Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Carolyn Jung, What Are You Reading?

Carolyn Jung always has the latest news on chefs, restaurants, cookbooks, and products. She’s a James Beard award winner for feature writing about restaurants/chefs and the former food writer/editor of the San Jose Mercury News. She’s a freelance food writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco magazine, Coastal Living, Food Arts, and other publications. She has judged the Pillsbury Bake-Off and was a judge for the 2009 James Beard Foundation Cookbook Awards. Her writing brings food to life whether she’s describing a cupcake or the work a world renowned chef on her site Food Gal, and you can now subscribe to her recently launched newsletter for more food news each week. I had a feeling Carolyn could suggest some good titles, so I asked her what are you reading?

Knives at Dawn (Free Press) by Andrew Friedman.
This is like a culinary David vs. Goliath. It tells the story of what Timothy Hollingsworth, now chef de cuisine of the French Laundry, survived as he competed for the United States in the 2009 Bocuse d’Or, the Olympics of cooking. Going against other chefs, who not only had competed before but had years to practice for this grueling, stressful event, the young Hollingsworth was the decided underdog as he worked to complete his elaborate show platters with help from his even younger and even less experienced assistant, Adina Guest, a commis at the French Laundry. It’s a page-turner, filled with suspense, hilarity (see how the gregarious Daniel Boulud always manages to take control of a bad situation), and how-could-you moments, such as when Hollingsworth decides to use a brand-new knife on the first day of the competition. You come away with even more respect for chefs like these who work so hard to be at the top of their game day in and day out.

Medium Raw (Ecco) by Anthony Bourdain.
I’ve been a fan of Bourdain’s since his Kitchen Confidential days, and was lucky enough to interview him over lunch a few years ago as passersby yelled, "Love your show!" and a shy server came up to him to ask him for his autograph. This book can be a little too all-over-the-place at times, as if he were writing in a stream of consciousness between takes of his popular No Reservations show. But what we’ve come to love in Bourdain – the snarky, cursing, no-holds-barred curmudgeon of the kitchen – is still evident in full force. Who else could so aptly describe Chef David Chang as sounding like a "Tourette’s-afflicted Marine?" Or so wonderfully capture how a seemingly thankless job as the fish cutter at Le Bernardin can become elevated to one of utmost respect and sheer awe in the hands of the dedicated, hard-working Justo Thomas, who has not only been doing that job for six years, but doing it like no one else ever has. I love reading Bourdain for his laugh-out-loud sarcastic zingers, but also for the unexpected peeks into the recesses of the restaurant world that nobody else focuses on.

Hungry (Berkeley Books) by Sheila and Lisa Himmel.
Normally, a book chronicling the travails of anorexia and bulimia would probably not make my list of top summer reads. But this book is different, because it is the gripping, true story of a restaurant critic whose daughter developed anorexia during her college years. Imagine the irony of getting to eat at some of the best restaurants as part of your job, only to come home to a daughter who was wasting away before your eyes because she refused to eat. Full disclosure: I worked with Sheila Himmel at the Food section of the San Jose Mercury News, when she first wrote a front-page story about her daughter’s plight, which later led to the development of this book. “Hungry’’ is a brave look at a frightening eating disorder, and a reminder that food is not merely all glamorous and hip as it’s so often portrayed in society these days, but a topic that can spur great anxiety, fear, and pain for many.

Thank you for participating, Carolyn. Check back to see who answers the question next time and what other books are recommended.

Previous WAYR posts:
Jaden Hair
Michael Ruhlman
Monica Bhide
Michael Natkin
Sara Roahen
Andrea Nguyen
David Lebovitz
Rick Bayless
Tara Austen Weaver
Mollie Katzen
Deborah Madison
Soup Peddler
Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan
Robb Walsh
Kim Severson
David Leite
Dan Lepard


  1. Thanks for letting me share these favorite books with your audience, Lisa. I hope they find them as inspiring and enlightening as I did.

  2. Great to see Carolyn's selection!



  3. Love all of Anthony Bourdain books, I am taking turn to read his latest one with my husband. I just love him so much. Are you going to interview him as well? That will be super cool!

  4. Elra: I'd love to interview Bourdain! Unfortunately, I haven't figured out a way of contacting him.

  5. Carolyn is brilliant isn't she! Great to see what she is reading too. I just finished Medium Raw last month and loved it.

  6. i had no idea that carolyn had achieved so much. no wonder i adore her so. :)

  7. I adore carolyn's blog and I had NO IDEA she was so accomplished. God I'm so honored that she reads my blog now...crazy stuff.

  8. Lisa - I have to repeat myself, you are brilliant to have come up with this series.

    Carolyn - What a great selection of reads. Having following some of the travails of the competition through the papers here. Knives at Dawn is on my must read list. Can't wait to check it out.

    I have not heard of hungry before, but it indeed sounds interesting.

  9. And the booklist grows . . . Thanks, Carolyn, for letting us peek at your bookshelf. Knives at Dawn demonstrates that cooking isn't for the weak and Bourdain is always a great read. As for Hungry, it sounds like a very compelling story.


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