I was interested to read To the Bone, chef Paul Liebrandt’s memoir (written with Andrew Friedman and released December 2013), after seeing A Matter of Taste. I read some Amazon reviews of the book. Some criticisms were that he’s too young to write a memoir and that it’s not a cookbook. Well, the latter I’d have to agree with. There are recipes but they are recipes for professional chefs. The former, I completely disagree with. And I’ll tell you why. But first, I have to say that I enjoyed this short and easy read. I think that if you are a chef, you will relate. If you are a diner, you will appreciate the dedication that goes into creating the fine dining experience. Finally, I think that if you are passionate about anything, you will relate to this book, as Liebrandt has the kind of single-minded focus on his craft that one needs to become successful at anything he attempts. Liebrandt is to cooking what Tiger Woods is to golf. I don’t see his book as bragging or as self-important. In fact, he seems very grateful and very dedicated. Which leads me to why I think Paul Liebrandt is not too young to write a memoir, and bear with me, because this is a bit of a tangent. I admire youthful ambition because I relate to it–as a writer, not a chef. Too often, in any industry, bright young people are not mentored, are not guided; instead, they are told they are too young to have any value, to have any original ideas, to deserve any validation. This is due to the jealousy of an older, established group that should be mentoring instead of feeling threatened. Paul Liebrandt had obvious talent or he wouldn’t have worked in half the places he did at such a young age. What he did get, that I didn’t and a lot of people don’t, is 1. the opportunity to work with some great mentors and/or 2. those mentors taking an interest in him instead of being threatened (and/or sexually harassing, as I have to add for females like myself who have undoubtedly experienced it in the pursuit of a goal). I feel strongly about this because I experienced it personally. If I could save a bright young writer from some of the experiences I had in the writing world, I would gladly do it, as I don’t see the value of jealousy but instead, see the value in the legacy of experience. These are the thoughts I had from Liebrandt’s book, as I think he is a bright chef who had the opportunity to learn from some of the great chefs in his field and some of those chefs were mentors to him. There is a “recipe” for success, no pun intended, and that includes a bright individual who is dedicated to his/her passion, the right mentors and the right opportunities. So as I read Liebrandt’s memoir, I related to his being a young loner, to going out on his own to study his craft and dedicate himself to it.
In addition, I enjoy reading about chefs and their creative process. I love dining out at fine dining establishments. The view on food is different from your average “bistro”–where Liebrandt felt stifled. Liebrandt worked for what he got, he put in the hours, he lived in the dives, he put up with workplace abuse, he created despite it like so many people do who are passionate about their art. But the somnabitch had the other thing–the luck–the opportunity that some of us don’t have. I am sure there are frustrated chefs as well as frustrated writers, artists, musicians, actors, football players who will read this book and live vicariously through Liebrandt’s success, rooting for him and happy he made it–at a young age–when the odds and the older generation were against it.