Tag Archives: New York

Review: Sous Chef by Michael Gibney

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Sous chef

Title: Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line 

Author: Michael Gibney

Published: March 25, 2014 by Ballantine Books

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Add: Goodreads

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Audible

The back must slave to feed the belly. . . . In this urgent and unique book, chef Michael Gibney uses twenty-four hours to animate the intricate camaraderie and culinary choreography in an upscale New York restaurant kitchen. Here readers will find all the details, in rapid-fire succession, of what it takes to deliver an exceptional plate of food—the journey to excellence by way of exhaustion.

Told in second-person narrative, Sous Chef is an immersive, adrenaline-fueled run that offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the food service industry, allowing readers to briefly inhabit the hidden world behind the kitchen doors, in real time. This exhilarating account provides regular diners and food enthusiasts alike a detailed insider’s perspective, while offering fledgling professional cooks an honest picture of what the future holds, ultimately giving voice to the hard work and dedication around which chefs have built their careers.

In a kitchen where the highest standards are upheld and one misstep can result in disaster, Sous Chef conjures a greater appreciation for the thought, care, and focus that go into creating memorable and delicious fare. With grit, wit, and remarkable prose, Michael Gibney renders a beautiful and raw account of this demanding and sometimes overlooked profession, offering a nuanced perspective on the craft and art of food and service.

I’ve been in the mood for foodie books lately and Sous Chef actually lived up to what I expected from it. It is what it’s billed as, 24 hours in the life of a sous chef. It’s fiction, but Gibney has spent years in restaurants and it is a true picture of the behind the scenes. I learned some of the terms and practices that go with a professional kitchen. Gibney gives a good idea of the types of people cooking draws, of the personalities and egos and how they all come into play. By writing in the second-person, he makes you feel a part of the story, makes it more immediate.

This is not a book that’s big on plot or character development – it’s not supposed to be. If you’re like me and love food network tv, and are fascinated by what goes on in a restaurant that we don’t see, you’ll enjoy this one. It does, however, take away some of the mystery and magic to dining out. But we are reminded, time and again, that it is food services, it’s about serving the best food you can to the customers.

It’s a quick read, too, which make sense, given the limited time frame. I have to admit that I’d like to get to know some of the characters more, but I guess that’s the point, too. They represent the various people working in kitchens in New York, but we’re not allowed into their personal lives, just the part they bring work, and the bar afterward.

Audiobook Review: Delicious! by Ruth Reichl

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Delicious

Title: Delicious!: A Novel

Author: Ruth Reichl

Read by: Julia Whelan

Category: Fiction

Audio published: May 6, 2014 by Random House Audio

Rating: 2½ out of 5 stars

Add: Goodreads

Purchase: Audible | Amazon | Book Depository

Billie Breslin has traveled far from her California home to take a job at Delicious, the most iconic food magazine in New York and, thus, the world. When the publication is summarily shut down, the colorful staff, who have become an extended family for Billie, must pick up their lives and move on. Not Billie, though. She is offered a new job: staying behind in the magazine’s deserted downtown mansion offices to uphold the “Delicious Guarantee”-a public relations hotline for complaints and recipe inquiries-until further notice. What she doesn’t know is that this boring, lonely job will be the portal to a life-changing discovery.

Delicious! carries the reader to the colorful world of downtown New York restaurateurs and artisanal purveyors, and from the lively food shop in Little Italy where Billie works on weekends to a hidden room in the magazine’s library where she discovers the letters of Lulu Swan, a plucky twelve-year-old, who wrote to the legendary chef James Beard during World War II. Lulu’s letters lead Billie to a deeper understanding of history (and the history of food), but most important, Lulu’s courage in the face of loss inspires Billie to come to terms with her own issues-the panic attacks that occur every time she even thinks about cooking, the truth about the big sister she adored, and her ability to open her heart to love.

I was disappointed in Delicious! It guess it just wasn’t the food novel I wanted to read. Quiet Billie, who grew up in the shadow of her older sister, heads off to New York on her own and surprise! Everybody loves her. She meets marvelous foodie people. She finds the perfect job(s) and is the one employee kept on after her magazine closes, which leads to a wonderful, marvelous discovery to her lonely hours in the empty mansion. It’s all just a little easy; she’s too perfect. Did I mention she has an amazing palate, can pick out the ingredients in seemingly any dish, but doesn’t cook? And I guessed the secrets a little early.

I will say the food descriptions were mouth-watering. And the people were a colorful lot who I would enjoy meeting.

Whelan did a wonderful job reading the book. It was like Billie was telling us the story herself. We could hear Billie’s innocence and hope and longing in her voice. She disappeared and just the books was left, if that makes sense.

Maybe this is more chick lit than I wanted? All I know is, by about halfway through the audiobook, I didn’t really care. I did finish it, it wasn’t bad, it just didn’t strike a chord for me. I wanted more than a fun fluffy story. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a light story where the girl moves to New York and has everything work out just perfectly, go for it.

What’s your favorite food novel?

Thursday’s Tale: Rip Van Winkle

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Rip van winkle

Do you ever just stare at your bookshelves, not necessarily looking for anything to read, just enjoying all the spines? I might do it more than I care to admit. This morning, I was looking at some of the kids books we have downstairs and saw this retelling of Rip Van Winkle retold by Kay Brown that my grandma and grandpa gave to me in 1980. I would have been 5 years old.

Rip Van Winkle was written by Washington Irvin in 1819. This version is simplified, making it a good read for children. The original takes place before and after the Revolutionary War, but Brown simply tells us that it happened a long time ago in a village surrounded by the Catskill Mountains.

Rip Van Winkle was a kind man, well-liked by all the villager and especially the children to whom he told stories and played marbles. However, he was lazy and escaped work around the house by sneaking out and going to the inn to meet with his friends and tell stories until his wife found him and chased him home with her broom.

Rip’s favorite escape was to take his gun and climb the mountains. He didn’t care about shooting anything, just enjoyed the scenery. One day, during such a walk, Rip saw a small man carrying a barrel.  Rip helped the man and, when he picked the barrel up he heard a sound like thunder in the distance. After walking for a while, the two arrived at a level clearing. There were seven other small, oddly dressed people playing a game that seemed like nine-pins. While he watched the people playing and drinking, Rip took a drink or two from the barrel himself and fell asleep.

When he awoke in the morning, he was caught in a thorn-bush, his clothes were torn and his rusty gun fell apart in his hands. Rip returned to his village where he found that he recognized no one. He saw his reflection and realized he was now an old man. Finally, he ran into an old friend who told him his wife was dead, but brought Rip’s now-grown daughter and his granddaughter out to meet him.

Rip moved in with his daughter and soon the whole town knew his story. The children he knew before his adventure now brought their children to hear his stories. Many didn’t fully believe him, but nonetheless, no-one was anxious to venture into the Catskills after dark. Even today, when the hear thunder, the villagers wonder if it is the strange little people bowling.

My favorite part of this version is the illustrations by Gerry Embleton. There are so many little details in the picture – gnomes and elves in the clearing with  the strange men, a wizard watching over Rip on his way home and a little gopher delivering bottles of milk to mushroom homes.  Even thought the war is left out of the story, we do see a man in uniform listening to Rip’s tale. Even the clothes the villagers wear change styles from “before” to “after.”

I’ll have to read the original one of these days, but this is the story I remember from when I was a kid.

There are several used copies available on Amazon.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.

 

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