The Hunger: A Story of Food, Desire, and Ambition

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A page-turning memoir from the chef of The Waverly Inn, New York City's vaunted celebrity gathering spot

The Hunger is an insider's romp through the crazy life of the restaurant business, told by a journeyman chef who fought his way to the top. Trapped in a dead-end job, John DeLucie called it quits and invested his meager savings in a ten-week cooking class. Upon completion, armed with no professional experience and the barest of basic ...

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A page-turning memoir from the chef of The Waverly Inn, New York City's vaunted celebrity gathering spot

The Hunger is an insider's romp through the crazy life of the restaurant business, told by a journeyman chef who fought his way to the top. Trapped in a dead-end job, John DeLucie called it quits and invested his meager savings in a ten-week cooking class. Upon completion, armed with no professional experience and the barest of basic skills, he walked into the renowned gourmet shop Dean & DeLuca and asked for a job. The next day he found himself chopping forty pounds of onions in the prep-kitchen basement. A glamorous new chapter had begun. DeLucie worked his way up the bumpy NYC food chain, from executive chef at La Bottega to Nick & Toni's in East Hampton, eventually finding his way to The Waverly Inn, which he opened with publishing magnate Graydon Carter and several partners. It was here that John married his mastery of simple but unique flavors with Carter's A+ list of glitterati to create downtown's hottest eatery.

The Hunger tracks John though the pitfalls of cooking for a living, as well as the roller-coaster ride that became his personal life. Woven into the grit are the stories behind some of DeLucie's signature recipes, including New York's "Best High-End Burger" and the now famous truffled mac and cheese. Here is John's tale about food, desire, and appetite—and how one person overcame all odds to make it in the fiercely competitive world of food.

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Editorial Reviews

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As the chef of the ultrachic Waverly Inn in Greenwich Village, DeLucie surveys his domain and thinks, "Everybody here is somebody." For eight nonstop hours every night, he stands in the tiny 120° space that serves as a kitchen, expediting hundreds of mouth-watering meals served to diners who somehow managed to secure a reservation. DeLucie is having the time of his life, and his story is filled with kitchen drama, sizzling love affairs, and even a few recipes. From his humble beginnings at a hated office job, DeLucie enrolled in a culinary course, then landed a job at Dean & DeLuca, where he suffered his first "real" cooking lessons. From there, he sautés his way through 12-hour shifts in Manhattan eateries, perfecting his skills, rubbing shoulders with both the famous and the anonymous kitchen staff who work alongside him in barely controlled chaos.

"You have to be hungry to get ahead in this business," he writes. And DeLucie's hunger stays with him despite the hard knocks. At the Waverly Inn, he partners with Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair magazine, and comes into his own, marrying his down-home roots with haute cuisine, to create dishes like macaroni and cheese with white truffle shavings. The price? Fifty-five dollars. Feeding the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Salman Rushdie, Robert De Niro, and J-Lo, DeLucie serves up his life and loves without apology, and the result is a modern-day movable feast. (Summer 2009 Selection)
Publishers Weekly
With a cooking class and a Dean & Deluca's prep gig under his belt, DeLucie left behind a comfortable finance career for the cutthroat culinary industry of 1990s New York City. Eventually, he'd become a celebrity chef with his own destination restaurant co-owned by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. Beyond talent and drive, DeLucie had the requisite outsized ego to make it in the NYC culinary scene, persevering despite the staggering number of failures (some almost immediately, and sometimes on the word of a single reviewer) he helps open. Readers may find DeLucie's self-important prologue hard to stomach, but if they're willing to humor him they'll find a genuinely good story as well as a survey of celebrity eating habits, drawn from his popular Greenwich Village restaurant The Waverly Inn (after his visit, Karl Lagerfeld sent out for "just our roasted carrots...every day for a week"). When he puts aside his ego, DeLucie provides an excellent balance of personal details and authentic backstage culinary tales. For all the name-dropping, DeLucie's is a satisfying triumph of hard work and sticktoitness.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
The executive chef of New York City's posh Waverly Inn recounts his personal and professional trials and tribulations. Co-founded by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, the Waverly is best known for its celebrity clientele and the throngs of paparazzi lurking outside the door. But the food cooked under DeLucie's watchful eye holds its own against the restaurant's often picky patrons. From the Inn's famous hamburger and trademark truffle-coated mac and cheese, to the roasted carrots ordered daily by Karl Lagerfeld, DeLucie's experience has been a study in improvisation and adaptation, much like his culinary education. The author was a self-described corporate drone when, at the age of 30, he decided to follow his Italian heritage into the kitchen. After taking cooking classes at the New School, DeLucie started preparing food at Dean & DeLuca and moved from restaurant to restaurant, rising from a lowly crouton-maker to poissonnerie, sous chef and finally executive chef. Along the way, his personal life often paid the price for the hectic schedule his culinary life demanded. His portraits of the unique personalities that inhabit the kitchen are delightful, and his emphasis on the teamwork and leadership required to run a successful restaurant is inspiring. Though there are celebrity-driven anecdotes sprinkled throughout the text, the story never becomes gossipy. Unfortunately, DeLucie's own distinct palate and culinary inspirations sometimes get lost in the narrative-to its detriment, as his descriptions of the food are the most interesting passages. A colorful vignette of New York's cutthroat culinary scene by a qualified insider. New York regional author appearances. Agent: Rebecca Oliver,Richard Abate/Endeavor
New York Post
“It’s the rare behind-the-scenes glimpses into the Waverly’s clubby quarters that make this book different from other chef memoirs and their typically debauched tales.”
Bon Appetit
“This dishy read is an insider’s look at what it takes to stay on top of the high-pressure, high-profile culinary world and what really goes on in the kitchen.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780594074441
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/12/2009
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

John DeLucie is the Executive Chef/Partner of The Waverly Inn, which he opened to great critical acclaim in 2007 in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. DeLucie has been featured in New York magazine, Town & Country, the New York Times, and on television on the The Martha Stewart Show and CBS's The Early Show Saturday Edition. He lives in New York.

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Customer Reviews

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    Posted January 17, 2010

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