Andrew Friedman’s newest book, Chefs, Drugs and Rock & Roll paints the picture of the rise of the chef profession during the 70s and 80s, all the way to the beginning of The Food Network starting in 1993. Readers experience key voices from a young Wolfgang Puck in Los Angeles, to Jonathan Waxman to Alice Waters among many other notable chefs. Distinguished restaurants like Quilted Giraffe, Chez Panisse, and River Café are described in detail by the restaurateurs and chefs who helped transform the industry with stories of how it all evolved.
As part of Friedman’s book tour, former Los Angeles Times food editor Russ Parson interviewed Andrew at the quaint bookstore Now Serving in Chinatown this past Saturday evening. Guests listened as Parsons began with questions regarding how Friedman stumbled into food writing (he actually identifies more as a chef writer). Apparently it was through a NY Times classified ad for the top restaurant PR firm in New York City at the time. It then segued into writing cookbook recipes for chefs, with whom he began a variety of friendships.
Parsons asked Friedman about the differences and commonalities of three major food scenes during those decades: LA, New York, and San Francisco. Friedman had this to say as an answer:
“I’ve always thought LA — I never understood it — was sort of undervalued. Food wise, I mean Wolfgang Puck happened here for God’s sake. People always talked about Chez Panisse and I don’t know why it wasn’t equally Spago and Michael’s. I’ve never understood it.”
Friedman adds: “LA to me was the most sort of varied and open, in terms of creativity. The look of restaurants here changed more than anywhere else. I don’t think anyone would dispute that.”
In regards to San Francisco back in that era, he mentions it being more women-dominated including Judy Rodgers, Nancy Oaks, Alice Waters, and Joyce Goldstein, who didn’t use ego as an ingredient. In New York, it was separated in two groups. One was made of people who loved working with their hands, got jobs as dishwashers, and fell in love with the kitchen. The other group consisted of career changers who were well traveled and decided to open restaurants like Chanterelle, Quilted Giraffe, and Manhattan Market.
Subsequently, the talk featured a conversation about the rise of celebrity chefs as well as a discussion about sexual harassment in the restaurant industry. It concluded with audience questions and a book signing with Friedman who stayed around to chat a bit more. For additional information on Andrew Friedman and his collaboration with chefs, listen to his podcast Andrew Talks To Chefs on his blog, Toqueland.
- New Book Looks at Mario Batali’s “Animalistic” Partying [ENY]
- Inside the Wild First Days of Wolfgang Puck’s Spago [ELA]