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Dining Out: Secrets from America's Leading Critics, Chefs, and Restaurateurs [Paperback]

Andrew Dornenburg , Karen Page
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 6 1998
This book is the first of its kind to examine what defines fine food in America and it introduces us to many individuals who shape our views about food. Using other successful Dornenburg/Page books as a model, the authors once again base their analysis on interviews with chefs, restaurateurs and critics. This insider's guide to the process of restaurant reviewing will excite anyone with a serious interest in food. It also features top sites on the Internet that provide restaurant reviews. 'If I were a restaurateur, I would expect all my staff to read this book. As a restaurant critic, I found it a fascinating insight into the minds of other critics and more especially the minds of some of the people who are serious about running a restaurant.'

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From Amazon

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.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Phyllis Richman, The Washington Post's restaurant critic for more than twenty years, has been cited as one of the 100 most influential people in the United States' capital city. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars so-so Feb. 10 2003
Format:Paperback
Given the first two books they wrote, I expected more. This volume seems to be just a fluff piece to pay the bills. If there was a positive, I have realized that I know as much about food as most of the reviewers. At the same time, the chefs complained about reviewers not understanding them. When I go out to eat, I am NOT there to understand the chef. It's my money, then need to understand me. It may be worth reading but get it from the library.
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By A Customer
Format:Paperback
As someone who follows the restaurant scene with the same level of enthusiasm that some teenagers follow Jessica Simpson, I got caught up with all the brouhaha around the debut of the new New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni. This got me curious about restaurant critics and their methods and whether anyone had ever studied the subject, which led me to the one-of-a-kind book Dining Out by Dornenburg and Page. I found it incredibly illuminating, not to mention entertaining. The authors dissect every detail of how reviews are written and stars awarded, based on interviews with leading food critics such as Tom Sietsema (now of The Washington Post), S. Irene Virbila (of The Los Angeles Times), and Dennis Ray Wheaton (of Chicago Magazine). They also interview leading chefs and restaurateurs about their views on critics and the power of the press. I've come to learn that there is as much or more drama in the world of restaurants as there is in opera! This book even breaks down what it took to get a four-star review when former restaurant reviewer Ruth Reichl was at the helm.
Every discerning diner should read this book for an eye-opening look at the state of contemporary restaurant criticism, not to mention a tasty behind-the-scenes read about some of the country's best restaurants (including the rise and fall and rise again of New York's own Chanterelle restaurant, which just won Restaurant of the Year at this year's James Beard Foundation Awards).
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By A Customer
Format:Paperback
As a fan of both Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me With Apples, I've been looking forward to learning more about Ruth Reichl's life as one of America's most influential restaurant critics. This book was a fun look at what Ruth and other top critics do for a living: the secretiveness (and how she used disguises and credit cards with different names), the challenges (such as the weirdest things they've ever eaten, which range from fried worms to braised goat penis!), and the highlights (such as Ruth being told at Le Cirque, "The King of Spain is waiting in the bar, but your table is ready"). Dining Out is an enjoyable and informative read for any intelligent reader who loves the world of restaurants and the fascinating people who populate it!
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By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I became intrigued by the life of restaurant critics after reading former New York Times restaurant critic Ruth Reichl's wonderful memoirs "Tender at the Bone" and "Comfort Me With Apples" and wanted to learn more about the ultimate profession for people who love to eat (but don't necessarily love to cook). Ruth appears on the cover of "Dining Out" (wearing a beautiful black hat whose brim covers most of her lovely face), and there are lots of photographs of her on the inside as well where she shares some of her hilarious experiences reviewing restaurants. There is probably more about Ruth in this book than any other critic interviewed. One of the authors (Andrew Dorneburg) is a chef who has cooked for Ruth and writes about how nerve-wracking it was when she came in to eat at the restaurant where he was working at the time and she was recognized (despite the fact that she went on to buy numerous wigs and wore various disguises on other visits to other restaurants in order to remain anonymous). I never realized how much a critic's opinion can sometimes make or break a restaurant. I also enjoyed reading Ruth's list of her favorite restaurants across the United States (the back of the book is kind of a restaurant guide, and mentions different critics favorite restaurants in cities across the US) and hope that someday I can eat at every one of them!
"Dining Out" is a fascinating book that I would highly recommend to anyone who loves dining out in restaurants and/or is curious about what it's like for Ruth Reichl and other restaurant critics who do so on a regular basis. It is an informative, funny, and touching journey through life in and around the restaurant business.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Nothing to get excited about March 14 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
In college we all sit around late, drinking, and complaining. This volume shows that chefs do that too. I found very few secrets or even good ideas. But I did find a lot of chefs crying about being misunderstood by the public and the reviewers. I guess speaking with the authors was cheaper than getting a therapist. But the authors' style is consistent. Still that uncritical idol worship.
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Format:Paperback
"Finally, the best insider's view of our business for the discerning restaurant goer. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page do a wonderful job of exploring the 'behind-the-scenes' side of professional cooking. As New York Times restaurant critic Ruth Reichl would say, 'Four stars!'" --DANIEL BOULUD, RESTAURANT DANIEL
"Dining Out is an intriguing foray into the secret and powerful world of restaurant criticism. Michael Donnelly's photographs confer an element of high style and high drama to this intelligent and absorbing book." --NANCY NOVOGROD, TRAVEL & LEISURE
"Dining Out is a fascinating story, one that absolutely needed to be written. I found this book to be a compelling, revealing, and utterly entertaining look at what the critics, and those they criticize, had to say." --MICHAEL ROMANO, UNION SQUARE CAFE
"This is no fair -- it took me a lifetime to learn all these insights into the restaurant business! Well done!" --ELLA BRENNAN, COMMANDER'S PALACE
"Dining Out is both entertaining and educational, and can make your restaurant experience the same. The sommeliers' comments add to the pleasure." --ROBERT MONDAVI, ROBERT MONDAVI WINERY
"Not unlike theater, restaurants have been made or destroyed by the words of a critic. Dining Out goes beyond the words to explore the underlying logic of the restaurant critic. It is an invaluable addition to the library of those who like to dine out." --LEONARD SCHLESINGER, HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL
"Don't start this book if you're hungry -- the guide to leading critics' favorite restaurants across the country is a challenge to start one's own food odyssey and eat at least one meal in all of them!" --JEANETTE WAGNER, THE ESTEE LAUDER COMPANIES INC.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well done.
The great and revered restaurateur Savarin is reputed to have said, "An animal swallows its food; a man eats it -- but only a man of intelligence knows how to dine. Read more
Published on Feb. 13 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars The pages buzz with surprising tension, humor and emotion.
"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... Read more
Published on June 6 2001
3.0 out of 5 stars A Nourishing Dish--Even Tho Not Reduced, Skimmed, Clarified
Okay, does it matter if good content is muddied by bad presentation? Only 2-3 of 18 reviews so far score DINING OUT down for the very unclear elucidation which I, also, find truly... Read more
Published on Jan. 12 2000 by Infovoyeur
3.0 out of 5 stars Finding the Good Things in the Mixed Buffet
There is a lot to like about this book-- if you can find it! Between layout, verbiage, and sidebars, there is no flow of language at all-- this is simply a huge buffet of... Read more
Published on Nov. 28 1999 by Coco Pazzo
5.0 out of 5 stars Nominated for two major book awards in 1999.
I saw that Dining Out was nominated for both the 1999 James Beard Book Award *and* the 1999 Julia Child Book Award earlier this year, and finally picked up a copy. Read more
Published on Oct. 9 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast-paced and fascinating.
A fast-paced and fascinating study of the dining industry, with a primary focus on those who critique it -- people who, in some cases, have become nearly as famous as those who... Read more
Published on Oct. 3 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars An amusing and often surprising book.
DINING OUT is a chatty, amusing and often surprising look at restaurant culture and the increasingly influential women and men who tell us where to eat and why. Read more
Published on May 6 1999
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