Back of the House: The Secret Life of a Restaurant

Back of the House: The Secret Life of a Restaurant

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by Scott Haas
     
 

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Food writer and clinical psychologist Scott Haas wanted to know what went on inside the mind of a top chef—and what kind of emotional dynamics drove the fast-paced, intense interactions inside a great restaurant. To capture all the heat and hunger, he spent eighteen months immersed in the kitchen of James Beard Award-winner Tony Maws’ restaurant, Craigie… See more details below

Overview

Food writer and clinical psychologist Scott Haas wanted to know what went on inside the mind of a top chef—and what kind of emotional dynamics drove the fast-paced, intense interactions inside a great restaurant. To capture all the heat and hunger, he spent eighteen months immersed in the kitchen of James Beard Award-winner Tony Maws’ restaurant, Craigie on Main, in Boston. He became part of the family, experiencing the drama first-hand. Here, Haas exposes the inner life of a chef, what it takes to make food people crave, and how to achieve greatness in a world that demands more than passion and a sharp set of knives.

A lens into what motivates and inspires all chefs—including Thomas Keller, Andrew Carmellini, whose stories are also shared here—Back of the House will change the way you think about food—and about the complicated people who cook it and serve it.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Adding another addition to the long line of books about restaurants, chefs, and chefs in their restaurants, Haas focuses on Tony Maws, the chef of Craigie on Main, a buzzy place in Cambridge, Mass., that specializes in "obviously offbeat" American cuisine "like pig's head and other odd ingredients." While Haas's book could educate (or warn) some readers about what happens in the kitchen-apparently, a lot of yelling-other books make the same point more vividly, such as Anthony Bourdain's now-classic Kitchen Confidential. Haas, a clinical psychologist, insists both on analyzing the chef and inserting himself unnecessarily into the book. The analysis drags the books down, but a sudden digression towards the end is worse: Haas visits New York and interviews several of his famous chef friends, including Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller. Both of these chefs are far more intriguing than Maws, and readers may find themselves disappointed to have to return to Boston and more psychoanalysis, rather than learn more from those culinary notables.
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From the Publisher
"Johnny Heller's straightforward narration makes the chef sound like just one of the guys, a style that is well suited to the rough-and-tumble situations and principals associated with a professional kitchen." —AudioFile
Kirkus Reviews
A psychologist and food writer takes a close look at what motivates and defines one of today's most celebrated chefs. Haas (Are We There Yet?, 2004) lives close to chef-owner Tony Maws' famous Boston restaurant, Craigie on Main. Though the author wouldn't deign to be a "foodie" by today's terms--most restaurant experiences are, to him, "a colossal waste of time and money"--but a dinner at Craigie one night launched him into an intensive, behind-the-scenes field study of life in the Craigie kitchen. Haas is painstakingly meticulous in his report, observing every member of the kitchen in turn, working alongside many of them and even interviewing Maws' parents for the chef's complete family history. The author is most focused on the emotional and psychological inner workings of the kitchen dynamics. As he analyzes the inherent tensions in chef–cook relationships, he muses on the cause and effects of Maws' hot-tempered personality with the distance and interest of a biologist observing a lion taking out a pack of hyenas. Despite his intense closeness to his subject, Haas' writing never takes on the authority of an insider. The book's descriptions of what is presumably some of the most inspired food in the country are tough and dry, and most of the text reads like a court reporter's transcript of conversations between the author and Craigie employees. Now and then, the pages-long dialogue is broken up by Haas' patronizing diagnoses of various characters' behavioral habits; the chef, evidently, has "father issues," but even he finds that hard to take seriously. While the militaristic minutiae of restaurant life and its psychological pressures might otherwise make for a gripping study, its presentation here is cluttered and clinical.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101619278
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/05/2013
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
477,405
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Forgive the unappetizing metaphor, but Scott Haas is a fly on the wall at Cragie on Main. He sees all, hears all, tells all. Did the wonderful chef Tony Maws know he revealed so much?” –Alan Richman, GQ Food and Wine Critic

“Haas is that rare breed of writer: part investigative reporter, part father confessor, wrapped up in the poetry of culinary genius and served with a twist of humour.” –Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire and Georgiana

“Scott Haas provides an insider’s perspective that truly takes you into the belly of the restaurant industry beast.” –Drew Nieporent, Restaurateur (Tribeca Grill, Nobu, Corton)

"Reading Back of the House is like reading my own autobiography about my life in the kitchen. Scott brings out an uncensored, unbiased reality to the restaurant industry. Every young cook should sink their teeth into it." –Marc Vetri, chef and restaurant owner

“[Haas’] insights about restaurant kitchens are always informative as well as entertaining. His views on chefs surprise and delight.”—Thomas Keller, chef and restaurateur

“I look to Scott for digging deep to uncover what really motivates and inspires us. He is one of those rare food writers who brings an intelligence and understanding from beyond the kitchen to his culinary reporting.”—Daniel Boulud, chef-owner of award-winning restaurants

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