Synopses & Reviews
Four decades of memories from a gastronome who witnessed the food revolution from the (well-provisioned) trenches — a delicious tour through contemporary food history.
When Raymond Sokolov became food editor of the New York Times in 1971, he began a long, memorable career as restaurant critic, food historian, and author. Here he traces the food scene he reported on in America and abroad, from his pathbreaking dispatches on nouvelle cuisine chefs like Paul Bocuse and Michel Guérard in France to the rise of contemporary American food stars like Thomas Keller and Grant Achatz, and the fruitful collision of science and cooking in the kitchens of El Bulli in Spain, the Fat Duck outside London, and Copenhagen’s gnarly Noma.
Sokolov invites readers to join him as a privileged observer of the most transformative period in the history of cuisine with this personal narrative of the sensual education of an accidental gourmet. We dine out with him at temples of haute cuisine like New York’s Lutèce but also at a pioneering outpost of Sichuan food in a gas station in New Jersey, at a raunchy Texas chili cookoff, and at a backwoods barbecue shack in Alabama, as well as at three-star restaurants from Paris to Las Vegas.
Steal the Menu is, above all, an entertaining and engaging account of a tumultuous period of globalizing food ideas and frontier-crossing ingredients that produced the unprecedentedly rich and diverse way of eating we enjoy today.
“Steal the Menu is a lively insider’s account of goings-on in the American food scene over the last forty years. And who better to tell this story than Raymond Sokolov, one of America’s best food writers? With his keen ear for language, Sokolov is by turns authoritative and funny, deeply informed and irreverent. This book offers up a feast for the senses as well as the mind!” Darra Goldstein, founding editor, Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture
“Ray Sokolov dines out delightfully on a life of dining out in the Western world’s most ambitious restaurants. His wit seasons his learning, which is considerable on a vast array of subjects, from classical French cuisine, to where to find the best hamburger in the Midwest, to barbecue in Texas. The result is a zesty stew, a chronicle of movements in cuisine across the decades and oceans. As an entertainment, Steal the Menu rates a full complement of stars.” Joseph Lelyveld, author of Great Soul
“Steal the Menu chronicles Sokolov’s forty years as an observer of the American and international food scene with delicious wit and erudition. Peppered with reflections on culinary history and tales of extraordinary journalistic adventures, Steal the Menu is a thought-provoking and delightful read.” Fuchsia Dunlop, author of Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking
“I read Steal the Menu straight through with pleasure. The writing is stylish, sometimes provocative, always informative, with a balanced perspective on the tumultuous changes at the table we’ve all lived through.” Dr. Andrew Weil, coauthor of The Healthy Kitchen
“Raymond Sokolov is very good company on the page. Steal the Menu is proof of that. His writing is witty and engaging, but what sets this book apart is its appreciativeness: food is food for thought, something to be curious about, as well as a huge pleasure.” Naomi Duguid, author of Burma: Rivers of Flavor
“This is an indispensable book for anyone and everyone who takes cooking seriously.” Jason Epstein, author of Eating
When Raymond Sokolov replaced the beloved, groundbreaking New York Times food editor Craig Claiborne in 1971, he began a long, memorable, and ongoing career as editor, restaurant critic, food historian, and author. Here he traces the food scene in America from the time Julia Child published Mastering the Art of French Cooking through today's flourishing and diverse culinary world. Along the way he addresses the impact of French chefs like Paul Bocuse and Michel Guérard; the introduction of nouvelle cuisine; the opening of the first Sichuan restaurants in the New York area (including one in a gas station); the halcyon days of Lutèce; brilliant international centers of modernist food like El Bulli and The Fat Duck; and the rise of contemporary American food stars like Thomas Keller and Grant Achatz. Witty, warm, and packed with vivid portraits of wonderfully outsized, colorful characters, and, of course, mouth watering descriptions of unforgettable meals.
About the Author
Raymond Sokolov ate his first meal in Detroit in 1941 and dined with tenacious curiosity in France as a correspondent for Newsweek. He went on to sustain himself writing about food at The New York Times and Natural History magazine, and, most recently, by covering restaurants worldwide for The Wall Street Journal. He is the author of The Saucier’s Apprentice, the novel Native Intelligence, and a biography of A. J. Liebling, Wayward Reporter. He lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.