GQ restaurant critic Richman serves up a sharp, rollicking collection of articles documenting his most memorable culinary experiences.
Reviewing restaurants often involves Mission Impossible–style tactics—making reservations under false names, stealing menus, prying information out of waiters and busboys—but the eight-time James Beard Award–winner believes he’s up to the task. “I know how to eat as well as any man alive,” declares Richman, who frequently samples his dinner companions’ orders before they do. He discovered his calling as a kid when he tasted a perfect pastrami sandwich at the Chuckwagon restaurant in suburban Philadelphia. Initially a sportswriter, he was lured by the prospect of free food into moonlighting for his newspaper’s dining section. Here, Richman shares some his favorite columns from publications like GQ and Bon Appetit. They include profiles of the Hamptons, a restaurant graveyard dominated by Billy Joel sightings, and of Louis Farrakhan’s five-million-dollar Chicago eatery, where Richman found himself watching pro golf on the TV in the lounge. He also recalls a dinner date with Sharon Stone (“for the briefest moment, I was [her] partner, not just a pawn”) and his desperate quest to find a celebrity chef—Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse, Rocco DiSpirito, anyone—actually present in the celebrity’s restaurant. Hardened opinions, such as the author’s distaste for vegans and for boiled lobster (“an inferior technique popularized by New England seafood shanties”), belie his conversational tone, but Richman’s short, simple, funny sentences both engage and surprise. His prose lets readers in on the joke without directly acknowledging it as, for example, he remembers his delight as a child in being treated to $1.09 steak dinner specials. Only the restaurant critiques, some now more than a decade old, feel slightly out of place.
An enjoyable treat full of gastronomic guffaws.