Knives at Dawn: America's Quest for Culinary Glory at the Legendary Bocuse d'Or Competition
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Knives at Dawn: America's Quest for Culinary Glory at the Legendary Bocuse d'Or Competition

3.39 of 5 stars 3.39  ·  rating details  ·  299 ratings  ·  72 reviews
Sizzling saute pans. Screaming spectators. Television cameras. A ticking clock.
Fasten your seatbelt for the Bocuse d'Or, the world's most challenging and prestigious cooking competition, where the pressure and the stakes could not be higher. At this real-life "Top Chef, " twenty-four culinary teams, each representing its home nation, cook for five and a half grueling hours...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published December 1st 2009 by Free Press (first published 2009)
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Erin
Oh, where to begin... I had high hopes for this book. As a foodie-lite with a chef for a husband, Top Chef is one of the few television shows that we watch on a regular basis. I've been interested in the Bocuse d'Or since it was mentioned on the show and this book sounded like a good read.

I was wrong. This book has some major issues.

1. It starts...... incredibly....... slow. Seriously. I can be patient through a few pages worth of background and development, even a few chapters if it's well wri...more
Stephen
This account of the U.S. team's pursuit of the 2007 Bocuse d'Or reads like a sports story. Well it should. When the author is not writing about food, he is writing about professional tennis. The quest for the gold has eluded the United States since the inception of the competition in 1987. Based on one 5-1/2 hour performance by one chef and one assistant, the awards (gold, silver and bronze) are awarded to the team which presents the best fish platter and the best meat platter overall. Other sim...more
Brian
Jan 04, 2010 Brian rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Top Chef fans
This is a seriously in depth look at the Bocuse D'Or competition, and more specifically, why the USA has never done well there. It focuses on the most recent competition in 2009, and follows the US competitors from qualifying and all the way through the contest itself. The level of access to the chefs and the supporting crew is really unprecedented, and Friedman takes full advantage in describing the thinking that went into creating the elaborate dishes required for this amazing contest. Good st...more
Dara
Mar 05, 2010 Dara rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: food
This was much better than I expected -- I had seen some press on it when it first came out and didn't think I was interested, but then it was sitting on display at the library when I went to pick up some books I had on hold, so I checked it out as well on impulse. I'm glad I did. I even saw the Top Chef all about the Bocuse d'Or, and didn't really get what it was about. This book gives a much, much better sense of it; the drama, the personalities, the pressure, the skill....it was a surprisingly...more
Amy
I listened to this as an audiobook, which was interesting because of the accents that the reader chose to use. It brought a little more life to book than I think I would have otherwise gotten had I read it to myself. Overall, I very much enjoyed it. I was surprised that written descriptions of the food and cooking process could be so visual with just words. I was a little frustrated with the number of people the author chose to describe. It got confusing and detracted a little bit from the story...more
Robyn
Dull. Took nearly a year to read.

There are two things to understand about me in order to really get this review. 1) I read exceptionally fast, naturally. Yesterday I read a 361 page book before finishing the last 25% of a second book and finishing off this one, and I did a number of other things besides reading over the course of the day. 2) I have a nearly fanatical obsession with food and can talk about it, read about it, think about it, even search Amazon for deliverable ingredients, at any...more
Ashland Mystery Oregon
Had no idea of the pressure and passion that surrounds the Bocuse d'Or competition, nor the scope and scale of the event. Knives at Dawn is an almost hour by hour rundown of French Laundry's Chef Timothy Hollingsworth and commis, Adina Guest in the year leading up to the 2009 competition. Amazing insight into the philosophy and culinary strategies of Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller and Jerome Bocuse who brought American chefs into the competition, raising awareness for the competition in the US, an...more
Kimberly
My friend Liz gave this to me for my birthday so I jumped into the whole new crazy world of intense cooking competitions. Wow. I had no idea.

Knives at Dawn written by Andrew Friedman tells the story of well known chefs, Daniel Boulud and the French Laundry's Thomas Keller, working to improve the United States chances of winning the Bocuse d'Or, considered to be the most prestigious cooking competition in the world, and one that heavily favors European chefs. It's about creative technique, taste,...more
Dianne
I imagine that this book would be pretty boring to people whose entire exposure to the culinary world is the garish, overwrought spectacle of the Food Network. The Bocuse d'Or, one of the most prestigious and difficult cooking competitions in the world, takes months--or preferably years--of training and preparation for five hours in a kitchen with the world looking on. This ain't no Cupcake Wars.

The author, Andrew Friedman, is actually a sports writer, and you can see how that was an advantage...more
Margaret
An interesting telling of the 2009 USA Bocuse d'Or team story. I'm an avid "Top Chef" (Bravo-TV) watcher, and an episode during one of the last couple of seasons included a challenge to the five or so remaining contestants to produce a "Bocuse d'Or-like" series of dishes with the requisite fancy plating. It was pretty interesting and led me to this book. The USA team has never won the bi-annual competition, but some serious focus and money has come into play in this country, starting with the 20...more
Abby
I can't cook, but am fascinated by "foodie" books--I loved Kitchen Confidential, Bill Buford's "Heat," and "Julie & Julia," among others. And there are elements of KNIVES AT DAWN that are similarly compelling--the tryouts to find an American competitor for the Bocuse d'Or, the challenges of fielding a viable U.S. team, and the ways in which personality conflicts or miscommunications created stumbling blocks for the French Laundry chef who takes on the challenge.

That said, I didn't love the w...more
Ms.pegasus
The Bocuse d’Or was founded in 1987, and is held every other year in Lyon, France. Each country’s team (a chef and one assistant) is assigned a meat and a fish to be prepared and presented in the space of 5-1/2 hours.

It is apt that all of the library subject headings for this book contain the word “competition,” for this book will appeal to anyone curious about that world. Psychologically, it involves a near obsession for perfection, a shrewd assessment of the opposition and the judging process...more
Kay
An engaging insider account

Before listening to this book, I knew little of the Bocuse d'Or other than having seen members and advisers of the 2009 team on the reality TV show Top Chef. But no matter -- hard-core and casual foodies alike will enjoy this account of chef Thomas Hollingworth and his commis Adina Guest's pressure-cooker-like preparation and participation in the 2009 competition. There's enough background filled in to educate the reader about the methods and philosophy of cooking that...more
Magila
Jul 15, 2012 Magila rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: food
This book was a truer 3.5 than 4. It was extremely interesting, and taught me a great many things about cooking, international competitions, and talked about numerous interesting people. It suffered from a lack of focus, peppering political content into a book on chefs, and an over dramaticized ending. I think this suggested it would have been better as a memoir than a "historical non-fiction" book.

My wife and I really enjoyed this book overall. The first bit was quite engaging, and moved to a...more
Patrice Sartor
I am pretty sure that I've been able to finish all of my Food for Thought book club books...until this one. I so wanted to like it. After all, I had no prior knowledge of the Bocuse d'Or, and was intrigued to read about it from the perspective of the U.S. candidate and his commis. Yet the writer ruined it for me. It's tough to read, not engaging, and began to feel like work. If I can't finish a book in a month, that book is not for me. I also didn't like the style it was written in--it felt weir...more
Beth
As a fan of the cooking competitions on TV, I was very interested to learn all of the preparation that goes into what looks so spontaneous on TV. The book started out slow as they discussed the history of the competition and the selection process, but it picked up steam as the 2-person team prepared for the competition and formulated their strategy.
R
Detailed account of the Bocuse d'Or Culinary competition. Learned a great deal about completing at this level, and after reading this book, know that I would never be interested (even if capable)of pursuing this as a goal. I'm delighted to occasionally produce a great recipe or two, but the food created at the Bocuse d'Or is more objects d'art than something to eat. However, I can admire the skill it takes to get to this level of cooking. TEAM USA has never one a medal since the beginning of the...more
Ande
This book brought to light a side of the culinary world I knew very little about as it follows Timothy Hollingworth's journey to the Olympics of food as the first seriously sponsored and recognized American team. I enjoyed the descriptions of the dishes and the processes in creating them, as well as hearing stories about many interesting chefs and restauranteurs. I also appreciated the suspense created around the finale--something that seems pretty rare in most non-fiction works. This was enjoya...more
Peggy Lo
I was stressed out just reading the book I can't imagine being in a competition like that. It's a nice mix of history of the competition and the story of the preparations, and all the egos and politics that go into that. I also liked the insight into working at the French Laundry and working for Thomas Keller, a place and a chef that is talked about a lot on all the food shows and mentioned in many food books. All the preparation that go into it is insane, especially the Europeans who start prep...more
Erin
I want to like this, but it's starting to feel like a slog. It's one person's experience of another person's preparations for an event that isn't culturally relevant in the United States. Would have been a lot more fun with more stories from other countries, and stories from past competitions. Not sure I'll ever pick this back up.

Oh! And the full color photograph section in the middle is hilariously bad. The pictures are so small, everything looks like blurry blobs of sushi. We get lovely hi-res...more
Gwen
First off, this is not a cookbook, it tells the story of the USA culinary Chefs attmpting to become a cooking force to be reckoned with. In Europe, the Bocus d'Or Competition is aired on TV, a popular cooking competition. It is NOT to be confused with Iron Chef or Food Networks "Challenges". The chefs interested in becoming a member of their country's team train and then compete. It was a great read to see what goes into cooking serious grub ... I mean cuisine.

I highly recommend this to my fello...more
JoAnn/QuAppelle
This was a great book about the Bocuse d'Or competition and all of the preparations by the American team prior to the contest in Lyon, France. It was just a fascinating account and, although I knew the outcome, I was still sitting on the edge of my seat. The author made it very exciting.

I was left with the impression that the American chef did not take advantage of all of the resources offered to him and put off his preparations - which, in turn, made his efforts hurried and not what they could...more
Mark
I am not a fan of Top Chef or any other competition-based reality cooking shows, but this book caught my attention because of the connection to Thomas Keller and the French Laundry. The book started a little slow, but quickly held my interest. I enjoyed the storyline, as well as the background about some famous chefs. I also really enjoyed the details about the creation of the menu and the intricacies of preparing the food. If you are a foodie or really enjoy cooking, this is a good read.
Beth
I enjoyed reading this book, but it was very technical. I like to cook, I like watching chefs cook, but there were many things I didn't understand in this book. However, I read it with interest. I remembered while I was watching "Top Chef Las Vegas" on Bravo that they featured a challenge that gave a chef an opportunity to compete. Kenny was the winner. I watched the episode again to see how the main character of this book interacted, but it barely showed him. At any rate, I learned something.
Rachel
I decided not to round up to 3 stars for a couple reasons. I thought the writing was just plain weak. He also (IMHO) simplified descriptions more than necessary. Let's face it mostly foodies are going to read it & we're well versed in the concepts he mentions. I also could have rated it higher, because several main characters are from The French Laundry (and therefore feel "local" to me), but that wouldn't necessarily fly for people outside the major good food cities in the US.
Nathan
Eh. If you're a fan of "Top Chef", you'll like this book. It reads like the transcript of a Food Network game show, which is okay, but gets old quickly. I didn't care for any of the characters (why does it seem that working in a kitchen inevitably turns you into a pompous ass?), I didn't care that they won, I didn't care about the trials and travails they endured to win. Everything was terribly superficial, pedantic and insignificant. A quick read, quickly forgotten.
Liz DeCoster
This book was slow going, at first, with the first 40-50 pages mostly focusing on background, setup and dramatis personae. After that, the author delves into the competition and preparation in extensive and exhaustive detail. I wish the pictures had been more focused on the kitchen and menu rather than the people - follow the development of the competition menu was completely engrossing, and I'd have liked to see some visuals!
boyoung
More of an ode to the pursuit of excellence than a foodie account of the most prestigious culinary competition in the world (it's too precise and scientific to be the latter), knives at dawn is interesting, if not exactly what I expected. I would've appreciated the book more had I already had a deep understanding of culinary competitions before this read. Admirable in content and writing, nonetheless.
Beth
I really enjoyed learning about the Bocuse d'Or competition and the triabls and tribulations the 2009 USA team went through. The audio version enhanced the book since you heard all the French words and phrases in a wonderful French accent, rather than having to try to guess how to say those words while reading. Having finished the book, I want to attend the 2013 Bocuse d'Or!
Shannon
This book drug on and on - the author got way too bogged down in the details. While it was fascinating to read about the involvement of some of the culinary greats to make this compaetition a strong event for the Americans, - people like Bocuse, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, etc - this really could have been a much shorter book. Would not recommend.
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