In this enthusiastic history, food writer Friedman (Knives at Dawn) surveys the figures and institutions that powered the “transformation of American cooking” in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. Through the 1960s, Friedman writes, canned vegetables, McDonald’s, and TV dinners defined dining in America, with restaurant kitchens deemed the last refuge of dropouts and ex-cons. Then, he asserts, the countercultural upheaval behind draft dodging and Woodstock also inspired hippies to source local ingredients, while world travelers tried to recreate meals they experienced in France or Italy. Melded with the French nouvelle cuisine movement, these trends led thousands of young food enthusiasts to embrace cooking as a profession, a philosophy, and, not infrequently, a path to celebrity. Friedman follows a colorful assortment of these chefs—including David Bouley, Wolfgang Puck, and Alice Waters—as they defied a growing fast-food nation to create a headstrong new dining ethos that promoted chefs from being mere kitchen workers to achieving a new cultural prominence. Throughout, Friedman brings each chef to life: Charlie Palmer, for example, was “a broad-shouldered, Hemingway-esque former high school football player from the dairy community of Smyrna, New York,” who was terrified when he moved to New York City in the 1970s. Friedman’s passion for the subject infuses every anecdote, detail, and interview, making this culinary narrative an engrossing experience. (Feb.)
A tasty venture in a culinary wonderland.In his latest book, Friedman (Knives at Dawn: America's Quest for Culinary Glory at the Legendary Bocuse d'Or Competition, 2011, etc.), who has co-authored more than 20 cookbooks, focuses on the rise of the chef profession. The author anchors the book at the beginning of the 1970s, when "Americans, from coast to coast, and in large numbers, began voluntarily, enthusiastically cooking in restaurants for a living—a once forbidden and unrespected professional course—screw the consequences." He argues that when ambition becomes a driving force in a young professional's life, it quickly outweighs the possible repercussions. This was a new mindset at the time, when professional tracks were still highly structured and conservative. Specifically, Friedman explains that the Vietnam War created an urgency to take more risks in regard to pursuing vocations. He goes on to tell the tale of Wolfgang Puck's rise to fame and creation of his signature restaurants, Spago and Chinois on Main, as well as the establishment—and sometimes, dissolution—of landmark restaurants in New York and Los Angeles, including Ma Maison, The Quilted Giraffe, Chanterelle, Le Cirque, and La Côte Basque. In discussing these restaurants, Friedman also examines the psychology involved in their success. For instance, the author describes at length the omnipotence of French cuisine in American food culture: "a funny thing happened to many of those Americans who mastered French cuisine: They quickly developed a desire to move beyond it, to forge their own style, whether a personalized answer to nouvelle cuisine, or—in many cases—the development of a distinctly American repertoire founded on the hard-earned techniques they'd picked up from the French." Friedman is at his best when exploring the intricacies of the relationships among restaurant owners and chefs—Puck, Thomas Keller, Buzzy O'Keeffe, Larry Forgione, Marc Sarrazin, Paul Prudhomme, and dozens of others who were constantly innovating.An intriguing perspective on a profession that very quickly captivated our attention—a great gift idea for the foodie in the house.
On every page, there’s a snippet of information or a revelation from a juicy interview that pro¬vides color and context for some of the most important, formative moments in American culinary history.
...Turn away from your favorite chef ’s Instagram feed and turn the pages of this wonderfully written chronicle of the birth of a nation of foodies.
A wonderfully interesting and absorbing read. Not just another account of the American food revolution, but a whole new assessment that relates developments in food to the culture of the 1970s and 1980s generally.
Andrew Friedman has taken on the responsibility of helping to make sure that this generation of chefs and restaurateurs, as well as our guests, understands what came before us. And thank goodness for that, because it’s important that we look back before we move forward. This book rocks.
In the 1970s, a revolution started that is still building today. In his deeply researched Chefs, Drugs and Rock & Roll, Andrew Friedman brings vividly to life the pioneers who made this happen.
Andrew Friedman’s genuine curiosity and deep admiration for chefs and the American restaurant industry have enabled him to capture some of the greatest history of our times.
Andrew Friedman’s new book is impressive; the depth of research is quite astonishing. I haven’t read anything like it.
Fast, furious, and fun...Get out your napkins, because Chefs, Drugs and Rock & Roll is as irresistible as a bowl of house-made chips.
A lively, anecdotal romp through the rise of modern American cuisine from the early 1970s to the early ’90s.
An intriguing perspective on a profession that very quickly captivated our attention—a great gift idea for the foodie in the house.
From Chez Panisse to Blue Ribbon, one couldn’t ask for a better guide through the complex social world of some of the major figures in the American restaurant scene of the past several decades.
Friedman (Knives at Dawn) has been writing about food and chefs for two decades. His newest book chronicles the rise of modern chefs in the 1970s and 1980s. Through conversations with chefs, critics, and friends, Friedman illuminates the evolution from laborer cook to celebrated chef. Contributors include famous names such as Wolfgang Puck, Alice Waters, and Mimi Sheraton, as well as some chefs who might be less familiar to readers: Bruce Marder (chef-owner of Capo, Santa Monica) and Sue Conley (cofounder of Cowgirl Creamery). Many profiled here share an unconventional career path that includes an influence of France's culinary techniques, some more directly than others. But all the chefs featured within this smooth narrative came to the realization that cooking in America could be an open book; creativity flowed as they experimented with techniques and food combinations. Friedman mostly focuses on New York and Los Angeles, where many of these chefs gravitated toward. VERDICT An easy-going history that will be devoured by foodies and cooking fans as well as those interested in American cultural history.—Ginny Wolter, Toledo Lucas Cty. P.L.