Making time for reading anything more substantial than a blog post might seem like an uphill endeavor for the hard working, split-shifted, odd hours restaurateur. But for those who dare take a quiet moment to nestle in a low lit booth in between shifts or curl up on the couch with a paperback on their day off, we’ve composed a list of five must reads for the modern day restaurateur.
Business: The Art of the Restaurateur by Nicholas Lander
In The Art of the Restaurateur, author Nicholas Lander asks how greatness is attained in the restaurant industry. Beyond that of the celebrity chef, he explores greatness in regards to the craft of creating an entire establishment and examines what it takes to cultivate a culinary experience. He believes such greatness is not solely carried on the shoulders of the master chef but attained through “the partnership of a visionary restaurateur alongside a talented chef.”
Landers sets out to prove this, traveling across the globe to get the scoop from 20 front-of-house leaders who range in notoriety. Some come from the most acclaimed restaurants and others come from much humbler venues. Each tells a story, their story, mixed with that of their restaurants, to shine light on how they got where they are.
What you’ll learn: This isn’t a book about the hottest spots. This isn’t a book that indulges in abundant gastro-porn. This is a collection of stories about restaurateurs, their restaurants, combined with a series of honest business analysis and successes, sacrifices, downfalls and the challenging reality of what it takes to make it in the restaurant industry.
Food Philosophy: The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
First came fire, and then came the question, “What’s for dinner?” The Omnivore's Dilemma asserts that how we answer this question may in fact determine our survival as a species. Whoa. Heavy? Gloomy? Not really. While Pollan discusses America as having a national eating disorder, wavering from fast food diets, to organic food trends, Pollan sits down to try on every trend, and analyzes the origins of everything consumed, not just from farm-to-table, but how our food choices are results of our evolutionary inheritance.
What you’ll learn: As we seek to brand our restaurants, purport a certain style of cuisine, whether it’s organic, greasy spoon, fast food, fine dining, organic fast food, greasy fine dining or some combination thereof, Pollan looks at the political, economic, psychological and moral consequences of our food choices and practices.
Food Science: The Flavor Bible by Karen Page & Andrew Dornenburg
The average person has somewhere between 8000 and 10 000 taste buds on their tongue. These are regenerated every three to ten days. You have a whole world of taste in your tongue, plus an entire mechanism developed to help you experience the world through your pallet. The Flavor Bible draws on the experience of world-class chefs in order to map out flavor combinations that light up your senses.
What you’ll learn: This is an essential text to learn how smell, texture, and of course, taste combine to enhance the culinary experience, as well as how to balance these elements to create an emotional and spiritual experience out of any meal. Perfect for creative lows or when inspiration is lacking, this text is the essential launch point for creativity.
Fiction: The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb
In The Beauty of Humanity Movement a young man named Tu works as a tour guide, toting tourists around war sites. A Vietnamese American woman named Maggie searches for her father who disappeared during the war. Old Man Hung has lived through one political upheaval after another, and through it all has remained the source of hope and food for his small, poor pond-side community. While this is a book that runs the gamut when it comes to subject matter, it is largely a story of one dish and some people who eat it. This is a book about pho.
What you’ll learn: We think of staples as something that will always be around. Every culture has a dumpling. Every culture has a soup. How deep does a dish go? The origins of a dish can be far more intrinsic to our social make up than we ever thought possible, transcending time, borders and history, deeply ingrained in cultural histories and individual ones. Pho, in this story, is a linchpin and a symbol of hope.
Memoir: The Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness, and the Making of a Great Chef by Marco Pierre White and James Steen
Marco Pierre White had quite the resume. He was the youngest chef to win two Michelin stars. He was first British chef to win three Michelin stars. He was also the first to have to return them. Talent vs. tantrums, hard work vs. an unbreakable penchant for abusing his staff, White's memoir, The Devil in the Kitchen, explores the bounds of passion, the brutality of ambition and what it’s like to give it all up.
What you’ll learn: While willful determination will get you far, and the 100-work weeks may bring to reality the phrase “practice makes perfect”, it also brings to light the sustainability of this kind of passion. As reviewer David Kamp asserts, “He may have been one of the most disagreeable bastards ever to command a kitchen brigade, but in the same guileless, unfiltered way in which he cursed out sous-chefs, he’s told one hell of a story.”
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