Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Doug Psaltis


robert40
 Share

Recommended Posts

Tess, I used the word “muse”, not “imagination”. I don’t see how I even implied that the book is a work of fiction or should be treated as such except for the fact that writers in both genres shouldn’t be called on to interpret their work or asked to defend it. I am willing to admit that both fiction and alleged non-fiction books can be, and occasionally are, fraudulent because of plagiarism, theft of intellectual property or concepts, and delusional or dysfunctional authors. I’ll repeat that I haven’t read the book yet. But as far as I can tell, Douglas and Michael Psaltis haven’t been accused of any of this.

I have the distinct impression that “The Seasoning of a Chef” is a memoir of early-career culinary life. It is unknowable if the difference in talent between Jim Bouton and Whitey Ford is wider than that of Douglas Psaltis and an “A-List” chef. Although Bouton may have seen at the time his best days as a journeyman pitcher, his book “Ball Four” was literate, funny and very insightful about the life of Major League baseball players. (For an even more extreme example of an unknown member of a class of professionals enlightening the reader about his field, think of ex-minor leaguer Pat Jordan’s minor classic “A False Spring”, let alone, in the culinary field, Anthony Bourdain). When I go into the culinary section of a large bookstore, I see literally hundreds of cookbooks by professional chefs less-known than Psaltis. Just because these books aren’t food narratives, the “hoping to become known” factor is no less apparent.

Who said that Psaltis was obligated to provide a balanced view of life in the French Laundry kitchen, especially if he had a negative view of it? The man’s entitled to express his feelings. If you want “balanced” along with “fair”, make Fox Cable News your channel of choice.

My reason for using the string of adjectives about many of the posts and posters in this thread is that what was intended to start out as a civilized discussion of the book turned into, to a large degree, a defense of Thomas Keller. Keller plays a minor part in the book and he certainly didn’t write it.

For two years I handled the slush pile in the Trade Book Division of one of the world’s largest publishers. It was my job to separate the literature from the crap. By reading just a fraction of the number of words that are in the Daily Gullet excerpts of “The Seasoning of a Chef”, I was able to pull out the authors who submitted literature and merited a second reading from those who sent in junk and to whom I sent the rejection form letter.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why has this thread morphed into moderators, forum hosts and founders vs everyone else? 

I realise it might be inconvenient for the eG team that not everyone always agrees with them - but that's life.

It hasn't. Go back and look at Bux's comments. He has raised plenty of doubts about the book. Shaw has questioned Psaltis's wisdom on a number of fronts. Members of the eG team have quibbled with Shaw's conclusions. Nor has "everyone else" taken a negative view of the book.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tess, I used the word “muse”, not “imagination”. I don’t see how I even implied that the book is a work of fiction or should be treated as such except for the fact that writers in both genres shouldn’t be called on to interpret their work or asked to defend it.

What gave me the impression-- which I'm ready to believe might have been wrong, was such language as "simply as a work of literature."

I also don't think it's a "fact" that writers of memoirs shouldn't be called on to defend them. Whyever not?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Like any memoir of substance, there will always be detractors, partisans, boot-lickers, and hired guns who will go on the attack with a sense of revisionism and revenge.

We often hear of the great defenders of Keller who rush from the forests with swords in hand to slay those who cast the slightest amount of criticism his way.

This may be true but keep in mind there are others who cannot stand the Keller's of the world. Each time we smack the alarm clock off the nightstand in the morning and keep one eye anxiously on the clock as our work day is coming to a close we curse the Thomas Keller's, Lance Armstrong's and Oprah Winfrey's. Why you may ask? Its human nature. When we look in the mirror at night we cant fool that person looking back and convince him/her that we gave 110% into every task throughout the day. So we hate those who do, and search out any imperfections to help ease our conscience and vanity before we smack that alarm clock of the night stand again.

Edited by robert40 (log)

Robert R

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why has this thread morphed into moderators, forum hosts and founders vs everyone else? 

I realise it might be inconvenient for the eG team that not everyone always agrees with them - but that's life.

As Fat guy and I seem to be at opposite poles on this book, which one of us don't you recognize as a moderator, forum host or founder?

I have eaten in the French Laundry and was treated well there, but I didn't meet Keller or see the walk in. Besides it was many years ago. I have no idea what actually happened in the Kitchen when Doug Psaltis was there. I don't know that I'm in a position to get more reliable hearsay than many others, and hearsay is always going to be suspect.

I am more familiar with a restaurant in NY that's described in the book in detail, much of which doesn't sit with my knowledge of the restaurant. For one thing the owner's name is changed. More importantly his culinary background is turned upside down and he's presented to the reader with a lack of culinary experience that's utterly out of whack with what I, as a frequent diner, knew from was commonly reported in the culinary press or told to me by other chefs in the NY community. Such a fictionalized account should not have been necessary and I'm wondering why it was attempted. I'm also curious why only some names were changed. What happens is that as suspicions grow, so do innuendos. The pen is mightier than the sword, but no more so when used to report the truth than to spread rumors or lies. We've all been advised to believe nothing we read and only half of what we see. Is it more questionable to use innuendo in a forum post than in a print text?

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think you've raised some interesting questions, Bux.

If it is true that this book is a memoir (as it seems to be presenting itself) then what is the traditional form and substance of a memoir?

How many memoirs can be construed to be accurate and without argument as to the "real" truth?

Personally, I haven't read many so don't really know.

Those of you who have. . .what do you think?

Is this book within the boundaries of what a memoir usually consists of in terms of percentage of the inarguable?

Or is it out of the usual boundaries in terms of questions it raises as to "what really happened"?

I guess where my question ultimately leads to is: Is it the form itself that is creating the potential for detailed argument among those who were not there, or is it the author. . .in this case?

(Not that I really expect to hear any agreement on this question either, but hey. Why not ask :biggrin: )

Edited by Carrot Top (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Where it springs from is no different than that of any work of art or craft; i.e. the muse. As such it can be subjected to the Intentional ( or Intentionist) Fallacy, which is to say that it is not necessary for Douglas to say anything about his book, let alone defend himself from the Keller Cavalry Brigade. Like any memoir of substance, there will always be detractors, partisans, boot-lickers, and hired guns who will go on the attack with a sense of revisionism and revenge. “The Seasoning of a Chef” can stand by itself simply as literature.

From Amazon's book description:

The fascinating diner-to-Ducasse true story of a young New Yorker's meteoric rise from his grandfather's Greek diner in Queens to the kitchens of some of the world's greatest restaurants.

...

Filled with rampant egos, cutthroat kitchen politics, and settings ranging from Monte Carlo to Paris and Napa Valley, The Seasoning of a Chef is a real and rare glimpse into the food industry. More than anyone until now, Doug Psaltis reveals vividly and honestly the hardships, sacrifices, and dreams of glory that are all part of becoming a great chef.

(emphasis mine)

The book is being marketed as a true story, no fiction of any type.

The way I see it, in a particular section of the book Mr. Psaltis apparently (I haven't read it) tells his version of his experience at TFL. Some people in the forum ask him for more details. Mr. Psaltis then explains a situation of (mild) physicial violence which according to him was one of the reasons of his departure from TFL.

Then, several so-called informed readers suggest they've heard otherwise and press Mr. Psaltis for confirmation. I don't see any particular gain Mr. Bourdain, Mr. Ruhlman , Bux or others may obtain by bringing forward what they may have heard. They have, in my view, an established credibility. And I don't see any reason to attack them as messengers.

Whether some people like it or not, Mr. Keller is admired by many people and has an established reputation and credibility as well. Thus, I think that to speculate on whether his best people where in NY opening Per Se or TFL was having a bad time while Mr. Psaltis was there is not only besides the point, but moreover seems to offend those who admire Mr. Keller. In the same line, the discussion on whether physical violence should or should not be condoned is besides the point as well.

The point, I think, is Mr. Psaltis credibility being put into question by rumours that have not been confirmed nor denied so far.

Since he is the one, at this particular time, with the less established reputation, the way I see it, the ball is in Mr. Psaltis court.

Edited by Silly Disciple (log)

We''ve opened Pazzta 920, a fresh pasta stall in the Boqueria Market. follow the thread here.

My blog, the Adventures of A Silly Disciple.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just a question...pure curiosity, and again, I am on no one's side here.

Is there anyone in these forums who believes that the stories recounted in a "memoir" type of book are 100% reliable and told from any perspective other than that of the author?

Seriously, folks. :blink:

Memoirs are, by their very nature, subjective accounts. It's unlikely you'd get the "real" story, no matter who was telling it.

In what way is Psaltis' recounting of the story inconsistent with his recollection of it? Um, we don't know. It's possible that if you then asked the runner and an eyewitness, you'd get two more versions of the story.

So why the rush to judgement on one side or another?

K

Basil endive parmesan shrimp live

Lobster hamster worchester muenster

Caviar radicchio snow pea scampi

Roquefort meat squirt blue beef red alert

Pork hocs side flank cantaloupe sheep shanks

Provolone flatbread goat's head soup

Gruyere cheese angelhair please

And a vichyssoise and a cabbage and a crawfish claws.

--"Johnny Saucep'n," by Moxy Früvous

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just a question...pure curiosity, and again, I am on no one's side here. 

Is there anyone in these forums who believes that the stories recounted in a "memoir" type of book are 100% reliable and told from any perspective other than that of the author?

Seriously, folks.  :blink:

Memoirs are, by their very nature, subjective accounts.  It's unlikely you'd get the "real" story, no matter who was telling it.

In what way is Psaltis' recounting of the story inconsistent with his recollection of it?  Um, we don't know.  It's possible that if you then asked the runner and an eyewitness, you'd get two more versions of the story. 

So why the rush to judgement on one side or another?

K

I agree, on the one hand. On the other, do you think it's wrong to share conflicting points of view? This memoir excerpt was posted to a discussion site. I'm a little troubled by suggestions that it needs to be protected from criticism.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The publisher categorizes the book as "Biography & Autobiography". See the publishers page: Random House (Broadway)

Truth is key to the category, but all authors of biographies need to balance truth, objectivity and interpretation. I think that we have the brother as biographer makes a big difference in how we can view the content. We don't know who wrote what using what interpretation of what truth. Good strategy really.

My soup looked like an above ground pool in a bad neighborhood.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry, if you haven't read the book, and that means the whole thing, not just the TFL chapter at B&N, then no one really knows what they're talking about.

I thought it was good, inspirational at times (talking about the Ducasse chapters especially) and if you're a cook or chef, you've seen this movie a million times.

That makes me feel good.

I wonder why no one is talking about how screwed up the Chodorow/Ducasse relationship was, why no one else except Bux is questioning or going along with the relatively undisguised jibes at Dan Barber?

BTW, I've never met a chef or worked with a chef who isn't obsessed with their walk ins, unless they were too busy to even walk in theirs and in that case, they had an walk in obsessed sous chef or chef de cuisine.

2317/5000

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just a question...pure curiosity, and again, I am on no one's side here. 

Is there anyone in these forums who believes that the stories recounted in a "memoir" type of book are 100% reliable and told from any perspective other than that of the author?

I'll bite. I'm approaching this discussion from the perspective of both an author and reader. I'm not a food professional by any stretch of anyone's imagination, but I do have a lot of respect for the parties involved (both with the book and this discussion). So, here's my take, for what its worth.

I think that there is an unstated relationship between an author and a reader. With the genre of memoir, there is absolutely an understanding that an author's perspective of events will be skewed by their experiences, memories, and a host of other psychological factors. Its a given. No problem.

However, the author is telling me a story (or situation or event) in the context of non-fiction. If they have purposefully omitted facts or context that skews the story, then that is another matter. In other words (believe me, I'm not lacking words... just ask my editor), if the story as written doesn't match the story as perceived by the author, then the fundamental 'relationship' between author and reader is broken. Leave out things that will hurt others? Fine. Just don't change the perception that you, the author, are trying to convey. If you can't do that, don't write about it.

Can I get some popcorn before I return to the nose-bleed seats?

Anna

------

"I brought you a tuna sandwich. They say it's brain food. I guess because there's so much dolphin in it, and you know how smart they are." -- Marge Simpson

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Who said that Psaltis was obligated to provide a balanced view of life in the French Laundry kitchen, especially if he had a negative view of it?

If not to tell the 'whole story' warts and all, what then is the function of Psaltis' memoir?

It is entirely consistent to hold a negative view of something without needing to construct a positive role for oneself. Indeed, given that Psaltis uses his criticism of the French Laundry to amplify his own talents, when Psaltis omits to include an episode that reflects negatively on himself it seems reasonable to claim that his memoirs have been constructed as vehicle for his self-aggrandizement, and thus the lack of balance is significant in that it allows us to evaluate the information that Psaltis does include in the book.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh man I am dizzy.

As stated about three pages back. Why don't you guys go ask this guy yourselves. It is his choice, not responsbility to provide you an answer.

It is his memoirs. He can say whatever he wants as long as he thinks it is true. If someone mentioned in the book has an issue. I am sure they will let him know about it.

Better yet. If you don't appreciate what he might say in his memoirs, don't read it, buy it or recommend it to a friend.

Now go bake a pie, research rarely used spices, or go for a walk.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Better yet. If you don't appreciate what he might say in his memoirs, don't read it, buy it or recommend it to a friend.

Whilst it is appreciable that you are not interested in this discussion, is it also not appreciable that there are others who are?

Indeed, if we are to take your advice and not read, buy or recommend Psaltis' book, what better than this thread as a basis for making those decisions?

Edited by Dirk Wheelan (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh man I am dizzy.

As stated about three pages back. Why don't you guys go ask this guy yourselves. It is his choice, not responsbility to provide you an answer.

I differ in opinion, the ? was asked and by not responding, it adds some chinks to his armor of credibility. It is his choice to respond or not but by not doing so in a forum he decided to participate in it leaves a sour taste.

How about baking a pie with rarely used spices while taking a walk :raz: (just a joke)

Edit: This thread is very dizzy inducing

Edited by M.X.Hassett (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My reason for using the string of adjectives [detractors, partisans, boot-lickers, and hired guns] about many of the posts and posters in this thread is that what was intended to start out as a civilized discussion of the book turned into, to a large degree, a defense of Thomas Keller.

Perhaps it's just me, but I feel that whatever your reasons for doing so, calling many of the posters on this thread, 'detractors, partisans, boot-lickers, and hired guns' is hardly civilized discussion. In fact, there seems to no reason that I'm aware of to doubt the genuineness of the reactions both for and against Psaltis. Putting criticism down to 'hired guns' smacks of the innuendo we were warned against using at the beginning of the thread, and calling Psaltis' critics 'boot-lickers' is by any standard extremely insulting.

Moreover, the idea that criticism of Psaltis equates to a defence of Keller is simply untrue. My own objection, and that of several others on the thread, is that Psaltis' omission of events negatively impinges on the claims he makes in the book by appearing to reveal an ulterior motive. The fact that the scenario in which this takes place involves Keller is neither here nor there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My reason for using the string of adjectives [detractors, partisans, boot-lickers, and hired guns] about many of the posts and posters in this thread is that what was intended to start out as a civilized discussion of the book turned into, to a large degree, a defense of Thomas Keller.

Perhaps it's just me, but I feel that whatever your reasons for doing so, calling many of the posters on this thread, 'detractors, partisans, boot-lickers, and hired guns' is hardly civilized discussion. In fact, there seems to no reason that I'm aware of to doubt the genuineness of the reactions both for and against Psaltis. Putting criticism down to 'hired guns' smacks of the innuendo we were warned against using at the beginning of the thread, and calling Psaltis' critics 'boot-lickers' is by any standard extremely insulting.

Moreover, the idea that criticism of Psaltis equates to a defence of Keller is simply untrue. My own objection, and that of several others on the thread, is that Psaltis' omission of events negatively impinges on the claims he makes in the book by appearing to reveal an ulterior motive. The fact that the scenario in which this takes place involves Keller is neither here nor there.

Exellent point Dirk, regardless what side of the fence you(in general not you Dirk) are on with this issue.

Edit: Name mistake

Edited by M.X.Hassett (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I differ in opinion, the ? was asked and by not responding, it adds some chinks to his armor of credibility. It is his choice to respond or not but by not doing so in a forum he decided to participate in it leaves a sour taste.

Edit: This thread is very dizzy inducing

There is no assurance that he will not respond.

As he mentioned earlier when he did answer several questions posted, he is in the process of opening a new restaurant.

Any chef I have known involved in an opening is likely to be working 22 hours a day nonstop.

.......................................................

And if I were him, (even if there were time) I would feel inclined to wait till the chatter died down a bit to try to sort out what all the questions and comments were so as to be able to respond to them one at a time in a calm and reasonable manner.

There is a sense of feral dogs fighting over meat here.

Either that or of children at the tag end of an exciting birthday party where too much cake and ice-cream have been eaten and the house is now being torn apart with the curtains askew and chocolate ice cream decorating the carpet.

But carry on, do. :smile:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wonder...why no one else except Bux is questioning or going along with the relatively undisguised jibes at Dan Barber?

Good point. The hand-slapping incident came up in the context of this thread, though, so it's natural that it's getting the treatment.

In the fullness of time perhaps the paticipants will get around to dissecting the rest of the book.

Edit: forgot to add :rolleyes:

Edited by hjshorter (log)

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree, on the one hand. On the other, do you think it's wrong to share conflicting points of view? This memoir excerpt was posted to a discussion site. I'm a little troubled by suggestions that it needs to be protected from criticism.

No, not at all, and I didn't meant to imply that I did...I'm just surprised at the level of angst this seems to inspire, and at what I'm reading as (and I could easily be mistaken) surprise that someone's account in a memoir might differ from what someone else says happened in a given situation.

K

Basil endive parmesan shrimp live

Lobster hamster worchester muenster

Caviar radicchio snow pea scampi

Roquefort meat squirt blue beef red alert

Pork hocs side flank cantaloupe sheep shanks

Provolone flatbread goat's head soup

Gruyere cheese angelhair please

And a vichyssoise and a cabbage and a crawfish claws.

--"Johnny Saucep'n," by Moxy Früvous

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I meant those who lick Thomas Keller's boots, which has nothing to do with being a critic of Douglas. Although I have to count myself, along with just about everyone else, among those who have posted without reading the book, I still haven't put forth an opinion about the book itself. However, from reading the excerpts, the book qualifies as literature and should be judged as such. People like reading exposes and getting the inside scoop. When Douglas dishes it out, some of the very same people who thrive on restaurant or chef gossip raise a ruckus because it puts sacred cows in a candid light. My feelings about Keller or other chefs don't matter. We don't know if Psaltis has an axe to grind with him or Dan Barber, or whomever. In the spirit of the Intentionist Fallacy, it's for each reader to decide, along with other aspects of the book. For Douglas to have to defend himself and answer questions about his intentions or motives defeats the purpose of writing a book. It would have been a lot simpler for him to hire a hall somewhere in order to give a lecture and answer questions, or to write on this site a list of how he feels about this or that or whom. But that isn't literature.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...