Hoffius caps career in the law with foray into cookbook publication

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by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Dirk Hoffius is a generous man.

The senior partner at Varnum seems to want to give something to everyone he encounters, so it is not surprising that he decided to share his recipes by publishing a cookbook.
The genesis of Just Good Food for Good Friends was not necessarily a happy one. His mother, Barbara, had a stroke and was in the Blodgett Hospital, across the street from Hoffius’s home.

After visiting his wife, Stuart Hoffius — who was a well-respected judge for the 17th Circuit Court from 1960 to 1998 — would join Dirk Hoffius and his wife Vickie for dinner.
Because the host and hostess would often have spent time visiting at Blodgett themselves, Hoffius took to preparing simple meals, often with ingredients he had on hand, meals which often relied on a great-tasting main ingredient enhanced by just a few others.

When Barbara Hoffius went into a nursing facility, the judge continued to share meals with his son and daughter-in-law. As time passed, Dirk Hoffius decided that it would be a good idea to record his recipe ideas.

“I started writing down what was  good, what worked, in a binder, just an old notebook that I found somewhere in the family belongings,” Hoffius says.

As he brought friends together, particularly at his cottage near Mackinac Island, he added to the growing pages of good food, including contributions from people he knew. Eventually, as people kept asking when they could see the recipes, he decided to publish his first cookbook.

“People kept asking me, ‘What’s your theme?’ I don’t really have a theme, I would say, it’s just good food. So we determined that that would be the name.”

Hoffius has gotten together over the years, sometimes involving food, with a group of friends meeting under personal trainer Roberta Dolphin. When Dolphin heard the group discussing the cookbook, she suggested adding “for good friends” to the title, since sharing  with others is so important to Hoffius.

The path to publication was not obstacle-free. Hoffius decided to do all the typesetting himself so it looked as he envisioned it. He was advised to use a Mac computer, but had to go through a learning curve in order to get it right.

In final form, each recipe in the spiral-bound cookbook is accompanied by a sidebar with comments on the recipe and/or stories on how it came about.

That process took two years, since it had to be squeezed in between his very busy estate planning practice and a wide variety of community activities including serving on the Grand Rapids Art Museum and Grand Rapids Community Foundation boards.

Upon its release in late 2009, Hoffius gave one away to each of his Varnum colleagues — what someone referred to as “a good marketing plan” — and placed the book at local bookstores and gift shops.

These include Papers Plus in Gaslight Village, Art of the Table, and Schuler Books and Music. Later he added Meijer Gardens and Kennedy’s Flowers and Gifts.
Sales have been brisk, and according to Hoffius, “We’ve gone through 3200,” quite a feat in the bookselling world. “I fairly often run into people who tell me they’ve bought eight or ten, just to give as gifts.” The book is reasonably priced at $15.

Now, Hoffius is so well-known for his cooking that people frequently ask him to participate in fund-raisers. He participated in a celebrity chef event held at Papers Plus to support the Fulton Street Farmers Market, which also featured the Grand Rapids Press’s Jaye Beeler and Anja Mast of the locally-sourced restaurant Trillium Haven, which opened at the beginning of July.

He even has the unique experience of having his services sold at auction, for worthy causes. “They auctioned me off at the Conductive Learning Center, I went for $2700,” Hoffius says with a twinkle in his eye. The people who paid for his cooking skills were given a choice of recipes from the book.

Those recipes vary from Tarragon Pickles to Red Beans and Rice (including the comment, “I find the effort to make fluffy rice such a pain in the neck...”) to Brined Beer Can Chicken. Luscious desserts include Irene’s Lace Cookies, for which he credits wife Vickie, to the Southern-inspired Chocolate Chess Pie. (The Hoffius family has a beach house in South Carolina.)

Hoffius regrets that his father did not live to see the cookbook’s publication; he passed away on Jan. 19, 2005, as plans were just underway.

Hoffius comments on his family heritage in an article he gives out, published by Varnum, called “The Best Advice I Ever Got:”

“I started out in litigation, perhaps because both my grandfather and my father were litigators, prosecutors, and circuit judges. I wasn’t a litigator long enough to know whether I was any good. But success, if it came, would have been hollow at best because I didn’t enjoy the job. I do love what I’m doing now...”

What he loves, and excels at, is estate planning. He says the field has changed since his entry in the early 1970s, after receiving his L.L.B. from the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville. “When I first started it was really quite cut and dried, but we have lots of things we can do now to help people with substantial assets. What you have to offer is an understanding of the family, paying attention to the issues within the family and their unique assets. You have to listen carefully.”

Not one to rest on his laurels, to say the least, Hoffius along with a few partners has started a line of adventure apparel called Ouddada Wadda. The offerings currently consist of high-quality polo shirts, hats, and a fleece jacket and hats, and they can be viewed at www.ouddadawadda.com.

And yes, there is a second cookbook in the offing. “I’m about a third of the way, and it will be the same type of simple, delicious foods,”Hoffius says.