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The Saucier's Apprentice: One Long Strange Trip Through the Great Cooking Schools of Europe

2.96 of 5 stars 2.96  ·  rating details  ·  201 ratings  ·  48 reviews
In the blink of an eye, Bob Spitz turned fifty, finished an eight-year book project and a fourteen-year marriage that left him nearly destitute, had his heart stolen and broken on the rebound, and sought salvation the only way he knew how. He fled to Europe, where he hopscotched among the finest cooking schools in pursuit of his dream. The urge to cook like a virtuoso, to ...more
Hardcover, 323 pages
Published May 1st 2008 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 397)
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Christine
The concept for the book was interesting but I would hardly call his experience as "travels through the great cooking schools of Europe". He had a few memorable experiences when he dropped the chip on his shoulder and shut up but his ego or attitude seems to have gotten the best of him in some of the more traditional "classes" as if he was above it. Plus he had no right to expect that fine dining kitchens were going to let him work aide by side with their chefs during regular service when he had ...more
Drew
The topic was interesting. The recipes were quite good. The parts that were actually about food and cooking were fairly enjoyable. But the author comes off as such a spoiled, condescending, pretentious douchebag that I was constantly rolling my eyes at his angst-ridden bullshit. This guy could teach 16 year old goths how to mope and whine.
Mazola1
I have always been a bit suspicious of books which are the product of the author setting out to have an experience so he can write about it. This book shows why my suspicion is often well founded. The author is a professional writer and amateur chef who was searching for something to write about for his next book. Going to Europe and taking some cooking classes recommended itself, and thus was The Saucier's Apprentice spawned.

It's not the greatest foodie book, and isn't even the best one to desc
...more
Shelah
I love to cook. I also have a family of picky young children, genetically influenced by their picky father. Day-to-day cooking is much more of a chore than an expression of creativity. But I still love to read books about food and cooking-- but not this one. To tell you the truth, Bob Spitz's memoir depressed me. He writes about having a midlife crisis-- finishing a big book, getting divorced, and losing his moorings. So instead of buying a sports car or hooking up with a floozy, he somehow scor ...more
Esmeralda
This was an interesting book to get into right after reading 'Blood, Bones, and Butter' as it was another story that was a highly personal account of the authors relationship with food plus everyone in their life. I was definitely attracted to the cover and the overall story sounded cool. Man in his fifties gets to go around Europe and learn how to cook with some amazingly great chefs and fun cooking school blurbs. When I finally started reading this it was good but.. urgh! Spitz' narrative voic ...more
Jill
I did finish this book, mostly because I wanted to see what the cooking schools were like from anyone's perspective. I thought it might get better when he went from France to Italy. It did not. The author comes across as arrogant, snotty, and self-centered. I couldn't tell how he got hooked up with the private chefs, but it seemed that they were always annoyed by his presence. The cooking classes appear to have terrible, with two notable exceptions. The problem is that it seems that the only way ...more
Joel
Conclusion: I have yet to try the recipes given, but they can't be worse than the actual book. This is a "library book" at best.

I have to agree with all the other reviewers who have commented the following:

* Mr. Spitz whines and cries throughout most of the book about an unrequited love interest.

* Mr. Spitz comes over narcissistic, arogant, rude, obnoxious, spoiled, snobby and other adjectives I'm sure I'm missing... He scorns some people for not knowing the difference between a bain-marie and a
...more
Dawn
More a mediocre travel-log and less about cooking, this isn't really one for the foodie crowd unless you're in the same head space Spitz was here- disjointed, adrift and figuring that cooking schools are as good a distraction as any.

The writing itself is professional, as I would expect. But Spitz doesnt really give us much insight into either himself or the European cooking school circuit. It's a portrait of the mid-life crisis of a man hamstrung by his own doubts. His inexplicable attachment to
...more
Rachel Rogers
Didn't even finish it. This book sounded fascinating (and to be honest, the half that I read had a few such moments) but Spitz kept annoying me. He was egotistical and foolish and kept hoping on that relationship that was doomed to failure the first time the reader met her. His ongoing desire to have him join her and how he coped with her disappointing him lost him any empathy that he might have had from me. His attitude toward the kitchens he visited were stupid too. I enjoy cooking and feel li ...more
Christy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jerry
I really enjoyed Bob Spitz's travels throughout Europe in search of sooth and succor after a failed marriage and a failed romance. Along the way he spends eighteen weeks experimenting with eighteen different cooking schools and stages and posh restaurants. Its funny and educational and as someone who is planning to spend two weeks next year in Europe in a cooking school, I found it invaluable. It is insightful and entertaining at the same time. PLUS when I finished the book I emailed him that ni ...more
Niya B
I wanted to like Bob Spitz a little bit more. Anyone who dedicates eight years and almost all their personal finances to writing a book they're passionate about should be similarly passionate about food if they commit to cooking enough to schedule an extensive tour of cooking schools in France and Italy. Despite the cute anecdotes, the bulk of the text is Spitz carping about how things weren't what he expected, about how was too skilled or not skilled enough, and about how his classmates aren't ...more
karen
I am half way through this book and I probably won't finish it. For a New York Times best selling rock n' roll journalist this guy is a lazy and tedious writer. Cliche after cliche after cliche. His descriptions of Europe, Europeans and visiting Americans seem to come out of a 1950's tour guide written by someone who's never been there. And oh yeah isn't this suppose to be about food? Finally, his personality leaves much to be desired: alternately whiny, obtuse, ungrateful, pretentious; and boy, ...more
Laurie
Enjoyed this man's journey and envied his ability to have the time & money to do nothing but travel and learn to cook. His varied experiences were very interesting and entertaining. I enjoyed his descriptions of the "characters" he met along the way. I was a little put off by the use of so much French while he was in France. I understand that when he was in France he learned in French, but he was writting a book in English - felt pretentious to me that he did not translate the names of the r ...more
Claire
Oct 01, 2008 Claire rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: nobody
A chapter and a half in and I'm returning this book to the library post haste. Maybe its the fact that he wrote this just after his divorce, but the man strike me as a misogynist and an ass. He's horribley snobby and judgemental in describing even his friends. The breaking point for me was when he described him and a friend following the friend's younger girlfriend to a restaurant by writing, "Lucy led us around the corner like a streetwalker with two excited johns." Charming.

Rachel
Reads like a self-indulgent self-published memoir, but for light fare before falling asleep, it gets the job done. I am mildly enjoying the author's midlife jaunt through the kitchens of France & Italy mostly because I love food & cooking, not because his journey is self-reflective and meaningful. The side theme of his broken heart is half-baked and mostly irrelevant. Read it for the recipes and vicarious enjoyment of la cuisine/la cucina de la Mediterranée.o
Tvshi
If you love Anthony Bordain (on TV or in print -- ooo, read Kitchen Confidential, it's great) or if you just love to cook and eat great food, you'll enjoy this book. More than just the author's tour through France and Italy's tourism cooking schools, he's got a great, warm, personal way of writing.
Elizabeth
I usually don't like writing a review if I can't add anything to the discussion, but as someone who didn't consult Goodreads.com before she picked up this book...read the reviews because they're absolutely spot on. He did come off as "prétentieux" despite spending so much time writing about food that wasn't. Thankfully it was his rich descriptions of delicious food that saved this book in my eyes. I'll admit I used this memoir as food porn. And it was delicious.
Ben
I was expecting this to be an interesting insight into cooking classes in Europe and food in general. Instead, there was a lot of whining and arrogant ramblings. The narrator often complained and put down fellow classmates or teachers. If he did try to have a positive thought, it often came across as condescending. I often felt that the narrator was telling me how he is one of the few people out there that appreciates food and knows way more than I do.
Stephen
In 323 pages, I must have missed the "great cooking schools" part of this introspective (self-absorbed) travel and cooking journal. Even the "Europe" in the title refers only to France and Italy. There are a few interesting but oversimplified recipes scattered between Spitz' attempts to exorcize a failed romance. Much more successful in the genre is Kathleen Flinn's "The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry" (New York: Viking, 2007).
Krysia
Too bad I don't enjoy cooking as much as I enjoy eating and reading about cooking because Spitz includes many recipes. This was very readable, but I admit I got a bit bored about 2/3 of the way in. The "great cooking schools" of Europe are essentially the homes/kitchens of chefs that welcome tourists. Given that he is a writer and this was "research" for a book, Spitz has more time than most to indulge in this sort of grand tour.
Lisa Osur
I loved this book although I am a declared foodie- so be warned, if you don't like food, forget this one. Bob Spitz, who wrote the latest Beatles bio, writes the true story of his adventures learning to cook in Italy and France. Some of his experiences are wonderful and some not so much so, but as a writer he has a way of telling a story- and those recipes!- that had me laughing and wishing I had been along for the ride.
Amy
I should have loved this book. A story about a normal guy who takes off to Europe to learn advanced techniques is right up my alley. I should have breezed through it and dreamed of following in his footsteps. But, I hated it. The writer's style is arrogant and makes me cringe with every page. As a New Year's gift to myself, I gave myself the permission to stop 2/3 through and move on to something I enjoy.
Christie
Very good read. I have a signed copy and met the author who read the part about the omelet in the French restaurant to us while I was in Culinary School at the Art Institute of Seattle. The book was easy to read, inspiring and funny.
Brenna
Jun 14, 2009 Brenna rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: food
It was fun to read this and imagine traveling to France and Italy and learning how to cook authentic dishes. It's a memoir, and the author is pretty obnoxious and self-important, and imagining him in the situations he describes in the book made me cringe. So that took away from some of the enjoyment. The places where he can leave himself out of the story made for the best reading.
J
Funny and exceedingly descriptive. At times the author comes across with varying degrees of self-pity and snobbery but is mostly exuberant and eager to convey his cooking adventures through France and Italy. It's like you're right there with him on his journey of culinary and self-discovery. If you don't own the book - some of the recipes are worthy of photocopying.
Monica
A much more productive midlife crisis than buying a red convertible or some other trophy. The food stuff was pretty good - several recipes worth trying. The descriptions of the cooking schools was interesting, sometimes amusing. Got pretty tired of his not being able to just get over the relationship thing with the extremely annoying Carolyn.
Shannon
Oct 27, 2008 Shannon rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: foodies
Liked this because the author visited one of my favorite places- the Gascony region of France. There were some decent recipes- I already tried his Tabbouli and liked it. The author himself seems like a self-important ass although he seems to recognize this about himself. Probably closer to 2.5 stars.
Adrian Bishop
This is not only the greatest food adventure I have ever read - including wonderful descriptions, not only of food but of its passionate and sometimes comical preparation (with recipes) - but it's also beautifully written and a very intimate emotional journey. One of my top books ever.
Michelle
I liked the concept of traveling through Italy and France and going to different cooking schools. While I enjoyed most of it, I gave the book 3 stars instead of 4 because there was too much about his annoying girlfriend and petty personality conflicts between school participants.
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Bob Spitz is the award-winning author of The Beatles, a New York Times best seller, as well as seven other nonfiction books and a screenplay. He has represented Bruce Springsteen and Elton John in several capacities. His articles appear regularly in magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times Magazine; The Washington Post; Rolling Stone; and O, The Oprah Magazine, among others.
More about Bob Spitz...
The Beatles: The Biography Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Beatles, Beatlemania, and the Music that Changed the World Dylan: A Biography Barefoot in Babylon: The Creation of the Woodstock Music Festival, 1969

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