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Doug Psaltis


robert40
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i am still hoping to read a memoir or novel that is sedaris meets bourdain (maybe i'll write it in 10 years with lots of luck)....but psaltis definitely didn't deliver. (neither did boulud or pepin or maccioni imho). i guess great chefs can't write for shit. (except bourdain).

the only page-turning things in this book are when psaltis exposes the flaws of ducasse and keller, which i found to be definitely interesting. while every "foodie" in this country is blindlessly praising these 2 chefs up and down, its nice to hear valid criticism coming from the inside of the machine.

the writing is not very good though. more like a clumsy dull retelling of events without passion or soul or personality. (probably because his brother wrote the goddamn book for him).

the most interesting thing i read, though, about the french laundry chapter....... most of the kitchen was full of cooks who *had never worked in another kitchen,* he claims. I assumed at the Laundry there would probably be a mix of externs and recent grads with cooks with 3 years experience with cooks with 10 years experience.......but psaltis describes it like nobody there really knew what they were doing or why they were doing it, which is absolutely believable (the silverskin example).

i had one account of the french laundry and ducasse from some of my cia friends who externed there and the cookbooks, now i have clearer picture. that was really the only benefit of having read his book.

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I'm still shaking my head over this book. What a damned whiner, and what lousy (and largely untrue) things to say about Dan Barber, and Thomas Keller as well.[...]

Do you personally know these things to be untrue? Perhaps you can give the versions you witnessed, in that case.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I'm still shaking my head over this book. What a damned whiner, and what lousy (and largely untrue) things to say about Dan Barber, and Thomas Keller as well.[...]

Do you personally know these things to be untrue? Perhaps you can give the versions you witnessed, in that case.

Surely, Pan, if we hold that Doug Psaltis is not obliged to defend the veracity of a published book, then it seems overly demanding that anyone posting here should have to support their comments either.

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I'm still shaking my head over this book. What a damned whiner, and what lousy (and largely untrue) things to say about Dan Barber, and Thomas Keller as well.[...]

Do you personally know these things to be untrue? Perhaps you can give the versions you witnessed, in that case.

Pan,

is there a parallel thread of which I am not aware? Where does this post from "FabulousFoodBabe" - to which you're replying - come from?

francesco

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Pan,

is there a parallel thread of which I am not aware? Where does this post from "FabulousFoodBabe" - to which you're replying - come from?

francesco

Post 191 in this same thread.

Note to self:

need more coffee in the morning!

Thank you!

Francesco

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Surely, Pan, if we hold that Doug Psaltis is not obliged to defend the veracity of a published book, then it seems overly demanding that anyone posting here should have to support their comments either.

Defending the veracity of one's book does not require that one participate in a trial by uncited, unnamed sources. Nobody should be called to account before an angry mob.

Psaltis has already published his version of the facts, and there have been precious few fact-based challenges to it. The only serious one I've seen here, scrolling back through this mountain of words, has come from Bux. That Dan Barber worked at Bouley and met Alex Urena there would seem to be a fact Psaltis should address. Especially if Barber's tenure at Bouley was substantial, as opposed to a stage, it would seem to require follow-up by Psaltis. I doubt I will ever be able to convince Psaltis to post here again, though. I'm not even sure I'd ever try to convince him.

There have also been, by my count, two factual challenges in the press. First, Ducasse's spokesperson has denied two incidents that were chronicled in the book. I don't suppose we'll ever resolve a "he said, she said" situation of this sort unless a videotape emerges, and I don't know how Psaltis could contribute to further discussion on the matter. I do think it's worth noting that Psaltis writes five chapters, 116 pages, of praise for Ducasse and has been noted in the New York Times as Ducasse's American protege. Seasoning is in large part a love letter to Ducasse. To me, this increases the credibility of the very few unflattering sentences about Ducasse. I've also been able to piece together, primarily through discussions with Ducasse's publicists yesterday (who I challenged on this issue), that there is a misperception about the book in the Ducasse organization: that nobody seems to have read it but, rather, they've been shown the few unflattering bits and been asked to comment. A reflexive denial under such circumstances would be understandable.

Second, according to the same article, Chodorow "was quick to dismiss the chapters on Mix by noting that [Psaltis] got the number of seats in the restaurant wrong (there are '90, not 65')." This is a little easier to establish as a matter of fact than the above. In the fact sheet I received from Ducasse's publicists (and by this I mean the publicists at the Susan Magrino agency here in New York -- the main contact person on the account at the time was Robin Insley, who was recently replaced by Gita Sweeney) states as follows:

RESTAURANT SEATING:    90 in total

Lounge area - 20

Bar – 7

Private chef's table - 6

When you deduct the 20 and the 7, which are not dining room seating, you get 63. I don't believe the pre-opening fact sheet is exactly right either, though. My recollection is that by the time the restaurant was actually built the lounge area had far fewer than 20 seats, and I also recall them ditching the idea of the chef's table soon after opening. Having dined at Mix quite a few times, and being not terrible at estimating dining room sizes, I'd have to say that the Mix dining room had between 60 and 70 seats. It's hard to believe Psaltis would have this one wrong; it would be more understandable for Chodorow to get it wrong, given that he owns or co-owns something like 25 restaurants. I regret that the only photos I have of the Mix dining room are partial views. I'm sure somebody, somewhere has a full-room photo. It would then be a simple matter to count seats.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Interesting reading, this thread. I'm not a food profesisonal, just a professional eater. But it seems there are two camps: those non-food professionals who seem to enjoy the book, then the 'culinary establishment" (Bourdain, Sheraton, etc.) who circle the wagons to defend their peers (Keller, Ducasse).

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Much of the rancour directed at Psaltis has, I believe, at its heart his relative non-entity status.

I mean, who the hell is Doug Psaltis? Has he had his own place? Does he have signature dishes etc? Has he created anything?

I'm sure that if he had, the resulting gravitas would have led to his being taken more seriously.

As it stands though, he seems to be a jobbing head-chef who's worked for some pretty high profile people and is about to open a brasserie. As Fat Guy points out, the book is premature. What would pass for self-esteem in an accomplished chef comes across as hubris in the case of Psaltis. Indeed, doubly so because much of the interest the book has generated is at the expense of people famous for their creative skill in the kitchen, something Psaltis is yet to demonstrate.

Has pure publicity so usurped cooking-skill that the 'Seasoning of a Chef' signifies a canny career move for Psaltis preferable to actually honing his culinary skills, or has he shot himself in the foot? It certainly seems that neither the Ducasse nor the Keller organizations are going to be hiring Psaltis any time soon, and I for one am not at all interested in a chef who puts his self-promotion before the food.

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He probably shot himself in the foot but more because of the lynching going on on the internet.

I read the book more as a tale of a journey made by a guy who wanted to learn as much as he could about cooking and who wanted to cook and be trained by the best chefs he could work for.

Still don't feel there was anything overly insulting to anyone, especially 'You-Know-Who'

2317/5000

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If Doug Psaltis had not done an effective job of self-promotion from the start, along with performing at a certain level, nobody would have ever heard of him.

So the point of self-promotion might be moot.

Psaltis wrote a book in partnership with his brother.

It is a book about things as he viewed them in a certain time and place.

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

Will this book change the world in any major way? It is doubtful. The only effect I can see is that some people seem to have gotten their knickers in a very painful twist about what he wrote.

Will this book affect any of the people he wrote about? Again, it is doubtful that it will.

People dine at places for the food and the atmosphere.

Or one would hope so, anyway.

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

He was a chef.

At a certain level.

He wrote a book.

He got it published.

It is selling.

I would advise anyone who has comments to make on what he wrote that in order to be taken as seriously as they take him, they do not just need to read the book.

They need to get themselves on the same playing level. Accomplish the five simple steps above, and then you will have some level of credibility in terms of your ongoing criticisms.

And of course then you would have had to have been there.

Were you?

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Much of the rancour directed at Psaltis has, I believe, at its heart his relative non-entity status.

I mean, who the hell is Doug Psaltis? Has he had his own place? Does he have signature dishes etc? Has he created anything?

I'm sure that if he had, the resulting gravitas would have led to his being taken more seriously.

As it stands though, he seems to be a jobbing head-chef who's worked for some pretty high profile people and is about to open a brasserie. As Fat Guy points out, the book is premature. What would pass for self-esteem in an accomplished chef comes across as hubris in the case of Psaltis. Indeed, doubly so because much of the interest the book has generated is at the expense of people famous for their creative skill in the kitchen, something Psaltis is yet to demonstrate.

Has pure publicity so usurped cooking-skill that the 'Seasoning of a Chef' signifies a canny career move for Psaltis preferable to actually honing his culinary skills, or has he shot himself in the foot? It certainly seems that neither the Ducasse nor the Keller organizations are going to be hiring Psaltis any time soon, and I for one am not at all interested in a chef who puts his self-promotion before the food.

Dirk, may I ask, have you read the book? Forgive me if you've already said so.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Who says that you have to be a towering figure, or one exuding gravitas, in a field to write a memoir/first-person expose? Indeed some of the best have come from those that aren’t, as witnessed by Tony Bourdain or the baseball players I mentioned above who also bring a high degree fo irreverance to their books. With the exception of politicians and statesmen, one could argue that it’s the people with smaller and “ work in progress” careers that are in a position to be more outspoken. Do you really think we’ll ever read a “tell it like it is” work from Ducasse or Keller? If so, it won’t be while they are active or have anything to lose. A lot of the malcontentedness (if there is such a word) comes from the fact that Psaltis poked a hole through the near-invincible media and PR armor of two of the handful of most revered chefs in the world. It’s not like you can’t make a case that higher-level restaurant chains (which are what these private investor agglomerations are) and hand-holding chefs are detrimental to great gastronomic experiences.

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A lot of the malcontentedness(if there is such a word) comes from the fact that Psaltis poked a hole through the near-invincible media and PR armor of two of the handful of most revered chefs in the world.

I thought it was the alleged misreprentations in the book that provoked it?

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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I feel like the argument keeps getting redefined to suit specific needs.

I had no idea who DP was before eG. I think it's great an editor somewhere felt his story needed to be told. Even with an agent for a brother and co-writer, it's not likely a publisher would go ahead with a book they didn't believe in, unless I'm really naive.

But the slapping incident, and its exclusion in particular, is enough for me (and apparently a lot us) to discount the whole book. You may not understand it but since I really don't know this guy from Adam, that's just the way it sits with me. It's not like Keller's mighty PR machine got to me first, it was DP himself.

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There does not seem to me to be anything wrong at all with discounting the book.

Nobody says it needs to be bought, nobody says it even needs to be read.

But to demand truth with a capital T from a book of this sort, and then furthermore to demand it in an accusatory and grinding tone, does seem a bit odd.

Not to mention unpleasant, unmannerly, and slightly out of whack.

I would take a meal made by Doug Psaltis any day, and even would consume a bit of his book, and be made a happier and more nurtured person by either, than I am certainly made by the all-consuming need by some people in this thread to be Right about something they have no direct knowledge of, and True in a category where Truth can often be questionable.

Of course, I speak as someone who comes from the Hospitality business.

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Who says that you have to be a towering figure, or one exuding gravitas, in a field to write a memoir/first-person expose?

You don't... and it's my guess that you would see much more forthcoming from many more people to either confirm or deny or possibly even bring to light other items if it weren't for one thing.

They need to protect their investments in their potential careers - and/or other relationships

with the places and people in question.

"You catch more flies with honey...", etc. etc.

This man seems to have already earned his spot in the, "Worked the stoves at the highly acclaimed (insert name here), served as Chef de Cuisine at (insert name)'s eponymous restaurant and even spent time in the kitchen of (insert name here).", paragraph club.

The cement on his foundation of human bricks is already dry, so now if he chooses

pound on it a bit - it doesn't matter - because it will most likely withstand it.

For most out there - the cement is still wet, bricks can still easily be removed and the entire structure dismantled - their positions are not solid enough to withstand a direct hit.

Few, if any, are going to take the chance of going up against a "heavyweight" with factual, verifiable information that could cause them personal loss.

"At the gate, I said goodnight to the fortune teller... the carnival sign threw colored shadows on her face... but I could tell she was blushing." - B.McMahan

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As Robert Brown suggests, there are quite a few books of the "I was there" sort, stories of development in various professions.

A quick search on Amazon churns up

The Making of a Surgeon

The Making of a Psychiatrist

The Making of a Surgeon in the 21st Century

The Making of a Surgeon: A midwestern chronicle

The Making of a Woman Surgeon

Skin Deep: The Making of a Plastic Surgeon

The Making of a Flight Surgeon

(all these were written by different surgeons)

The Making of a Poker Player (How An Ivy League Math Geek Learned To Play Championship Poker)

The making of a lawyer: My experiences in court

Medical student: Doctor in the making

Herbert: The Making of a Soldier

Ten-Shun: The Making of a Soldier

Confessions: The Making of a Postdenominational Priest

and many others ...

All of these were written by the "made" person themselves, and there are far more if you allow for "The Making of" stories written by others, e.g. Nicholas Kenyon's account of "The Making of a Conductor" (Simon Rattle).

As far as I can tell, few of the writers became particularly famous, or were using the books for nefarious purposes. My guess is that most of them felt they had a story to tell. Kitchen Confidential was a fun read not because Bourdain is a great chef (he is the first to emphasise this) but because, like the other "making of a" books, it provides a look inside places we normally can't go.

Jonathan Day

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

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Yes. I think the whole idea that Psaltis should have been "bigger and more important" before writing his book is a mistaken premise. After all, who was Tony Bourdain before he wrote Kitchen Confidential? A guy who had worked around at a bunch of not-very-noteworthy places while battling drug addiction and who then finally worked his way to some chef gigs at some not-very-noteworthy places. I mean, Les Halles is nice and all, but it's not exactly one of the top places in the city, never mind the world. It's unlikely we would be talking about him as much as we have on the merits of only his work in the kitchen (and indeed we have had precious little discussion about this aspect of his career) whereas we most certainly have discussed Psaltis's restaurants, and he is preparing to open another that we will likely be talking about. The argument can be made that Psaltis has, even at this young age, accumulated a more distinguished resume as a professional cook and chef, and is "more important" now than Bourdain was when Kitchen Confidential published.

None of which is to take anything away from AB, whose resume suits me as just fine. My point, I guess, is that if you're okay thinking that AB had enough credits to write Kitchen Confidential (and don't forget that his book was not without controversy, even if he didn't name as many sacred cows), then you should be okay with thinking that DP has enough credentials to write Seasoning of a Chef.

Ultimately I think Kitchen Confidential is better writing (or perhaps a combination of better writing or better editing), but that's neither here nor there on this particular point of debate.

--

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I think the point Bourdain makes well in the New York Magazine piece is that, while he has ripped into plenty of chefs and other people in the business, he has always been forthright about his own failings. This is something Psaltis could have learned from: his portrayal of himself tends to place the blame on others. I wouldn't say Psaltis portrays himself as totally "blameless," as Bourdain suggests, but I do think he portrays himself too often as powerless. A little more "Here's how I screwed up; here are my failings" in the Psaltis account might have gone a long way towards making him more sympathetic when he discusses the screwups and failings of others.

Certainly, Psaltis is not Ducasse or Keller. He was, however, hired by both to be a chef de cuisine. Most professional cooks would consider those to be pretty serious credentials. When you get to the point where the New York Times is running feature stories about how you're Ducasse's American protege -- the first American chef de cuisine ever in the Ducasse empire -- I think you're certainly in the league where writing a book is not a ridiculous act.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I think that what’s driving the issues raised in Fat Guy’s post is what appears to me as the Catch-22 situation that Douglas appears to be in. He can’t have his own restaurant because he can’t get the wherewithal, and he can’t get the wherewithal because he has never had his own restaurant. If he had his own restaurant it would be hard to make excuses and lay them at the feet of others. He also could hardly be considered powerless as well since he would hold considerable power. In the last chapter he tantalizing mentioned in a sentence that he considered various offers from chefs and investors without going into any details. He states as his ultimate goal the obvious one of having a restaurant of his own. From the sound of Country, he and the dining world are still on hold. What people like myself are also wondering about and waiting for is if he has that rarest quality of possessing a culinary turn of mind or only the ability to flawlessly execute the mildly interesting: something we won’t know unless and until he truly has a place of his own. None of this, however, makes his book, and the writing of it, any less legitimate.

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The New York Times has a piece about Seasoning in tomorrow's dining section:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/05/dining/05doug.html

The most interesting assertion is the one by Alex Urena that Psaltis was hired two weeks after Blue Hill opened. This strikes me as the sort of thing that could be documented one way or the other, though it would still mostly point to when someone started getting paid. Is Urena really saying that Psaltis wasn't there during the time he accounts for in the book? The Times piece leaves a number of questions open.

There's also a discussion of Dan Barber's resume, without a discussion of timing. It would seem that the key question is how long Barber worked at all these places. This could be established easily, but appears not to have been.

One of the more interesting observations in the piece, by Ginia Bellafante:

What has irritated some chefs the most is that Mr. Psaltis has taken to criticizing his betters, even though he has never successfully run a restaurant himself. In some sense, the book has exposed a supportive, fraternal side to the competitive world of chefs at the upper echelons of the restaurant industry.

Particularly noteworthy is the quote from Jacques Pepin:

On the back cover, Jacques Pépin calls the book a "well-written tale of many kitchens by a committed, dedicated young chef." But in a phone conversation last week he said he had read only the first chapter when he wrote his endorsement.

"I regret having sent it," Mr. Pépin said from his home in Connecticut. "I'm irate. For a young chef to have the pretension to attack Mr. Keller - I've never seen such a thing."

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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On the back cover, Jacques Pépin calls the book a "well-written tale of many kitchens by a committed, dedicated young chef." But in a phone conversation last week he said he had read only the first chapter when he wrote his endorsement.

"I regret having sent it," Mr. Pépin said from his home in Connecticut. "I'm irate. For a young chef to have the pretension to attack Mr. Keller - I've never seen such a thing."

Doug made Jacques sad. :angry:

edit:

Oops. Steve quoted it first(ish) as I didn't see his post because I was posting at the same time.

Eerie that.

Edited by Jinmyo (log)

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

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Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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