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Au Revoir to All That: The Rise and Fall of French Cuisine Hardcover – 1 Jun 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; 1st Edition edition (1 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747591822
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747591825
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 2.4 x 24.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 500,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

`If you've ever wondered why eating in France is so often disappointing, Michael Steinberger can explain. His delicious account draws not just on his amazing gastronomic expertise, but on a sophisticated understanding of French politics and history as well.'
-- Jacob Weisberg, author of The Bush Tragedy and editor of Slate

`Most books on food and wine are misty-eyed memoirs of great meals and happy times. Michael Steinberger's book is different; he is trying to understand the decline and fall of France as the center of the world's great cuisine. Of course, in his explorations, Steinberger takes us to the kitchens of great chefs, describes extraordinary food and evokes fond memories. The result turns out to be intelligent, interesting and complicated. You will have to read the book to get it - and you will read it with much pleasure' -- Fareed Zakaria, author of The Post-American World

`One of the greatest books I've read. Magical, dreamy and romantic, with moments of sadness, it took me back to that young boy in the kitchen'
-- Marco Pierre White

Review

`If you've ever wondered why eating in France is so often disappointing, Michael Steinberger can explain. His delicious account draws not just on his amazing gastronomic expertise, but on a sophisticated understanding of French politics and history as well.'

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin Girth VINE VOICE on 8 July 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an entertaining book but within limits. For original ideas and a basic analysis this is gossamer light info-tainment, a book you pick up at an airport, lend to your friends and don't mind if they fail to return it. Written in that gossipy style of in-flight magazines, Mr Steinberger tells the story of a once great nation humiliated by the failure of an iconic industry. Its' decay is a metaphor for national decline, arrogance, dismal failure to innovate while investing overseas, high costs/low productivity, over priced products and the relentless rise of superior foreign competition. But we are not talking of General Motors (or the entire US auto sector); this book is about French cooking.

The first two chapters are historically interesting, the development of eating, structure of meals, the great chefs et al. He charts the rise (tyranny) of the Michelin guide and the fad that was nouvelle cuisine. Throughout the book he profiles the chef d'enterprise, men (no women in this world, he missed the chance to plead that cause) who left the kitchen to become restaurant opening entrepreneurs. So far so good but in chapter 3 he attempts to contextualise French cuisine within the economy and society. This is simplistic (as is chapter 12 where he lectures the French on racial integration). He explains the burden of being a three star restaurant but fails to make the obvious point that even the best are very small businesses. Yes, they close the weekends, for a month in August, public holidays,endure very high tax and pervasive regulation and make little money. All true but we are not talking about a global multinationals. These are little ventures with few employing more than 50 people. French restaurants are not Peugeot or Saint Goblin.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER on 22 Jan. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Like Steinberger I am a Francophile, and also like him I have appreciated and enjoyed more French cuisine than I deserve, and envy his ability to turn a formidable avocation into a "put butter on the table" livelihood. He is a journalist though, with the attendant occupational hazard of producing an episodic, cut-and-paste book. (He tells us, twice, that the Elysée is the French White House.) Still, most of the "episodic" courses were lush, rich in experiences that I am glad he could share. For example, the chapter entitled "The Last Gentleman of Europe" on the Taillevent restaurant was solid. Likewise the chapter on Camembert cheese, "The Raw and the Cooked," and on Alain Ducasse, "King of the World." He starts the book with an excellent "potted history" of French cuisine, and he described two of the dominant influences on contemporary cuisine: the showmanship and marketing of Paul Bocuse, and the "stay-in-the-kitchen-and-cook" style of Alain Chapel. Like the Michelin Guide, he has inspired me to take a journey, the next time I am in France, across the border to San Sebastian, in Spain, in order to sample the dynamism of Spanish cooking, in the city with the highest concentration of 3-star restaurants. Steinberger covered the secretive Michelin organization, as well as it is likely to be covered, including its role, or not, in the suicide of Bernard Loiseau. He also devoted an interesting chapter to the rise of "malbouffe," fast-food in France, and notes that McDonald's has its second most profitable operation in this country. José Bové's efforts to sweep back the tide are also covered.Read more ›
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin Girth VINE VOICE on 5 Aug. 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is an entertaining book but within limits. For original ideas and a basic analysis this is gossamer light info-tainment, a book you pick up at an airport, lend to your friends and don't mind if they fail to return it. Written in that gossipy style of in-flight magazines, Mr Steinberger tells the story of a once great nation humiliated by the failure of an iconic industry. Its' decay is a metaphor for national decline, arrogance, dismal failure to innovate while investing overseas, high costs/low productivity, over priced products and the relentless rise of superior foreign competition. But we are not talking of General Motors (and the entire US auto sector); this book is about French cooking.

The first two chapters are historically interesting, the development of eating, structure of meals, the great chefs et al. He charts the rise (tyranny) of the Michelin guide and the fad that was nouvelle cuisine. Throughout the book he profiles the chef d'enterprise, men (no women in this world, he missed the chance to plead that cause) who left the kitchen to become restaurant opening entrepreneurs. So far so good but in chapter 3 he attempts to contextualise French cuisine within the economy and society. This is simplistic (as is chapter 12 where he lectures the French on racial integration). He explains the burden of being a three star restaurant but fails to make the obvious point that even the best are very small businesses. Yes, they close the weekends, for a month in August, public holidays,endure very high tax and pervasive regulation and make little money. All true but we are not talking about a global multinationals. These are little ventures with few employing more than 50 people. French restaurants are not Peugeot or Saint Goblin.
Read more ›
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