MY USUAL TABLE by Colman Andrews


A Life in Restaurants
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A stroll down Memory Lane, with stops at the eateries that have shaped him, from food writer Andrews (The Taste of America, 2013, etc.).

The author has been a fixture on the food-and-drink scene for four decades, as a restaurant critic, journalist, co-founder of Saveur and author of a number of cookbooks. This memoir gets off to a fun start, with the author recalling his early silver-spoon years in Los Angeles, which were inauspicious for someone who would become a serious trencherman (“Franco-American spaghetti with meatballs, and Chef Boyardee beef ravioli….We also had a lot of Spam”)—except for the fact that they ate out often. There is a sweet and promising chapter on Chasen’s, the Los Angeles restaurant where Andrews was introduced to mid-20th-century upscale American cooking, followed by warm salutes to a number of friends and food places: the Ranch House, El Coyote (“Someone once described the place as a Chuck E. Cheese for adults”) and the Adriatic. But as his stature in the food world rises, so does the sense of entitlement in his writing. The fun is replaced by waves of turgidity (“the challenge of reconciling sensual pleasure with political belief”) and celebrity worship (“there were certainly no other restaurants where you could eat food of Spago’s quality in your T-shirt and jeans—especially not with Sean Connery at the next table and Dolly Parton over by the window and Jodie Foster coming through the front door”). For someone so secretive about his romances at work (“we had become a couple, though we made sure that nobody at the office knew”)—when he got married to another officemate, they kept that mum, too—Andrews is awfully loud about it here. Unfortunately, things just get creakier and more self-pitying by the page.

“My problem, of course, was that I was a decade or so ahead of the times.” That’s not the only one.

Pub Date: March 18th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-06-213647-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2014


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