fighting for my cover, coordinating blurbs, art, galleys, and pretty much every single thing that’s gone into this. Some days I feel like she’s Obama and I’m Axelrod, on others, I’m Nixon and she’s Kissinger.

The woman who receives the second largest volume of email from my fingers is the wonderful Taryn Roeder, who came into my life earlier this year as my publicist. She lives in Boston, so I only met her for the first time last thursday, when she organized a media lunch at the 2nd Ave Deli. While most writers I know complain bitterly about their publicists, and how little they do, I actually feel guilty at how much Taryn is doing. She’s booking my tour, dealing with delis, and bookstores, and random JCC folk, in addition to organizing articles for the media, reviews, and other press. She’s always positive, full of energy, and great ideas, and I’m sure she prays for the day when my email barrage ends.

Here’s a photo of Taryn (on the left) and Jenna (right) taken last Thurs at the 2nd Ave Deli with yours truly.

I shouldn’t forget Lori Glazer, the head of publicity at HMH, who is directing the overall campaign. She tends to work quietly, without getting too excited, and yet everything she does hits large. Just word from Lori sets the wheels in motion. Also, she’s taken to inviting me to various Jewish fundraising events, ostensibly to help pump the book, though I secretly think to eat the rubber kosher chicken that’s served.

For nearly two and a half years I’ve been in the hands of the venerable Canadian publisher McClelland & Stewart, who bought this book from a proposal called “Hold the Mustard”, which look nothing like the finished product.

Heading up M&S (as it’s known) is Doug Pepper, a Toronto Hebrew with British style, who lived and worked in New York publishing for many years, before returning home to keep Canadian culture alive. So to speak. If building this book has been a long, complicated process, than Doug is the Frank Gehry figure who sketched out the idea on the cocktail napkin, and let me and his team to the rest. Ever so often he’ll pipe in with a thought, decision, or advice, but generally he lets everyone figure stuff out on their own, which is great. If he was a lapsed deli lover before, he’s a die hard by now.


While Jenna Johnson edited me in New York, Jenny Bradshaw in Toronto was working side by side with her (though they’ve never met), slicing into my words with dramatic slashes of red ink, whittling away at my ramblings until they sounded somewhat coherent. Jenny never once lost her cool, even when I bombarded her time and again with grammatical imperfections and un-hyphenated words that were too numerous to count. Her eye for detail is flawless, like Spock with words, which makes me Sulu perhaps?

Marilyn Bederman is responsible for selling my book to the US, then Harcourt, now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (oh sweet leveraged buy outs), and eventually she’ll sell it to other countries as well (I pray). Ashley Dunn, my PR maven in Canada, is just getting warmed up, but we’re all expecting fantastic things in the next few months.

So there you have it folks. Team Save the Deli. Everyone here is supported by many many more, some of whom I’ve met, and some who are doing what they do in the background.

How about some digital applause?

8 Responses to “Meet Team Save the Deli”

  1. Bradley Beach Says:

    HMH not depicted too well in yesterday’s NYT. Careful.

  2. Michael H ganz Says:

    Thank you for introducing us to the wonderful staff of Save The Deli. In Long Island and New York City we are fortunate to have Ben’s and Mendy’s. Ben’s is also in Florida.

  3. julia s Says:

    All the members of your team are helping promote a fabulous history and the cultural journey of Jewish delicatessen – keep up the good work, and we can hardly wait to see the book in the stores! Thanks for introducing them to your loyal fans!

  4. djueat Says:

    Good stuff. You’re a beautiful human being, David.

  5. Pinchas Schwartz Says:

    Great memories and even greater food….thanks for helping us all relive those days and fine tastes over and over again.

  6. mike mcgrath Says:


    I’m looking forward to reading your book. The decline of deli culture is noticable but it probably has something to do with moving from NY and Philly to the San Francisco Bay Area. Just curious to know if your book tour will take you to SF. I hope so.

  7. nate salter Says:

    I follow your column with tears in my eyes. Being diagnosed with kidney failure two years ago, and being on home Dialysis is liveable, but what is making me crazy is the fact that deli meats are verboten due to their salt and nitrite content.

    My savior has been Dave Gelberman at Wolfies in
    Toronto, who has been making me roast beef sandwiches, deli sliced with hot mustard. Close enough when combined with the irresistable aroma of the deli itself, it makes the deprivation a lot more liveable. Thank you Dave because this combination causes me gastronomical satiation without getting me in trouble with my doctors.

    Having lived my whole life in Toronto, having eaten at places like The original Shopsy’s and Switzers on Spadina and enjoyed the dining at Pancers and Colemans, the memories are making me hungry as I write.

    In our family, to this very day, we celebrate family events with a large take out order of deli and while we are now over 13 when we all get together, at our home, regardless of how much we order believe me it all disappears.

    One of my greatest pleasures is taking my grand Children, once they have teeth, to Wolfies for a nosh. You can’t teach them too young. You know when you look at it that way, a whole new generation are growing up and learning the joy of deli.

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