Friedman’s narrative stitches it all together, but the bulk of his book is made up of blocky quotes from the chefs who were there. He has written books with several of them and thinks of others as friends. He approaches them with deference, even apologizing in a preface because 'many godlike talents, including some who took precious time to treat me to deeply revealing interviews, are scarcely mentioned' ... By no means do I wish Chefs, Drugs and Rock & Roll were longer, but it might have been leaner. The long quotes grow rambling and repetitious, and the chapter on what may have been the first dinner where each course was cooked by a different famous American chef proves only that such events were no more interesting then than they are now ... Even if Friedman doesn’t manage to tell the whole story, the one he does tell is still essential. The chefs he interviewed did change American culture, and changed it so thoroughly that it’s impossible to imagine a similar crew of neophytes knocking over the current order.
While all the chapters gush with details of the time period, the author loosely dedicates his chapters to various topics: small restaurants owned by wealthy couples in New York, the declining influence of French cuisine on its American counterpart, the role of women in restaurants around San Francisco, and so on. Although the book may be overwhelming for the casual restaurant goer, committed foodies will eat it up.
Sane diners trying to figure out how we reached this pitch of culinary madness can find some of the answers in Andrew Friedman’s almost excessively detailed analysis of what an affluent generation of 1970s and 1980s young people who didn’t need to worry about where their own next meal was coming from ended up changing the way thousands of restaurant-goers dine today. Mr. Friedman clearly thinks all this is a good thing, not necessarily for the most commendable of reasons ... readers will find Mr. Friedman a conscientious guide to the seething stockpot that is his subject ... Andrew Friedman’s lengthy, sometimes tedious but often amusing chronicle of their [chefs] moment in the sun will provide a fitting epitaph.
Friedman has written an impressively researched, if achingly polite, chronicle of the creation of the restaurant business and, by association, modern food culture in America that begins predictably enough in Berkeley in the 1960s with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse. Friedman’s dedication to his story is so complete, however, that he digs deeper still, to the arrival of a community of French chefs, who, in 1939, traveled to the World’s Fair in Flushing, New York, to showcase haute cuisine in their country’s pavilion, only to be stranded in America by the Nazi invasion of France in 1940 ... Friedman's narrative broadens to include chefs in that revolt on both coasts and a number of cities in between, from 1969 to the early 1990s, and trundles along, in red states and in blue, to this day.
Andrew Friedman, a master of the chef-cookbook genre and expert in the family tree of American restaurant chefs, explains it all in his rambunctious history Chefs, Drugs and Rock & Roll: How Food Lovers, Free Spirits, Misfits and Wanderers Created a New American Profession ... It’s not easy to describe the effects of many things that were all happening at about the same time, but Mr. Friedman does an admirable job. The reader gets a strong sense of the main forces behind the food revolution of the 1970s and ’80s, though not very much about the food itself. Food porn addicts hot for greasy, carbony chewiness should look elsewhere. That said, I loved reading Chefs, Drugs and Rock & Roll.
Friedman has a charming, light touch as a writer, like a friend who subtly encourages you to try an unexpected restaurant while making you feel like you’ve discovered it on your own. He peppers his prose with ample quotes from a host of subjects who offer vivid, at times hazy and often conflicting recollections of their formative experiences in the restaurant world, lending an oral history quality to the book that itself mirrors the hustle-and-bustle of a busy kitchen ... Friedman does the reader a great service by not focusing exclusively on the figures that are now near-ubiquitous, as though they had sprung phoenix-like out of nothing, but rather opts to give a much more interesting, panoramic sense of the milieu in which they originated and helped shape ... Those not already well-versed in the names and places Friedman describes with such contagious enthusiasm should probably read chapters out of order, according to one’s inclinations. Tackled consecutively, the book at times feels like a series of sprawling magazine features, so thorough and minutiae-oriented is Friedman’s approach.
A tasty venture in a culinary wonderland ... Friedman is at his best when exploring the intricacies of the relationships among restaurant owners and chefs—Puck, Thomas Keller, Buzzy O’Keeffe, Larry Forgione, Marc Sarrazin, Paul Prudhomme, and dozens of others who were constantly innovating. An intriguing perspective on a profession that very quickly captivated our attention—a great gift idea for the foodie in the house.
In this enthusiastic history, food writer Friedman (Knives at Dawn) surveys the figures and institutions that powered the “transformation of American cooking” in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s ... Friedman’s passion for the subject infuses every anecdote, detail, and interview, making this culinary narrative an engrossing experience.