Review–Food and the City by Ina Yalof

3 1/2 stars out of 5


When it comes to food culture, I would like to think I know my way around.  I worked in the restaurant industry for nearly 20 years, from fine dining to busy coffee shops.  Most of that time was spent as a server but I also did my share of mixing cocktails, bussing tables, washing dishes, prepping food, and (on a few occasions I would like to forget) cooking breakfast and lunch.

The late Anthony Bourdain is still my hero.  The Food Network Channel is my go-to television choice.  And I love reading about the hard living behind the scenes, of the struggles a chef had before becoming a chef.

I think that’s what missing from Food in the City…..the darker realities behind the successes.  All of the stories show that the adage “work hard and you will succeed” is true, and that is fine and dandy, but I wanted more.   Since it was New York City, I guess I was expecting a grittier take on the restaurant business.  Most of the stories seemed to center around 5 star restaurants or caterers who work for the rich and famous.  What about that Mom and Pop diner with the best meatloaf or the hot dog vendor who’s held down the same corner spot for 20 years?  I am always impressed by those who can land an executive chef job at a young age but what about the deli workers and diner servers who have worked hard at the same hole-in-the-wall for years?  Those were the stories I was looking for and, sadly, did not find very many in this collection.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy reading these quick 3-6 page stories from some of the top in the New York City food scene.  But after awhile it started to seem like the same story, just a different name and restaurant attached.  A person could easily pick 15 or so at random and have the full effect of the book.

Overall, Food and the City wasn’t bad and I would say give it a try.  For me, it just didn’t deliver the figurative punch I was expecting from a food expose.

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