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.
–for the aspiring chef in me, this was a pleasure to read. Knowing that those that I look up to have bad days, and even act horribly towards one another (ie: Batali’s) and that they overcame and continued onwards towards culinary success.