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Knives at Dawn: America's Quest for Culinary Glory at the Legendary Bocuse d'Or Competition Hardcover – December 1, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, December 2009: Just when you thought you've read enough culinary memoirs and single-subject studies on every esoteric food topic imaginable comes Knives at Dawn, Andrew Friedman's sharp, insider account of America's quest to win the Bocuse d'Or--the epicurean equivalent of the World Cup, held biannually in Lyon, France. For over two decades, international teams have entered the arena, cooking for five-and-a-half hours from a glass-walled pod in full view of the intimidating judges and howling spectators (who add to the frenzy with chants and clanging cowbells). In 2009, Paul Bocuse himself enlisted legendary chefs Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller (well-known for his obsession with perfection) to field the U.S. team. French Laundry chef Timothy Hollingsworth and his commis, Adina Guest, continued to work their grueling day jobs over three-and-a-half months of intense training, and set the bar for future U.S. brigades. If you don't already know the outcome, restrain yourself from Googling the results, and let Friedman sweep you up with his culinary page-turner. --Brad Thomas Parsons

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Every two years, chefs from around the world gather to compete in the Bocuse d'Or, a grueling cooking competition that gives participants just five and a half hours to prepare a full menu of elaborate fish and meat dishes (with their own choice of supporting ingredients). As the 2009 contest drew near, restaurateurs Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller were determined the U.S. would send a team that could finally bring back a medal; Friedman (Breaking Back) follows the quest through the selection of two cooks from Keller's French Laundry and stays with them until the final showdown. It's great fly-on-the-wall reporting that captures both the obsessive, perfectionist mindset of great chefs and their creative spontaneity under pressure—as small a matter as the sudden, intuitive selection of celeriac as an ingredient in a tart becomes a moment of high drama. The pace is relentless, but Friedman's observations of Timothy Hollingworth and his assistant, Adina Guest, as they struggle to rise to the challenge will have foodies riveted all the way through. Even those who don't care about the intricate details of a nine-course meal could learn something about entrepreneurship and project management from this story. (Dec. 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Featured Author: Andrew Friedman
Read an excerpt from Andrew Friedman's Knives at Dawn, and explore more from the author at Amazon's Andrew Friedman Page [PDF].

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (December 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439153078
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439153079
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,115,921 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Friedman has done it again, he brings the reader into the story and gives them an insight and understanding they would never get without his guidance and input. This behind the scenes look at one of the most arcane corners of the culinary world is a revelation to professional chefs, hobbyist cooks and anyone else who has any interest in food,people or the rigors of competition. As always Friedman has written in the voice of his characters, and the reader will get a true feeling and understanding of what is going on inside their head at each point of the story.

I highly recommend this book and any others from this unique observer of the culinary scene.

Walter, Great Falls Va.
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Format: Hardcover
A great read for very serious foodies. However, DO NOT view the photos in the center section of the book, where the author reveals the winners of the competition!!!!!!! Tottally spoils the suspense of the team USA's finish!!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the most gripping non-fiction book I have read since The Hot Zone. Friedman captures the glamor, excitement and terror of competition on an international level. He managed to awaken empathy and envy at the same time. My only regret was that I read the book on my Kindle and there were no inserts. Reading this book was the closest thing to actually eating the amazing and delicious food portrayed in its pages.
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Format: Paperback
H-O-L-Y C-O-W... I found this book in the bargain (WAY bargain) book section and purchased it. My main reason was because I am familiar with both Chef Thomas Keller (of The French Laundry) and Chef Daniel Boulud (of Daniel NYC) through the show Top Chef. I LOVE Top Chef; Padma and Tom Colicchio are amazing and watching them makes me wish I could eat more food. Their guest judges are usually a lesson for me in fine dining, so finding a book showcasing two of the famous chefs excited me.

This book was ten times better than I ever could have imagined. It traces the story of Team USA (Timothy Hollingsworth and his Commis Adina Guest) and their quest for a medal at the bi-annual Bocuse d'Or Competition. To say it is a book about cooking is like saying James Bond is a book about a spy. I didn't know a cooking competition could be so intense (and this is someone who is always watching Top Chef, Masterchef and Hell's Kitchen).

All credit goes to the author, Andrew Friedman, who garners the trust of all the indivdiuals involved and weaves a tale that incorporates the thoughts and feelings of the chefs, the commis, the coach - and even Hollingsworth's girlfriend. It does not surprise me that Friedman's other passion is tennis, you can certainly see the "sports fever" writing style come through in this book. However, I cannot rave enough about how it enabled someone like myself (a novice foodie, especially with French terms) to truly enjoy and visualize the food that was being created.

I understood what Hollingsworth was attempting to make as he created and re-created his presentation dishes (Bocuse d'Or competitors must present a fish platter and a meat platter using proteins set by the competition).
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Format: Hardcover
Andrew Friedman's enthusiasm and thoroughness are great, and his other background as a sports writer works in the book's favor, as he makes the Bocuse d'Or--which, the book will keep reminding you, is the Olympics of the food world--sound like a real athletic event. Friedman sounds like he really does love the subject matter sincerely, which is important when you're writing a book about something so arcane. He manages to drive home one very important point about cooking at this level: it isn't just about food; it's about perfectionism and unwavering attention to detail.

But that same thoroughness makes the book drag after a while. After the exciting first half, you can almost see the author sweating, trying to stretch out the little material into 160 more pages. He's not completely to blame--the action takes place over just a few months, so there isn't much space to explore a bigger story arc. Still, the narrative suffers, and after a while, I lost interest in the book. I did manage to finish it, but reading the last half felt like a chore. It didn't help, either, (as other reviewers have noted) that there is a big spoiler in the photo insert in the middle.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Knives at Dawn actually made me want to be there--for the excitement of it as well as for the glory if America should win. The first chapter is pretty boring but needs to be read to understand the high stakes involved. I've begun saving up for next year's trip to France, along with my son who is a food writer in Boston. Catch the thrill!!!
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