Having just finished reading the book I feel that even its highlights are somewhat tainted for me by the credibility gap which has been brought to light here. And before anyone jumps all over me, I'm referring specifically to the credibility gap presented by the author of the book himself, in this post
. At the very least, it was a missed bet to not include such a seemingly important moment in the book. And I suppose, that at 31 years of age, the author may not possess the wisdom to understand the significance of the moment. Still, for me, the fact that the moment doesn't appear in the book leads to unavoidable questions about what appears (and what doesn't) throughout the rest of the book.
For example, there is another moment in the book where Psaltis describes a conversation he had with Thomas Keller in which he (Psaltis) tells Keller that he doesn't see eye to eye with Keller or his cuisine and that FL's food is more focused on visual elements than on flavor. Psaltis writes:
"I just don't think about food in the same way," I told him.
"What does that mean?" Thomas asked me. And I explained to him that I thought a lot of the dishes were created with aesthetics as the primary goal and how enticingly they could be explained to a guest as the second consideration, that the sauces were meant to look bright and beautiful and that sometimes they ended up flavorless in this pursuit. While I understood that other elements are important, I always think of food in terms of flavor and taste first.
It's a great moment and arguably the most dramatic one in the entire book but I find myself wondering whether it really happened the way it was described. Because of the omission referenced above, I can't help but get the feeling that Mr. Psaltis may not have a clear perception of himself. And even if one is willing to accept that his omissions and embellishments are entirely a function of the subconscious (and occur naturally or without any particular agenda), they diminish the value of this account for me quite a bit. And again, I don't know Doug Psalits. I'm speaking specifically about the book itself.
For all his accomplishments and clearly rapid ascent through the ranks, Psaltis is a relatively obscure figure. For me, that makes many of the personal details which appear in the book uninteresting. Perhaps if he were more of a star, I'd care more about his "on again, off again" relationship with Nora. Instead, the relationship as described, primarily lends credence to the possibility that Mr. Psaltis' interpersonal skills may not be well-honed. The relative self-isolation he describes throughout the book leads me to the same conclusion. Viewing the slap through that context, it's easier to see, perhaps, why it may have not been included in the book. It is entirely possible that the socially-underdeveloped Psaltis may simply have not understood how significant a moment it was. Still, if an author lacks that kind of wisdom, it doesn't bode well for the value of his memoirs -- even if the omission is a genuine one.
I did learn a bunch, however, from reading this book. I got a great feel for the ultra-competitive NYC restaurant scene -- from an angle I hadn't really enjoyed before. The details about Ducasse's operations are absolutely riveting. The sequence when Psaltis learns that he'll be going to stage at Louis XV in Monaco is a great one. And the time he spends in Monaco is well-described and quite interesting.
The bottom line for me is that the book raises a lot more questions than it answers. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, but I also don't believe it was the author's intention. As a relative neophyte to the world of fine dining and top kitchens, I was happy to have learned a quite a bit from reading it. I do wonder what we'll see in the future from Psaltis. Will he write another book? Will he, at some point, look back on this one with a more mature eye? As a chef, Psaltis surely may have been "seasoned" but as a person, he seems to have missed that same process. But then again, at 31 I could have easily said the same thing about myself . . . well maybe not, but others surely would have.