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Chefs, Drugs and Rock & Roll


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By Andrew Friedman of course, and thanks to Diancecht for prompting me to read it. Would love to hear what others think.

Having just finished it, I'll say again that the title does the book a disservice. There's a lot of drugs on page 310, but this is not about chefs as addicts or as rock stars (Bourdain makes a brief late appearance, and the whole Food Network thing is barely hinted at). It's a fairly comprehensive oral history of the creation of an American restaurant scene with chefs (rather than owners) as its heroes. It starts in the early '70s with Chez Panisse and Spago and finishes with a heavy New York focus in the early 90s. The characters and careers are familiar but there are many stories I didn't know. I was unaware, for example, of John McPhee and the "Otto" phenomenon in The New Yorker.

What we need, though, is volume two. This is not a complaint, it's over 400 pages, but there's so much that happens later, especially in the early 2000s: just in New York, Craft, Momofuku, a downtown dining scene, chefs as TV stars, the counter/tasting menu restaurants. Mid-90s, say, up to the lockdown would make a very good read.

Inevitably, a lot gets overlooked that happened outside San Francisco, L.A. and New York. There could have been more about Norman Van Aken, and I am convinced there should have been more about what Dean Fearing was doing at Mansion on Turtle Creek. But like I said, it's over 400 pages anyway.

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I finished it a few weeks ago. Agree with @Wilfridabout the title. Like him, lots I never knew about. Of particular interest for me was the discussion about Dodin Bouffant. It was the first very upscale restaurant Michael and I went to. At that time, a major splurge. No memory of what we ate, but what does remain vivid is that when Michael ordered a bottle of wine that cost $25, I nearly had a heart attack. Overall, I found the book an entertaining read.

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1 hour ago, rozrapp said:

I finished it a few weeks ago. Agree with @Wilfridabout the title. Like him, lots I never knew about. Of particular interest for me was the discussion about Dodin Bouffant. It was the first very upscale restaurant Michael and I went to. At that time, a major splurge. No memory of what we ate, but what does remain vivid is that when Michael ordered a bottle of wine that cost $25, I nearly had a heart attack. Overall, I found the book an entertaining read.

Wow.  I had a similar experience in 1972 or 1974 going to Dodin Bouffant.  I think I had seafood.  Definitely the first upscale French restaurant I'd ever visited.  Based on my finances at the time, it must have been found in some guidebook (Michelin?) as the least expensive quality choice.  I believe I had a glass of table wine.

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