Monday, August 8, 2016

Back of the House - Scott Haas

Back of the House
This is my 500th post! It's hard to believe, but it makes me really proud. Whether you've been around from the start or you are a new reader, I'm thankful for you and I do not take you for granted! Thanks for supporting me and the blog!

Title: Back of the House: The Secret Life of a Restaurant
Author: Scott Haas
Publication Date: 2/5/13
Pages: 320
Genre: Food / Nonfiction
How I Found It: It's been on my TBR for a long time
Date Completed: 6/20/16

Summary: Tony Maws' restaurant Craigie on Main is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts (think Harvard) and is one of the best restaurants in the country. Scott Haas spent months with unfettered access to the kitchen and the staff in an effort to get the story behind Maws and his work.

What I Thought: I'm so fascinated by the food world. I suppose a lot of it has to do with the success of Food Network and the proliferation of food blogs. Of course, I love cooking myself. The creation and consumption bring me equal pleasure. Reading about or watching chefs who obviously feel the same about the culinary creative process makes me feel tied into this world of art. That's what it is after all - it's art. Temporary, tantalizing art.

Scott Haas obviously shares my interest. He spent over a year observing and working with the crew at Craigie on Main. It's one of the top restaurants in Boston - in the country, really. At the helm is Chef Tony Maws. As is true of many chefs, he's a complicated character. Part of Haas' goal was to determine Maws' motivations and what exactly led him to such success. By the end of the book, you don't necessarily feel that Haas came any closer to answering his initial questions, but the journey was worthwhile of its own accord.

If you have any interest in the culinary industry or what happens behind the scenes of a restaurant, this book is definitely for you. As consumers, we take so much of our dining experience for granted, rarely thinking about the men and women laboring in the kitchen. This book will give you a new perspective on their lives and struggles. Haas explores some of why turnover is so high in the industry, as well as how kitchen crews can become more family than your actual flesh and blood. He asks the good questions, the tough ones, the creative ones, the thoughtful ones. He becomes part of the Craigie on Main family himself, all while maintaining enough distance to observe both the strengths and weaknesses. 

Quote I Loved: "The best chefs recognize the unconscious relationship that their customers have with them and use it to ensure a steady, trusting clientele. When we are satisfied with what they feed us, we regard chefs with feelings of intimacy. When they disappoint us, the letdown can be intensified as it is displaced emotion from earlier relationships, and distrust is then the consequence."

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Maybe
If You Liked This, Try: Sous Chef / Delancey / Blood, Bones, and Butter

A Reduced Review: An in-depth look at life behind the scenes of fine dining. 

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