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Au Revoir to All That: Food, Wine, and the End of France

3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  218 ratings  ·  44 reviews
A rich, lively book about the upheaval in French gastronomy, set against the backdrop of France's diminishing fortunes as a nation.

France is in a rut, and so is French cuisine. Twenty-five years ago it was hard to have a bad meal in France; now, in some cities and towns, it is a challenge to find a good one. For the first time in the annals of modern cooking, the most inf
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 23rd 2009 by Bloomsbury USA (first published January 1st 2009)
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Au Revoir to All That is a wide-ranging book on the rise and fall of French cuisine. I found the title, which I can only assume is a reference to the Robert Graves World War I autobiography a little stretched. I wouldn’t liken the decline in French cuisine to the loss of innocence in a war but getting over that I was prepared to see what longtime critic Steinberger had to offer.

While it is clear that Steinberger has a deep love of French cuisine and wine, I confess the first part had me thinking
I found Au Revoir to All That to be a fairly gripping discussion of the state of French cooking over the past 20-30 years. Steinberger considers politics, and issues of race, class, and modernity as he examines the changes in French food. With chapters on McDonald's, Michelin, celebrity chefs, and how the French government persecutes of artisan farmers, vintners, and cheese-makers, the book surprised me with its similarity to other books about eating in America. It is almost more depressing to r ...more
This was an Advanced Reading Copy I won on a firstread giveaway on Goodreads.
I thoroughly enjoyed it. I learned a lot and it was painless;) I liked the writing style of the author. He gives a little history lesson of various influential chefs of the French culinary world. I had heard of none of them. Steinberger also taught me about the Michelin rating system. How it started and how it effects French chefs.
The back of the book says, "France is in a rut, and so is French cuisine." The author
Francophile Steinberger left his investment-banking job on Wall Street to become a journalist. Now, in addition to being a wine columnist, he writes about finance, economics, culture and . . . French cuisine. Au Revoir is a most entertaining history of French gastronomy that focuses on how and why French cuisine isn’t what it used to be. It includes portraits of iconic French chefs, visits to their restaurants, praise for McDonald’s from some of the same (they focus on the "fun" rather than the ...more
Kirk Lowery
The author is a journalist who has a big interest in French haut cuisine. He records the downfall of French gastronomy over the past 30 years and explores some of the causes.

I liked how he placed French cooking in historical context. It made the tale of how the situation changed in France clearer. The tale is a cautionary one: many of the troubles of French gastronomy are caused by the socialist economic and political philosophy. Value Added Tax for French restaurant bills is 19.6% compared to t
Elizabeth Hunter
This was an interesting look at trends in France leading away from their predominance in international cuisine. Chapters explore the influence of McDonald's, the rise of the celebrity chef, the problems of the French wine industry, the problems of the French cheese industry, the rise of other areas (particularly Spain), the problems and ebbing influence of the Guide Michelin, and the resistance to foreign influences, while introducing many of the most famous chefs of history and current times an ...more
I enjoyed enough of this book to give it 3 stars but not enough for more. Especially interesting were the insights into a flawed Michelin system and transmission of different highfalutin chefs' attitudes about in versus out of kitchen development, star obsession (with ratings and franchising), and finally, that France could benefit from more foreign (north African,e.g.) presence in elite eateries. The chefs described I admired most were those who threw Michelin snobbery to the wind, stayed in th ...more
Prompted by a series of polemics announcing the death of the French table, Steinberger--wine critic for Slate--explores the rise and fall of the country's cuisine--and the social, political and cultural events that have shaped them. The book reads like a gastronomic travelogue, and the anecdotes are vivid, telling and, sometimes, tragic. It is, in the end, less a eulogy than a warning, with a glimmer of hope for the country's culinary prospects.

Above an abridged version of my review for Publishe
Rob Ciampa
Though a bit cynical, this is a solidly researched and extremely interesting book on the evolution of French cuisine. Below the three-star Michelin gastronomic destinations in France exist some of the most creative restaurants on the planet. There are, however, macro trends that are impacting the overall french dining scene, and Steinberger rightly calls them out. Well-written book that anyone with an interest in food and history should read.
I thought I would love this book, but I'm just not getting into it. I'm having a hard time pinning down the "why." I think the biggest issue I had with it is that this could have been a great New Yorker length article, but maybe not a whole book. Each chapter seemed to be a rehash of the introduction and the chapter before, without much forward progression of the thesis. It made for a tough read and I found myself skipping large chucks of pages just to see if the author ever gets to a conclusion ...more
No definitive conclusions here but some interesting theories raised. I disliked his political introduction to each chapter ~ is it really necessary to bring the Taliban into a discussion about French gastronomy? I thought these intro paragraphs were a clumsy way to bring current events into the discussion about the socio-economic and political forces that have impacted the current "eating" climate in France.

Perhaps Steinberger felt the influence of Eric Schlosser, et al, and included an entire
This is an easy read, Steinberger writes like he is having a conversation with someone. Its a bit like eavesdropping on someone siiting in the chair in front of you in a plane. He talks about the fall of France from culinery grace and glory as a reflection of France's changes in their economic and political situation. He makes the point that French Cuisine has failed to rise to tastes of the current generation. He talks about specific Chefs and their establishments. Some interesting things and t ...more
Is France really on the verge of a gastronomical decline or is there still hope of a revival and that what France is going through now is just a phase? It is simply shocking to me to learn that France is the second largest market in the world for McDonald's and that wine consumption is going down in France. France should hold on to its cultural heritage in gastronomy but it seems that Spain and Britain have caught up and are stealing the show.
Maureen M
Steinberger attempts to document the forces in France and food that have undone the country's dominance in all things food and wine. His primary culprit is the socialist regime of Francois Mitterand, but he also takes swipes at sacred cows like the Michelin ratings and the egos of celebrity chefs. While he may be taking his own opinion too far, he makes a compelling argument through his visits to the nation's struggling wine and cheese makers.
This is an interesting book, if a little bit plodding. The author basically contends that the French can no longer be looked to as the tops in culinary arts - that restaurants and chefs have been eclipsed by leading edge restaurants and chefs in other countries, particularly Spain. He traces the reasons for all of this, including France's adoption of fast food and its lack of support for its own culinary traditions.
I read a pre-release copy of this book, and while it started it well, I thought it went downhill from there. I think Steinberger is a good writer, and I really wanted to like this book. While I thought the premise was good - the decline of French cuisine - I felt he got lost in the details and never really pinpointed the problem or came up with solutions. I had to force myself to finish reading the book.
Max Wilson
A really good and semi-sociological review of the transformation of French cooking the the late 20th and early 21st century. The struggle between traditional haute cuisine and the emergent nouvelle cuisine was really interesting. The biographical vignettes are good, but the discussion of ties between political ideology, globalism and food is better.
With erudite yet readable prose, Michael Steinberger chronicles the demise of the food culture of France. Bureaucracy, fast food, outside influences all come to bear on the issue. He doesn't offer a solution, but reveals a glimmer of hope in a young generation of chefs who are embracing the values of their forbears while looking to the future...
As I am reading this, I am thinking the title doesn't really match the reporting. It is not the "end of France". It is more a France in transition with food. Michael Steinberger hits on all of the aspects of what is going on in the food world in France. But so far, I don't see it as "the end of France"....maybe the ending will wrap it up.
while the general premise of the book was interesting, i felt that something was missing. michael steinberger is a solid writer and shares many great stories, however I was expecting a more organized portrait of what the actual issues are behind the decline rather than anecdotal evidence intermixed with each essay.
Yeah, I had to like this book, given the subject of France, French food, French people and their attitude towards food. The author was a bit stiff, journalistic and generally old fashioned. The anecdotes were dry and crusty as day old French bread. Much better was Judith Jones' The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food.
Fascinating, and I really liked the style.

Most of the chapters can be read on their own, so I would recommend to anyone interested only in wine or cheese or Fast Food Nation or Michelin stars or the history of French cuisine, just read the chapters that appeal to you. Even the introduction is great.
Interesting look at French food and how changes in the economy, society and politics have affected the people's relationship to it. Could have been a dry topic but the author's passion for the topic shines through in his writing. Interesting, informative and very readable.
An amazing look at the decline of French culture through the lens of their food, wine, and culinary arts. For anyone who is a lover of France, cheese, bread, wine, and a great meal! Certainly great cocktail convo fodder for anyone with any foodie leanings at all...
A quick and fun read...I kind of wonder if he was overstating his argument to make a point, but I still found his critique of modern day French food and wine culture fascinating. Who knew that France was McDonald's second most profitable market?
Really enjoyed! Full of information about French chefs and the status of Camembert and wineries across France, I found it easy to read, engaging and really informative about a subject to which I've not yet given much thought. Food!
Mildly entertaining. Can't think of much else to say about this one. I'm somewhat interested in France but don't know that much about it so I felt I learned a bit. Not sure many people would be engaged with it.
I found this a fascinating look at French culniary culture and how it has changed in the past 30 years. I only gave it four stars because sometimes Mr. Steinberger's writing gets bogged down in some of the details.
This book is an enjoyable (but not terribly scholarly) look at the decline of french cuisine. The author strikes a pleasant, amusing tone--particularly when discussing meals. Recommended for foodies!

Brett Macfarlane
Well researched, balanced, deep and insightful. Antithesis of the food blogger era and comprehensive in understanding the origin of gastronomy and food culture.
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