Tuesday, February 23

Don't Try This at Home - Kimberly Witherspoon & Andrew Friedman (eds)

Inspired by famed French food writer and chef Brillat- Savarin's oft quoted observation that a the true food lover is one who manages to "go beyond mere catastrophe and to salvage at least one golden moment from each meal," this slender volume (subtitled Culinary Catastrophes from the World's Most Famous Chefs) collects the purpose-written remembrances of thirty three well-known chefs and food writers from around the world.After a brief career synopsis, each brief section aims to tell a story of culinary tragedy that (hopefully) has a glimmer of gold, from Jamie Oliver, Neil Perry, Anthony Worrell Thompson, Heston Blumenthal, Anthony Bourdain, Bill Granger and others.
Unsurprisingly, some contributions succeed more strongly than others - I particularly liked food writer Rowley Leigh's horrific tale of kitchen violence, so much so that I'm interested in tracking down his other work, and chef Gabrielle Hamilton's distressing tale of a would-be chef who was incompetent and blithely unaware of it, and blind. I also liked chef David Burke's story of triumph snatched from the jaws of defeat thanks to large quantities of polystyrene, and cookbook writer Tamasin Day-Lewis's accounts of her first forays into cooking while at college (the grouse scene was especially distressing and hilarious). Other entries were less captivating, or served to show the writer in a good light, or illustrate an aspect of restaurant life that patrons rarely see.
I wouldn't buy Don't Try This at Home, and probably won't feel the need to re-borrow it, but I did enjoy the ride and will sadly soon be disembarking my exploration of culinary literature. - Alex

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