Saturday, December 1, 2007

What do you do when you have time sitting around in an airport, then a six hour plane ride?

I read.

So that’s just what I did over my Thanksgiving break. I dived headlong into the personal life of one of Thomas Keller’s (now former) Captains; Phoebe Damrosch.

When I read the reviews, descriptions, and even the cover text of the book I was expecting something... a little different.

Perhaps I’ve been spending too much time reading Devil in the Kitchen or any number of Bourdains scaving blog entries; but what I expected was a down and dirty, secret telling, mud slinging front of the house version on Kitchen Confidential.

Boy was I wrong.

Not that any of that being wrong in this case is a bad thing. Phoebe spends more time in an autobiographical style, telling us a brief history of her "rise" to the top, her training with Thomas Keller and his military-esqe management staff, and her personal relationships as she transitions from a casual foodie to a marrow searching, bubbly drinking, full blown Food-E.

The book itself was a very easy read (was finished in 3 days) and some chapters left me wanting to skip ahead slightly. That’s probably the cook in me saying, "Come on.. enough with the relationships... tell me Keller’s secrets!!!".

Some of the most appealing aspects of the book were watching her grow from a nervous backwaiter to a (a little) less nervous Captain, her time spent server notorious restaurant critic Frank Bruni, and even some funny stories about her regulars at Per Se.

90% of the book though is an autobiography, spending allot of time focused on her life as it revolved around serving. It reads much like you’d expect any professional restaurant workers biography to read; Heartache, Heartbreaks, Cut and Bruises, Ego and Humility, and the hundreds of personalities you come in contact with on a day to day basis.

I would give the book 4 out 5 if I was going to judge it in that fashion, but only because as a cook I was hoping for a little more.. I don’t know; let’s say "information" about the actual detail of how Keller likes his service to run.

I leant the book to the PM Caterina instructor, "G" (as he prefers to be called), and as we were taking our final I saw him poking through some of the pages. When I turned my test in, he looked at me and said "Thank you, I can tell I’m going to absolutely love this".

I think you would to.


Krysta said...

You know what? I kind of felt that the book was lacking, also. I liked it and it gave me a heads up if I ever get to eat at French Laundry or Per Se. Maybe it needed more "salt" because the book felt a little flat. I also wanted to let you know the Tuaca was great with the my ice cream.

The Foodist said...

I guess I was expecting more of a mud slinging nitty gritty expose of life at Per Se then a autobiography.

Great to hear you liked the Tuaca!