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4.2 out of 5 stars14
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 9 September 2012
These days there are endless books about celebrity chefs, to such an the extent that the public often forgets about the restaurateur, the person who actually sets up a restaurant, defines its vision and takes the financial risks. This book neatly fills this vacuum, with chapters on twenty successful restaurateurs from around the world, though with an understandable slight emphasis on the UK. Mr Lander is particularly well qualified to write such a book, as prior to his position as restaurant critic at the Financial Times he set up L'Escargot, an iconic Soho restaurant, in the 1980s. Indeed the opening chapter of the work, covering the early days of L'Escargot, is perhaps the most engaging of all, based as it is on first hand experience. There are one or two small quibbles; there are a few editing slips (e.g. the incorrect use of "disinterested" instead of "uninterested"), and I would have liked to have heard a little more about the failures as well as the successes. All but one of the restaurateurs featured has had to close at least one of their restaurants, and in many ways analysis of the reasons for such failures would be every bit as interesting as documenting their many successes. However these are minor niggles, as Mr Lander unveils some genuinely interesting stories as he interviews the very different restaurateurs in his book. Above all, his own passion for the business comes through strongly. This is a healthy balance to the glut of books about celebrity chefs, and well worth a read.
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on 27 September 2012
This is a very interesting book that should really be called 'a celebration of the restaurateur' rather than 'the art of...'.

Each chapter is a fascinating snapshot of a particular restaurateur, followed by a brief tackling of a specific issue, like naming a restaurant or dealing with suppliers. However, the emphasis is firmly on the former, and this is no attempt to guide the reader through the intricacies of making a success in the trade.

This has its upsides and downsides. The main downside is that there wasn't enough red meat in it for me - each restaurateur is interesting, of course, and different. But there was too little of those intricacies, scattered about in each little snapshot and then summarised (in brief and general form) in the brief bits that follow.

This needn't be a problem - after all, there are plenty of other books that explain everything from the business model to the seating plan of a good and a bad restaurant. I could also say that there was no real sense of narrative through the book, thanks to its disjointed style. I wasn't on a journey with the author (and in fact the author's writing style isn't particularly welcoming).

However, the real reason this book is less enjoyable than it could be is that all the restaurateurs are successful - hence my comment about 'celebration of...'. Nicholas Lander is a restaurant reviewer, and must know that one of the best things about opening up the review section of a paper is wondering whether it's going to be a 5 star or 1 star place. 3 stars, or relentless 5 stars (as we have here) simply become boring. There simply isn't the light and shade to sustain the approach of snapshot after snapshot.

That said, it's a very, very decent book and a really good read. It just could be better.
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on 29 April 2014
A well written and interesting tale, but I am not sure who its for. Tales of interviews with successful restaurateurs tend to be rather similar; 'I had a great idea for a place, very hard work, nearly failed, but made it in the end". Might have been interesting to leaven this a bit; maybe to read about some failures, or even some recipes, or some practical tips for smaller and less ambitious places than the multi-million dollar investments described here. Jolly enough - but what exactly was the point being made?
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on 13 December 2013
Really good read arrived on time useful insights into the restaurateur.
Why do I have to keep adding more words than I need to say what I have to say?
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Insightful, well researched and thoroughly entertaining. Already recommended to the Ecole Hotelière de Lausanne as compulsory reading for their students.
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on 19 January 2014
Great book if you're interested in some of the famous restaurants and how they came to be. Beautifully presented and arrived in perfect condition.
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on 28 December 2014
SO INSPIRING SO GOOD!! Brilliant writing and great for anyone who loves food, travel, stories, people and business
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on 15 January 2013
I really meant to finish this book, I really did. But half way, I couldn't wade through any more, so skimmed the balance. Maybe something's wrong with me. It is well written, full of information and the subjects are, or ought to be, excitingly interesting. But I found it dull.
I think the fault lies with the premise on which the author has based the book. Having had a few years of being a restaurateur - he and his wife, the wine writing icon Jancis Robinson, bought the delightful Greek Street, Soho, property housing the long-established French restaurant "L'Escargot Bienvenu" in 1981, renovated it and ran it for seven years, when ill health forced him to sell it - he not only approaches the interviews with 20 internationally renowned restaurant owners as a fellow professional, but interpolates his own views on how it all should be done. Perhaps writing restaurant critiques for the Financial Times for 21 years coloured each article to something more akin to a business profile than one of a provider of food. Indeed, "The Business of being a Restaurateur" might be a more appropriate title.
And then, non or occasional habitués of high end eating places might know the their names, but not those of the owners. So it ought to be interesting to know the ins-and-outs of the people who made famous El Buli, Le Bernardin, Tribeca, Nobu and so forth. Mr Lander's accounts are patiently, competently presented, but I longed to know about the passion, the excitements, the pratfalls, the families, the heaven and heartbreak. Above all I wanted to know about the approach to food. Page followed page of solid text, broken only by occasional spare, rather dreary line drawings. I yearned for New York Times rather than Financial Times style. For a Ruth Reichl or a Jeffrey Steingarten to get under the skin so to speak.. But above all a book like this needs to create a feeling, an atmosphere and this means photographs, black and white for preference, of the people and the places they have created.
To try and be fair, I bought the Saturday FT and read Nicholas Lander's current review. It was OK, with a couple of suitable photos, but again more business orientated than foodie. A piece about Sushi on the opposite page by another writer was much more alive and enjoyable. So, I am not sure at whom this book is directed - the intending restaurateur, perhaps. I am not qualified to judge it on this basis. Maybe for readers interested in personalities - and here I do feel it falls short. Restaurateurs I have known, and I admit here and now that virtually to a man or woman they have been "middle to low end" on the cost-per-head-to-eat-there-scale, share one thing in common, they were in it because they loved food and feeding people.
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on 21 February 2013
Another wonderful,phadian book ( at half the price of waterstones and foyles). Really well written. Amazing drawings. And as a restauranter nice to see how things work from a non chef.
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on 6 December 2012
I have to declare that I have known and liked Nick Lander since I met him more than 25 years ago, and I met Jancis Robinson more than 30 years ago when she came to review our restaurant, long before she became Mrs. Lander, and before she became the most famous (and I think the best) wine authority in the world.

My wife and I have been retired for more than seven years, but we know, and admire, several of the restaurateurs profiled by Lander. He writes incisively about the their skills, and between each of the profiles is a very perceptive short commentary on a principle that applies to all restaurants.

In the 27 years that we owned and ran Gidleigh Park, we only had three professional chefs, two of whom became famous in Britain while cooking with us, first Shaun Hill, then Michael Caines. Each of them was excellent in different ways, and each had a great impact on the success of our business. But I have always thought that the most important single person in our business was our outstanding hotel and restaurant manager, Catherine Endacott. Maybe 20% of our clients were 'foodies', but 100% appreciated being served as individuals, and Catherine was brilliant at that.

Paul Henderson
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