Celebrating 25 years of book 1

It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since I published my first cookbook.

The Symply Too Good To Be True business started with an ironing board for a desk, a hired computer and a loan from my in-laws. The 13th of November marked 25 years since book 1 was launched.  And I’m pleased to say I was featured in the local Sunshine Coast News with the following article.


‘Symply amazing’: Coast’s first cookbook queen reaches major milestone in publishing

By Shirley Sinclair

A much-loved cookbook series that has landed on more than four million kitchen shelves worldwide started 25 years ago this month from a Buderim home.

Book 1 in the self-published Symply Too Good To Be True series sold out its initial print in Queensland newsagencies in two weeks after its launch at Maroochy RSL Club on November 13, 1997.

It hit 100,000 sales nationally in that first year.

And that was a huge relief for its author Annette Sym, who sweated over its 76 colour pages and more than 150 recipes.

“I initially printed 10,000, thinking: ‘I hope I’m not going to be stuck with them and have to give them to people for Christmas for 10 years’,” Annette says with a chuckle.

“Now we’re nine books in, lots of e-books as well and other things on the website. It’s just following the trends and keeping up with it.

“I sound a little bit like Madonna – I just keep reinventing myself.

“It’s just an amazing thing to be celebrating 25 years. Who would have thought?”

After dropping a whopping 35kg from her 100kg body and working for WeightWatchers (now WW) for four-and-a-half years, Annette knew a demand existed for healthy, tasty, no-fuss, low-fat dishes that all the family could enjoy.

“I couldn’t find recipes that were anything but boring and I wanted to show people that you could still have the lasagnes and the curries,” says the woman who could rightly lay claim to being the Sunshine Coast’s first ‘celebrity cook’.

“I had a little book of my recipes for the (WeightWatchers) members and they all loved cooking my dishes.

“I just did it. I didn’t think about failure. I felt I needed to do it.”

Her website is testament to that conviction, with nine cookbooks (seven Symply Too Good To Be True, Cooking For 1 or 2 People and More Cooking for 1 or 2 People), health shakes (including dairy-free) and a variety of kitchenware and tableware.

The seven Symply Too Good books (the set is the website’s bestseller) are considered ‘kitchen bibles’ to many home cooks.

Chicken Pizziola book 1
Chicken Pizziola recipe from book 1

Book 1 (including what remains one of Annette’s personal favourites, Chicken Pizziola) was groundbreaking as one of the first cookbooks anywhere to include a colour photo of how each recipe should look once completed.

The longevity of the books’ appeal has always been in updating, improving and expanding.

Book 1, for example, has been updated three times – most recently in 2017 with a new cover and binding, better photos and a numbered method for easier instruction.

Symply Too Good To Be True book 1
The 3 versions of book 1 from oldest to newest

The nutritional breakdown at the end of each recipe also was transformed over the years to include carbohydrates and sodium, as well as the GI rating.

When Annette and husband Bill found themselves as empty nesters, they realised many other singles and couples needed recipes with smaller portions to reduce any wastage, so Cooking For 1 or 2 People and More Cooking for 1 or 2 People were born.

But all nine books follow a, well, ‘symple’ formula.

“They’re books to be used in the kitchen. They’re not a coffee table book,” Annette says.

“My technique is, I just chop it up, chuck it in the pot and cook it. I don’t want it to be too hard.

“I’ve got other things I want to do. People say to me, ‘You must love cooking’ and I say, ‘No, I just love to eat’.

“The comments that I got from the beginning were, ‘Oh my gosh, I love it – the ingredients are all in supermarket, you’ve got the nutrition information there, so I know what I’m doing, it’s all making me feel confident and it’s food that the whole family want to eat and not just the person who’s wanting to lose weight’.”

Over that quarter-century, Annette has practised what she’s preached to thousands of others in recognising that a lifestyle change is needed to not only reach goals but also maintain an individual healthy weight and avoid slipping back into old habits.

“There’s always been hundreds and hundreds of fad diets come and go but my theory of eating healthy, looking at the low saturated fats, being conscious of the calories that you have and just being active and drinking water – nothing’s changed,” the wife, mother of three daughters and grandmother of six says.

“It’s still the same for this generation that I’m teaching as well.

Me with the life-sized cardboard cutout of me at 100 kilos

“I love there’s so many people who’ve had better lives for their health because of the books.

“My biggest reward is hearing people say, ‘I’ve lost 30kg and I’m off my diabetes medication’. That is everything for me.”

Her mentoring program has kept Annette extremely busy of late.

“People sign up for eight weeks and three times a year I do a six-week challenge. Every week they get a menu plan for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

“There’s three levels, because I feel it’s important for someone who’s got to lose 5kg or 50kg.  They can’t have the same menu plan quantities, whereas most diets do that.

“I also make sure they’re getting at least 30g of fibre in their menu, calcium – things that I feel are important for good health.”

Once the eight weeks are over, participants can take up a monthly membership fee for all the support they need through emails, videos, live Q&As and a private Facebook group.

Find out about Annette’s online Mentoring program HERE

Then there’s the live Thursday with Annette show on Facebook that hit 30,000 views during recent Covid lockdowns, as well as planning for an upcoming in-person Saturday with Annette show at Maroochy RSL.

Retirement is still a distant dream, it seems, although Annette still enjoys being around what she calls “her tribe” of supporters, customers and followers.

The 2000 Sunshine Coast Outstanding Business Woman of the Year and 2004 Telstra Australian Micro Business of the Year winner loves nothing better than cooking in front of an audience and chatting afterwards.

At 67, these demonstrations are far more preferable to the three-day retreats she once planned and conducted – including overseas to Bali and Thailand’s Koh Samui.

But she has scaled back to three days a week in the Buderim office she shares with Bill as chief financial officer and her righthand woman of more than 10 years, Dianne Wallyn.

“All the years and the memories are just so fabulous,” Annette says without hesitation.

“It’s been a great ride, that’s for sure.

“We’re all really busy but loving it.

“I still get asked for another one (cookbook) and I go, ‘Gosh, people, let me retire’.

“Maybe in a couple of years we’ll look at (retiring). I just have to have a plan for it.

“I don’t want to retire and just sit around, wondering what to do with myself.

“I think, ‘Well, we’ve still got a spring in our step. Let’s just see how we go’.”


Read the original story on the link below:

How Coast author ‘symply’ slow cooked an empire

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