The fortunes and foibles of celebrity chefs, “foodie” pundits and marketers who caught the aroma of a trend and took it to the bank.
Ask a Vanity Fair contributing editor to document a trend and you’ll for sure get a people story. Kamp certainly establishes that when talented, tight-wired luminaries atop the food chain are suddenly thrust from the heat of a kitchen into the even hotter media limelight, attempts at profundity often teeter on the vacuous. This, of course, is something almost everybody—but particularly those who have been caught up in upgrading their own food habits to “gourmet” status—can mightily enjoy. But to give the author full credit, he documents the anatomy of the trends as well: the rumblings in the gut of a nation of sloppy eaters who were somehow ready, after World War II’s GIs brought Europe home with them, to exalt the Jim Beards, Julia Childs and Craig Claibornes as prophets of nutrition as a classic, personal art form, immediately forgiving any and all quirkiness (including obvious elements of gay orientation) that went with it. Kamp breaks out all the major components: the French Invasion; the American Cuisine backlash; the cleverly seductive specialty food vendors; the back-to-nature organic farming connection. Finally, there is the latest, still controversial move to package the celebrity chef as a national brand too corporate to cook in any restaurant.
All the stars are here, from breakfast ’til midnight snack, in a page-turning insider’s guide with an emphasis on “dish.”