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The Last Days of Haute Cuisine:
Snooty waiters, seating by social pedigree, and food copied from the classical French canon--these facts of restaurant life are mostly gone from our modern dining scene. But how did this status-based system, typical of the postwar period, mutate into today's uniquely American fine-dining "experience"--a populist stew of New Californian, ethnic, and domesticated French and Italian cooking? Patric Kuh's The Last Days of Haute Cuisine: America's Culinary Revolution tells all, deftly and with wit. "European gastronomy was about the few," says Kuh, "the American market about the many. When they came together they created a whole new form: the modern American restaurant."
The story begins in 1939 with the arrival in New York of Henri Soulé, maître restaurateur of the city's very luxe Le Pavillon. It proceeds to explore such dining milestones as the counterculture-spawned Chez Panisse, Spago and other grilled-pizza lodestars, Sirio Maccione's post-elitist Le Cirque, and Danny Meyer's high-end yet democratized Union Square Cafe. It also tells of food deities like Julia Child, M.F.K. Fisher, James Beard, and Alice Waters--and the cookbook writers, celebrity chefs, and restaurateurs (roles sometimes embodied in a single person) who help craft our modern culinary world. A chef himself, Kuh also presents (sometimes gratuitously) personal anecdotes about the back-of-the-house restaurant cosmos. The Last Days of Haute Cuisine will delight readers with even a passing interest in the American food scene; they will learn much about the restaurant business, its life and lore, and, finally, the way we eat today. [via]