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Don't Try This At Home    edited by Kimberly Witherspoon & Andrew Friedman order for
Don't Try This At Home
by Kimberly Witherspoon
Order:  USA  Can
Bloomsbury, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Do you ever think about what goes on behind the scenes when you are dining out? Do you envision a well-ordered kitchen, running smoothly under competent supervision, producing the lovely meal you just ordered? Most of the time, that is the reality. Chef and staff together perform like the proverbially well-oiled machine. Each part functioning separately, but together bringing forth beautifully prepared food that tastes as elixir on your palate.

Most of the time. But occasionally, disaster strikes. A line-cook may not show up for work; a delivery might be late or not show up at all; the walk-in refrigerator might have inadvertently been shut off and all the food inside spoiled; or any number of other catastrophes that challenge the food service industry. Don't Try This At Home is a compilation of just such disasters that afflicted some of the world's greatest cooks and chefs. Like the time a terrine of fois gras gently slid into a small vat of warm chocolate. As if that weren't bad enough, the heat of the chocolate started to melt into the chill of the terrine to produce a new dish to be presented to a VIP. (He scarfed it up!)

One after another of the cooks and chefs who have won high places in the culinary field admit to having suffered catastrophes similar to those that occur in our own home kitchens. On a larger scale, of course. After all, we aren't about to have 200 or more hungry patrons gather around our dinner tables awaiting our creations. From a food fight in a high-scale restaurant to the hiring of a blind line-cook, to a chef terrorized by an owl, these wonderfully told stories make the great chefs seem human. Even experts can be put off their stride. But you have to admire their ability to think on their feet to rescue a doomed meal.

For a delicious peek into the behind the scenes of the restaurants of the world, Don't Try This At Home is well worth the reading time - and don't be surprised to find yourself laughing out loud.

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