Short tales from celebrated chefs sharing their worst moments.
Take a handful of culinary masters, toss in stories of utter humiliation or heartache, and you wind up with a spicy little essay collection with a flavor not unlike that of America's Funniest Home Videos, in which the most successful vignettes are invariably those in which the subjects suffer the most. And there is plenty of room for misery in a kitchen. The collection begins with the worst day in the professional life of Ferrán Adrià. Dubbed “the Salvador Dalí of the kitchen” by Gourmet magazine, Adrià was preparing to whip up a private dinner for 3,200 guests when he discovered that the lobsters were spoiled. A disaster, but at least he didn’t get fired. Jimmy Bradley can’t say the same; the NewYork–based chef and restaurant owner shares a story of how he got abysmally drunk on the job early in his career (he was a reluctant participant in a drinking game) and was summarily dismissed the next day. Wylie Dufresne (honored in 2001 as one of the best new chefs in the country by Food & Wine magazine) relates a story of being plagued during an apprenticeship in a French kitchen by an owl who decided to roost under his bed, while Food Network star Sara Moulton remembers the time she was tormented by an uncooperative food processor when she tried to impress her sister with mashed potatoes. And Anthony Bourdain, ever dependable, delivers the goods with a satisfyingly apocalyptic story about a disastrous New Year's Eve.
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)