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Don't Try This At Home: Culinary Catastrophes from the World's Greatest Chefs Hardcover – September 15, 2005

53 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Food is fast becoming entertainment, so it's only natural that it should follow in the footsteps of sports and show business and offer up a collection of bloopers. Literary agent Witherspoon and food writer Friedman corralled 40 gastronomic heavyweights to share their versions of dinners gone wrong. The highlight is, unsurprisingly, the piece by chef and bestselling author Anthony Bourdain. His "New Year's Meltdown" is a case study in what happens when you don't plan (Bourdain admits, "Nobody likes a 'learning experience'—translating as it does to 'a total [a**-f******]'—but I learned"). Mario Batali's "The Last Straw," though not relating a culinary catastrophe per se, is runnerup: Batali was in culinary school when he clashed with a chef; in a spectacular crescendo, the chef hurled a pan of risotto at the young student, but revenge was sweet. But for every fantastic screwup, there's a dud. The translated pieces (such as the one by Spanish titan Ferrán Adrià) fail to captivate, and others, like Jimmy Bradley's tale about how he got drunk on the job to spite his boss, are neither entertaining nor instructive. Still, this collection happily reminds us that even big shots have off days. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


'Calling all foodies: Be sure to put Don't Try This at Home on your next shopping list ... The reader is treated to a collection of spectacular mishaps from award-winning, world-class chefs' Grand Rapids Press (USA) '[Confessions] range from the endearingly humiliating ... to the hilariously disastrous' Financial Times 'As in every other profession, chefs love their war stories. Finally someone had the good sense to collect some of the best in Don't Try This at Home ... If you liked Kitchen Confidential for its frank behind-the-scenes glimpses of kitchen life, you'll love this book' Los Angeles Times 'A fantastic collection of personal stories that depict these great chefs as real people. Readers are certain to learn valuable culinary lessons from chefs' mistakes and their various and creatively solved dilemmas. This book is sure to be enjoyed by culinary fans across the board' Library Journal

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (October 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596910704
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596910706
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,030,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Andrew Friedman has made a career of getting to know the heads and hearts of professional cooks and athletes. For more than ten years, Friedman has collaborated with many of the nation's best and most revered chefs on cookbooks and other writing projects. His writing career began in 1997, when Alfred Portale, asked him to collaborate on the Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook. The book received wide acclaim and since then he has worked as a cookbook collaborator on more than twenty projects, helping a number of the nation's best chefs (Alfred Portale, David Waltuck, Tom Valenti, and many others) share their unique culinary viewpoints with readers. As coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Breaking Back, the memoir of American tennis star James Blake, he took readers inside an athlete's mind during training and competition, and he does the same as a frequent contributor to Tennis Magazine. In KNIVES AT DAWN: The American Team and the Bocuse d'Or 2009, Friedman combines these two personal passions to tell the story of the premier cooking competition in the world. Friedman has contributed articles to O--The Oprah Magazine and other publications and websites. He has been profiled in The New York Daily News and New York Magazine, and interviewed for, or featured in articles in, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, as well as on NPR's Taste of the Nation and WOR Radio's Food Talk. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Columbia University, and is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute's "La Technique" cooking program. He lives in New York City with his family.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Huston on August 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Cooking at home has become it seems, a very big business indeed. Turn on the television and you find networks that show chefs demonstrating cuisines and styles, vendors hawking the multitude of cookware and gadgets, and in bookstores shelves abound with volumes that cater to every whim, fad, fashion and idea. Sometimes, what you get is junk. And rarely, you come across a jewel of a book that digs down into the heart and mystery of food, and you find something that's utterly new and bewitching.

Such was the case with reading this collection of tales and ancedotes from the heavy hitters in cooking, Don't Try This at Home: Culinary Catastrophes from the World's Greatest Chefs is a mad, wild ride of everything that can go wrong. Whether they are disasters in a professional restaurant kitchen or on a catering job, the stories range from those that make you cringe in embarassment or sympathy, or those that make you laugh at a just reward served up to a snooty, rude customer.

There were several stories that I enjoyed immensely: Ferran Adria's tale of a shipment of lobsters that went bad for a banquet of three thousand; Mario Batali speaks of revenge on a martinet of a chef; Anthony Bourdain of a kitchen gone to hell on New Year's Eve when the chef had such a brilliant vision that it was doomed to failure; Claudia Fleming's tale of The Blob , and very nearly every tale in the book. There are stories of fights, ingredients gone haywire or AWOL, personality clashes that would make you cringe in horror.

But each one reveals something to the art of being a chef, and a good one at that.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on November 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
`Don't Try This At Home' is a collection of short pieces written by forty (40) of the world's most notable chefs and culinary figures, edited by culinary agent, Kimberly Witherspoon and culinary wordsmith, Andrew Friedman, known to me primarily as a co-author of Tom Valenti's two better than average cookbooks from an accomplished New York restaurant chef.

Two things which are misleading from the title are the fact that some of the contributors are not among `The World's Greatest Chefs' (from the subtitle at the top of the page) and many of the incidents recounted in the book are less about cooking per se than about relations between people in the kitchen, between the kitchen and management, and between the kitchen (back of the house) and the wait staff (front of the house).

There is no question that many of the contributors are among `The World's Greatest Chefs'. Chief among these are Ferran Adria, Daniel Boulud, Michel Richard, Eric Ripert, Norman Van Aken, Tom Colicchio, and Mario Batali. Oddly, the authors, Anthony Bourdain and Sara Moulton, of two of the most instructive pieces come from writers whose fame arises more from their writing and communicating experience than from purely culinary efforts. Bourdain's piece looks very much like a chapter from his famous book, `Kitchen Confidential' when it recounts a totally disastrous New Year's Eve dinner where the executive chef under whom Bourdain was serving as a sous chef planned the evening's celebratory meal and ordered all the provisions without giving any hint to the kitchen staff about the menu for the evening. The day and the piece opens with Bourdain and staff waiting for the chef while provisions arrive with absolutely no instructions on how to begin prepping the goods.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Several of the chapters are quite entertaining, especially if you're a fan of Kitchen Confidential type stories. Unfortunately, the many grammatical and spelling typos were too distracting for me to truly enjoy the book. When practically every introduction has at least one typo, I is frequently replaced with a 1, and an entire paragraph from a previous chapter is spliced into the middle of a following chapter it became too much for me. Editing like this really shouldn't be allowed commercially and I would certainly like the money back I spent on the Kindle version of this book.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By dephal VINE VOICE on September 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Some of the pieces in this book are really funny, such as a tale of what happened when a hollandaise delivery met up with LA rush hour traffic. Many remind the reader than even the greatest of chefs is still human. Some of the pieces will amaze you with chefs' creativity in the face of diaster (one chef, for example, stuck with a ruined wedding cake, calls in the dogs). Unfortunately, some of the pieces are just plain boring. In one, for example, the "disaster" is that the narrator gets yelled at for throwing away some onions. I'm sure it was painful to him, but it's just not that much fun to read. In total, I'm not sure the good parts of the book make it worth shelling out money for. I borrowed mine from the library.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Brooklyn reader on October 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I read the excerpts from this collection in the New York Times Magazine and went and bought the book, I was so delighted with them. Dan Barber's piece about working for David Bouley and learning to "talk to the fish" was hilarious; It had never occurred to me that you have to listen to the food cooking as much as taste, see and smell it, to know if it's cooked properly. I was surprised to read all these readers comments slamming Gabrielle Hamilton's piece; I actually thought she showed uncustomary sensitivity for a chef, even letting this candidate through the door when he hadn't been straight up with her about being blind. Marcus Samuelson's piece about being a black man in a white kitchen was powerful and refreshingly thoughtful in contrast to the raucousness of many of the other pieces. I plan to give this to all my friends who devoured KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL, it has the same exuberance and behind the scenes details that bring down to earth what always looks so safe and easy on those cooking shows.
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