Chef Dennis Chan loves to buy cookbooks. For the past 10 years, he has searched for culinary gems at one place: the book warehouse sales sponsored by the Friends of the Jacksonville Public Library (FJPL).
“I’ve been to at least 20 of the sales,” Chan said. He is a loyal repeat customer because he likes to support the library, and as chef and owner of the Blue Bamboo restaurant, he believes he can never have too many cookbooks. Yet, he admitted that his wife, Elizabeth, might not agree.
“My wife rolls her eyes every time I say I’m going to the book sale, because there are so many books at home; there’s hardly any more room,” Chan said. “If you asked her how many I have, she would say, ‘Way too many.’”
Chan estimated his collection at nearly 500 cookbooks, yet that won’t stop him from attending the upcoming sale this weekend, Feb. 19 – 21. And because it’s such a worthy cause, his wife actually goes with him. She looks for novels while he searches for his next great find. The couple also donates books to be sold at the event.
FJPL, a nonprofit organization founded in 1955, sells books to enhance the library’s budget. Volunteers make it possible for the group to conduct several sales each year at its warehouse within the University Park Branch Library. For book lovers who miss the sales, the FJPL bookstore at the same location offers year-round book bargains.
Sylvia Wren, FJPL president, said the sales would not be possible without so many wonderful volunteers and buyers. And without their efforts, many extras would not be available at the library. “The prices are so low and the cause so important that I hope Jacksonville residents will visit us to uncover their own literary gems.”
Chan first learned about the book sale from his restaurant customers. Years ago, the volunteers who worked the sale came to eat at his restaurant and invited him to visit. He went once and was hooked. Now he tells others about the book sale.
“I always find something,” Chan said. “And sometimes I find a jewel. Last time I found a classic Cuban cookbook in Spanish. That’s a treasure. I can read culinary Spanish so it was a great find. Most of the time, the books I find give me ideas on new menu specials and new techniques.”
Chan renews his annual $10 membership to the Friends, so he can shop on the first night, which is open only to members. Payment can be made at the door. “They all know me and make sure I renew my membership every year,” Chan said laughing. “The ladies always have the membership form ready for me.”