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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Don't Try This at Home

Don't Try This at Home: Culinary Catastrophes by the World's Greatest Chefs edited by Kimberly Witherspoon and Andrew Friedman - Haven't you always wanted to start your own catering business? Open your own quaint little restaurant? I know, I know. You have visions of sitting around at the bar, sipping tea and creating delicacies that everyone will oooh and ahhh over. Everyone will love you. You will become beautiful and life will be perfect. Not! Trust me. I know this from experience. I had a restaurant once. It was nothing but a nonstop nightmare.

So when I ran across "Don't Try This at Home: Culinary Catastrophes from the World's Greatest Chefs," I thought maybe it would help me lick the wounds I'm still licking 30 years after I lost my little fantasy. And it did! This is the stuff of nightmares that everyone -- even those who don't cook for a living -- can enjoy. Grab a cup of tea with a nice side order of schadenfreude, and eat your heart out.

Chefs aren't always brilliant. Now, don't you feel better just knowing that? The book opens with a truly horrific tale of a chef who let the lobster spoil the night before catering a lobster dinner for 3,000 people. I almost had a panic attack, myself, just reading about how he had to scramble to try to salvage that disaster.

A story by Anthony Bourdain about a New Year's Eve dinner that flopped spectacularly had nearly the same effect on me. Then there was the one by former Good Morning America food correspondent Sara Moulton about cooking and flubbing her first Thanksgiving dinner after attending culinary school that was downright heartwarming. And the one by Gabrielle Hamilton, who, worried about being politically incorrect, hired a blind line cook...with disastrous results.

There are plenty more tales of woe, tender and tough, and I recommend this highly to anyone who's ever had to pass off store-bought pecan pie as homemade to a busload of tourists who just have to have real Southern cooking because someone forgot to write it down. Who me? Never.