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Food is fast becoming entertainment, so it's only natural that it should follow in the footsteps of sports and show business and offer up a collection of bloopers. Literary agent Witherspoon and food writer Friedman corralled 40 gastronomic heavyweights to share their versions of dinners gone wrong. The highlight is, unsurprisingly, the piece by chef and bestselling author Anthony Bourdain. His "New Year's Meltdown" is a case study in what happens when you don't plan (Bourdain admits, "Nobody likes a 'learning experience'—translating as it does to 'a total [a**-f******]'—but I learned"). Mario Batali's "The Last Straw," though not relating a culinary catastrophe per se, is runnerup: Batali was in culinary school when he clashed with a chef; in a spectacular crescendo, the chef hurled a pan of risotto at the young student, but revenge was sweet. But for every fantastic screwup, there's a dud. The translated pieces (such as the one by Spanish titan Ferrán Adrià) fail to captivate, and others, like Jimmy Bradley's tale about how he got drunk on the job to spite his boss, are neither entertaining nor instructive. Still, this collection happily reminds us that even big shots have off days. (Oct.)
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As uplifting as it is amusing; it's a reminder that--in real life as in the kitchen--guts are as important as genius. (People (four stars/Critic's Pick))
If you liked Kitchen Confidential for its frank behind-the-scenes glimpses of kitchen life, you'll love this book. (Los Angeles Times)
Once you've watched these masters of their universe drop a foie gras terrine into a bowl of warm chocolate sauce, restore a wedding cake accidentally covered with shards of glass, disguise a bag of dirty laundry with crème anglaise to stand in for a mound of fallen meringue--you'll realize you've probably gotten off easy. (Washington Post Book World)
The chefs, now stars themselves, deserve credit for having managed to endure so much misery early in their careers, from tyrannical bosses, spoiled patrons, eye-rolling waiters and thuggish busboys. The best of the essays here convey that spirit of determination, alongside the absurd theater of it all. (Wall Street Journal)