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Knives at Dawn: America's Quest for Culinary Glory at the Legendary Bocuse D'Or Competitionby Andrew Friedman
These behind-the-scenes reports offer a look at the real-life Top Chef, in which culinary teams fight to triumph over other competing nations. I love televised cooking contests, and Knives at Dawn packs in what is lost on the shows: the chefs' thoughts, the backstories, and the gossip. The action is gripping and intense — a great read for any foodie. In the words of Gavin Kaysen, former cheftestant and now judge: "Get ready for a wild ride."
Synopses & Reviews
Sizzling saute pans. Screaming spectators. Television cameras. A ticking clock.
Fasten your seatbelt for the Bocuse d'Or, the world's most challenging and prestigious cooking competition, where the pressure and the stakes could not be higher. At this real-life Top Chef, twenty-four culinary teams, each representing its home nation, cook for five and a half grueling hours. There are no elimination rounds, no time to ease into the rigors of competition. The teams have just one precious chance to cook and present two spectacular platters of food, then plate them for tasting by a jury of chefs — the ultimate test of their ability to execute their craft, with prize money, international acclaim, and national pride on the line.
Surprisingly, although American cuisine now rates among the best in the world, a U.S. team has never finished among the top three at this Olympics of Food. In 2008, a triumvirate of culinary figures — Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, and Jerome Bocuse — raised unprecedented support and awareness for the American effort. This is their story, and the story of the team that competed for the United States at the 2009 Bocuse d'Or — what they did, how they did it, and what they learned.
Knives at Dawn chronicles the formation and training of the 2009 American team. Chef Timothy Hollingsworth and his assistant, or commis, Adina Guest, both from The French Laundry in Yountville, California, are the stars of this chefs-as-athletes story. After winning a national team selection event, the pair trained in a specially outfitted facility, while twenty-three competitors — including a Norwegian who'd been hell-bent to win the Bocuse d'Or since the age of twelve — rehearsed around the globe. The days of the competition, when they all come together in an arena in Lyon, France, are recounted in riveting detail — putting you right alongside the action — as the months of toil and aspiration come to a head in the final hours of fierce cooking, when technical and mental fortitude, split-second decision-making, or a few too many seconds of heat can make all the difference in the world.
Beyond the American team itself, unparalleled behind-the-scenes access allows sports journalist and food writer Andrew Friedman to paint intimate portraits of Boulud and Keller, two of the most influential culinary figures of their generation, as well as of French icon Paul Bocuse, who created the competition more than two decades ago. With its revealing look at chefs and cooks of different generations and nationalities, Knives at Dawn delivers fascinating insights into what drives chefs to cook and compete, both in the Bocuse d'Or and in their own kitchens every day.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"This Olympian battle of the plates in France is about far more than cooking. Andrew Friedman provides a compelling, suspenseful account of one team's attempt to summit the culinary equivalent of Mount Everest in this thoughtful, hunger-provoking read." Kathleen Flinn, author of The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry
"You will devour this book — a rich cassoulet of expert food writing, personality profile, travelogue, and subculture examination wrapped in a gripping sports narrative. Top Chef meets Season on the Brink. Andrew Friedman takes a medal d'Or for this effort." L. Jon Wertheim, senior writer, Sports Illustrated, and author of Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal and the Greatest Tennis Match Ever Played
"I attended the Bocuse d'Or 2009 and can testify that Knives at Dawn brings this singular culinary event to life as it's never been captured on the page. As if that weren't enough, the story of how the American effort came together, in just nine quick months, is as suspenseful as the competition itself." Daniel Humm, executive chef, Eleven Madison Park
"Anyone who's ever wondered what makes Daniel [Boulud] and Thomas [Keller] tick will find their answers between the lines of this compelling contest drama. Readers will feel like they spent time in the company of these two industry giants." Alfred Portale, executive chef-partner, Gotham Bar and Grill (New York) and Gotham Steak (Miami Beach)
Knives at Dawn follows the U.S. culinary team at The Bocuse d'Or, the world's most prestigious cooking competition.
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
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