5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This tale of ambition, perseverance in times of adversity, and personal growth begins in the present with the author, now the successful executive chef and part owner of the Waverly Inn in New York, working his buns off yet again, manically multitasking to keep his gastronomic creations flowing, staff hopping, and A-List customers happy. How he got started in the restaurant business, what motivated him to make the "plunge", the disadvantages and challenges he had to overcome, lucky breaks, wise and not so wise moves, people he worked with and what he learned from them as well as from each previous job, and some of the prices he has had to pay on the way to building a solid reputation are all narrated next with humor, humility, honesty, and effective use of flash backs and forwards as the main storytelling device. The author paints a vivid picture of the world he lives in (yes, there's drugs, sex, booze, betrayal, and loves lost), and although accounts of the ups and downs in his life did not always have the force of an intense drama (the narration had a few dead spots here and there), I still think this first-time author did a pretty good job and I thank him for sharing many of his eye-opening experiences with us.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2009
I've been to the Waverly Inn and bought this book expecting a celebrity tell-all. I was quickly and immediately surprised to be drawn into a story about one man's change in career. Mind you, Delucie certainly dishes with great humor throughout the book, but my favorite parts were the very human stories reflecting his challenges and struggles in the food business mixed in with the glitzy Waverly chapters. I loved the stories of his mother and grandmother's influence on his career choice and his recipes. I found the tales of his wives touching and real. Between the excitement in the kitchen and his personal life, I couldn't put it down. A real 2-sitting read.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2009
I started reading this on my flight from JFK to LAX. I was instantly cast into the kitchen, the dining, the celebrity life, the Insurance company. John has a way of telling his story, where you immediately become his teammate. You are dependent on him winning.
I got to my destination and had to meet friends, but I was sneaking my reading in the car, on the way to dinner. I loved the realness, the passion, the journey and I'm looking forward to more from John Delucie; be it books, food, more restaurants..I am a fan forever.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
You might want to read this book because you are a fan of the Waverly Inn, its famous owner Graydon Carter (the publisher of Vanity Fair), or its star chef - owner John DeLucie. Maybe you are interested in the celebrity gossip about the stars who eat there. Each is reason enough to dig into this entertaining book, but there is even more. When you eat at a restaurant you see the front of the house, the stage, the theater of the restaurant. DeLucie takes us backstage to see all that it takes to produce that glorious food and delightful atmosphere. And, like actual stage productions, the real characters and drama is often more backstage than on stage.
DeLucie presents his story in an interesting two voice counterpoint. He knows you are probably picking up the book more for the celebrity stories of the Waverly Inn than about his life, so he starts with that. And while the pacing isn't exactly strict, you get to read a chapter from the Waverly Inn, then a chapter or two of his biography from his childhood on. For DeLucie, food was not a calling from his youth. His father was a professional musician and he was sort of doing that too, but in his twenties he found he had talent for cooking and felt that it was a path he could take to give structure to his life and provide the basis for a working life. He didn't come to the idea of being an executive chef or an owner of a restaurant until quite late in his career.
For me, the most interesting aspect of the book was his experience in being involved in restaurants from their being built, whether they succeed or not, and what happens when they fail. I also found his descriptions of how dishes are conceived and experimented with and finally chosen for the menu (or dropped) to be worth the price of admission. I think you will find his thoughts about burgers, why they are on so many menus, and how he developed his to be quite entertaining. When I tell you that one of the more popular dishes at the Waverly Inn is a $55 white truffle macaroni and cheese, I wonder if you are as nonplussed as I was. I know that fine restaurants have added $12, $15, even $25 mac & cheese, but $55 is a new level for me even though I understand the cost of white truffles.
Over the past year, I have taken up home cooking in a more or less serious way and learned some things from this book that will help me in my own kitchen. But the pace, rigor, and fury of a professional kitchen is staggering to me. I have children in the food business and a son-in-law who is a chef-partner at a steakhouse. Frankly, when I do a three or four course meal for six or eight people from beginning to end, I am exhausted. Since I don't have a team, I have to do the meal design, the shopping, the prep, the cooking, the plating, and serving. Then there is the clean-up. While a restaurant has a team of people doing each of those steps, the do them dozens and dozens and dozens of times per day. I can't imagine the fatigue at the end of the night. No wonder restaurant folks have to have a spot to congregate to and wind down.
DeLucie writes with an honesty and frankness that I sometimes found painful. The breakdown of his marriages and the way the all consuming nature of the food business strains relationships is a familiar, but sad story. He writes with fairness and is clear about his own foibles and failures. Like too many of us, working so many hours drives our relationships to work, but everything at work is so transitory and even impersonal that it starves us for the need of a rich personal life and genuine human contact and spiritual renewal. Booze, casual sex, therapy, and working even harder are all very poor substitutes.
The only aspect of the book I found jarring was the modern approach to profanity as if it were just regular language. I know the arguments, and I worked on an assembly line as a young man, so it wasn't the actual profanity that bothered me as much as the sheer witlessness of it. Yes, I know that DeLucie wanted to provide his own voice, and he does that pretty well, and I know that in the restaurant trade, this is how they talk in the kitchen. But still, I want to go on record as hoping for more carefully crafted writing that can get the feeling of the dirt and grime without actually having to go roll in the mud myself. I can do that on my own, if I choose. For me, the benefits of the book far outweigh this quibble, but I want to let those who choose to enjoy the book that they have to expect rough language. I think that DeLucie would say to me that he toned it down quite a bit and that I ought to lighten up. Maybe I should, but I don't use this kind of language and neither do those I associate with. At least, not around me.
So, I recommend this book to you if you are interested in the food trade, cooking, celebrity chefs, or celebrity in general. DeLucie often describes the celebrities more than he names them, but he does name a few. This isn't a book about name dropping, it's a book about life, work, and food.
Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Ann Arbor, MI
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2009
The inside look at the world of professional cooking mixed with blood, sweat, and tears was fantastic. I could not put it down. Delucie's book, part memior, part cookbook, part insane fairytale brought to life a story so crazy that it could only be about the life of a seasoned restaurant chef in the equally crazy city of New York. it'll leave you hungry, jealous, and revitted all at the same time.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2009
The fire in the chef's eyes in the cover picture perfectly captures the passion with which he writes, cooks, and lives. This isn't just any "achieve-your-dream in nyc" story, it's a "realize-your dream & make-it-happen" one. With a winning combination of ingredients: honest wit, rich diction,and impeccable narrative, John Delucie has crafted another extraordinary recipe with The Hunger.