Having written about all it takes to become a chef in Becoming a Chef
, and about how those chefs do their work in Culinary Artistry
, James Beard Award
-winning authors Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page have turned their attention, with Dining Out
, to the subject of restaurants and restaurant critics. Restaurant owners, chefs, and critics alike get their turn to discuss the mercurial world of restaurant criticism--is the restaurant critic a valiant consumer advocate or a villainous ruiner of careers and businesses?
Dornenburg and Page interview 61 members of this "food intelligentsia" and offer the reader a snapshot of the process on either side of the kitchen door. New York Times critic Ruth Reichl notes, "I wake up in the middle of almost every night before a review is printed, agonizing over where the mistakes are.... I knew if I had called a turnip a rutabaga, my career was over." And chef Norman Van Aken says he believes "wholeheartedly in the idea of critical analysis, whether for books, movies, or restaurants. I just wish the public would understand that there are bad reviewers as well as bad reviews." Through interviews and research, Dornenburg and Page explore what it takes to become a critic, how the critics themselves feel about their power (not to mention what the restaurateurs feel), and the changing nature of what makes a great restaurant.
The book is packed with great quotes from chefs and critics, and peppered with sidebars on such handy topics as how to work with a wine steward in a restaurant to achieve the wine experience you're looking for. A lengthy appendix lists critics' favorite restaurants in more than 20 cities, and the beautiful black-and-white photographs by Michael Donnelly evoke both the fun and serious sides of restaurant life. Dining Out will appeal to foodies who delight in the behind-the-scenes stories of both chef and critic, and to anyone who's ever wondered just who those restaurant critics are, anyway.
From Publishers Weekly
Anybody who has ever dreamed of joining a restaurant critic's inner circle will thoroughly enjoy this gossipy, insider's view by the 1996 winners of the James Beard Award for Best Writing on Food (Becoming a Chef). Interviews with leading critics and restaurateurs are a major part of the author's investigation into the methods employed by critics and the effect they have on restaurateurs' culinary ideals. It's a (relatively) serious topic, but one Dornenburg and Page address in a vibrant, conversational tone. Thanks to the unexpectedly dramatic lives of the characters involved, the pages buzz with often surprising tension, humor and emotion. Readers hear from restaurateurs who have staked fortunes on a creative vision, only to find that success often rests in the hands of a single, highly opinionated, sometimes unpredictable writer. The critics, meanwhile (most notably the New York Times's Ruth Reichl, teasingly shown on the cover wearing a face-obscuring hat), don wigs to maintain anonymity, fend off attacks from knife-wielding chefs and eat such dubious delicacies as braised goat penis and worms fried in lard. After being regaled with so many tart and entertaining observations, the final 100 service-oriented pages (Internet review sites, critics' favorite restaurants in selected cities) are somewhat anticlimactic. But just treat them like the after-dinner mint and the rest of the meal will get high marks for its appealing presentation, spice and color. 50 photos.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.