The Dish: The Lives and Labor Behind One Plate of Food (Mariner Books, October 2023)
Told during the heat of a Saturday night service at an independent Chicago restaurant, this book introduces readers to the key people whose stories and work come together in a single dish–from the chefs to dishwashers, and from farmers to the delivery-truck drivers who transport their produce and proteins to restaurants.
Chefs, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: How Food Lovers, Free Spirits, Misfits, and Wanderers Created a New American Profession (2018)
The story of the rise and early evolution of the American restaurant chef from coast to coast, and from the early 1970s through the early 1990s. (Ecco Press, February 2018)
KNIVES AT DAWN: America’s Quest for Culinary Glory at the Bocuse d’Or, the World’s Most Prestigious Cooking Competition (2009)
To write this book, I trailed the American team as they trained, then headed off to battle, in the Bocuse d’Or. As things turned out, the team was from The French Laundry, and I found myself immersed in the worlds of Thomas Keller and, back home in NYC, Bocuse d’Or USA president Daniel Boulud, not to mention the subculture of culinary competition. As anybody reading this blog probably knows, there was no Hollywood ending, but watching two of our most important chefs (and industry businessmen) do their thing was a life-changing experience for me, as was observing the creative process of Timothy Hollingsworth, who went on to become the chef de cuisine of The French Laundry. This is not to mention glimpses of Cafe Boulud’s Gavin Kaysen, Keller’s mentor Roland Henin, and the team’s commis, Adina Guest, the head-down, all-business kid with the lightning-fast hands.
TO THE BONE (2013)(in collaboration with Paul Liebrandt)
How do chefs evolve? When does the influence of masters become assimilated and mutate into one’s own personal style? And where do dishes come from? These questions and others are explored in this kitchen narrative that traces Paul Liebrandt’s story from earliest childhood to present day, chronicling along the way his professional and technical development. Liebrandt’s too young for the book to be deemed a memoir, and there aren’t enough recipes to qualify it as a cookbook; we refer to it as a “literary tasting menu,” one that’s illustrated with breathtaking food and kitchen photographs by the incomparable Evan Sung.
DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: Culinary Catastrophes from the World’s Greatest Chefs (2005)(co-edited with Kimberly Witherspoon)
Kitchen disaster stories from forty famous toques, and one of the best times of my professional life. Twelve of the chefs penned their own stories, including Tony Bourdain, Gabrielle Hamilton, and Fergus Henderson; one of the best-written tales came from Norman Van Aken, which reminded me that the chef dreamed of becoming a writer before choosing the kitchen life. The rest were penned by yours truly, giving me a chance to collaborate oh so briefly with the likes of Daniel Boulud, Mario Batali, Eric Ripert, Heston Blumenthal, Geoffrey Zakarian, and Wylie Dufresne. I’ll forever be grateful for the low points and, in most cases, heroic recoveries, these and other toques shared with me and Kim Witherspoon (who conceived the project), especially Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger: Can’t believe you shared that story, ladies!