Food for Thought

life-on-the-lineA new crop of memoirs has emerged this spring that will leave book groups with mouths watering, especially if foodies are among their numbers.

Grant Achatz is the chef at Alinea, the highly praised Chicago restaurant that has done so much to popularize the science fair meets inside joke approach of molecular gastronomy. In his memoir,  Life, on the Line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness , Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat, written with his business partner Nick Kokonas, he talks about his rise through Charlie Trotter’s, French Laundry, and Trio before launching his own restaurant. He goes into depth about his approach to food and isn’t shy about revealing his big ego. Life dealt Achatz his own cruel joke: stage IV tongue cancer. It’s hard to imagine a crueler disease for a chef to face, but Achatz has emerged through grueling treatments to recovery, and the whole tale is documented here.  blood-bones-and-butter

Gabrielle Hamilton’s approach to food is very different, but her cooking credentials are as strong as Achatz’s, and as a writer, she has earned an MFA as well. Her restaurant, Prune, is acclaimed for providing an advanced take on comfort food. She describes how she refined this approach over a lifetime in her memoir Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. Hamilton’s early years were spent in a happy bohemian family, but then her parents split and she spent many tough years in various food jobs living a life that was more raw than cooked. She vividly describes her journey through the gritty and macho world of food culture, and a life of unusual relationships culminating with an odd marriage to a man with whom she has had two children. The marriage began with a heavy affair and Hamilton loves his family, but she’s a lesbian and has never lived with her husband. That’s all documented in her book, along with her aversion to poseur foodies who make unsatisfying meals.

Book Review Beaten Seared and SaucedFinally, we have Jonathan Dixon’s Beaten, Seared, and Sauced: On Becoming a Chef at the Culinary Institute of America. At 38, after a years of unsatisfying jobs, Dixon decided to enroll at the CIA. Much older than the typical student there, he describes his daunting journey through the intimidating classrooms of a variety of CIA chefs. The CIA has been described before by other chef/authors, particularly in Michael Ruhlman’s wonderful books, but Dixon goes into detail about each course and his internship, each step of his journey from apprentice to chef.

Bon appetit, readers!

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

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