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.