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The Man Who Ate the World: In Search of the Perfect Dinner

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  779 ratings  ·  110 reviews
An astronomical gastronomical undertaking —one of the world’s preeminent restaurant critics takes on the giants of haute cuisine, one tasting menu at a time


Like the luxury fashion companies Gucci and Chanel, high-end dining has gone global, and Jay Rayner has watched, amazed, as the great names of the restaurant business have turned themselves from artisans into internati
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 24th 2008 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published January 1st 2008)
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Dec 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure what I expected from this book, but it surely wasn't what I received. Rayner is a snarky bastard, to be sure, but he spends a lot of time thinking about what he eats, and more importantly, why. A book chronicling a critic jetting to expensive restaurants around the world would get boring if all it did was describe the food. Instead, Rayner astutely recognizes that he is a unique position to see if 3 star restaurants are worth the sometimes insane expense he lays out. The disappointm ...more
Jul 25, 2011 rated it did not like it
Jay Rayner has written only one book -- this one -- and, if there is Mercy in the Universe, he will not write another, at least until he gets his head right. This is easily the most depressing book I have read in many years. Each chapter recounts a visit to a city which is "big" in the culinary world; each was more depressing than the last. The chapter on Las Vegas touched not only on the great food available in that city but on the falsity, the ostentatiousness, the unreality and pretense of th ...more
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Boy is he snarky but that's what makes this book so entertaining. I listened to the audiobook and Rayner narrates it himself. It's a really fun listen
Sara Parker
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved everything about this. His snarky humor to his keen observations about the food industry as a whole. What makes a perfect meal? the food? the decor? the staff? the company? he makes a case for all. What would be my perfect meal? As a food lover, this was a fantastic read.
I liked the book when the author was dining alone (for the most part), as well as digressions about his personal life. I did not care for it at all when his friends, big name chefs and others appeared. So, perhaps 2.5 stars, but he seems like a nice guy, in spite of his $$$ meals coming off a bit as bragging. He does self-deprecation well. The travel narrative aspect was well done, although I'll disagree that New York is a wasteland for Indian food -- you just have to know where to look for it, ...more
Jul 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
If you're any bit of a foodie than you are going to love this book. Rayner is witty and funny, at times self-depricating, which of course only adds to his humor. The stories of his adventures around the world at the best restaurants are entertaining, mesmerizing, and a little bit gluttonous. If you have absolutely zero appreciation for fine dining or high-class food than this book is probably not the book for you. But I enjoyed immensely and would recommend it to anyone who can enjoy the finer t ...more
Jul 31, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Meave by: enjoyed his writing style on his Top Chef Masters blog on bravot
I apologize in advance for this, but I refuse not to say it:
My goodness, Jay Rayner certainly is full of himself!

OK, now that that's out of my system (sorry again), let's get to it. This book is pretty ridiculous, and I mean that outside of Rayner's acknowledgment of his and the premise's ridiculousness. Even his criticism of others' pomposity comes off as pompous. He relishes pork dishes to the point of fetishism, and despite his attempt to dismiss his Jewish heritage as only genetic, it comes
Anne Green
Mar 22, 2014 rated it liked it
I would hate to be a chef in any restaurant reviewed by Jay Rayner. In this book he sets out on a quest to find the perfect meal. In his exhaustive search through the world's prestigious gastronomic establishments (from Las Vegas to Paris and everywhere in between) and despite tireless and seemingly limitless consumption, his holy grail ultimately eludes him. Considering the lofty heights of discernment to which his palate has ascended, I think this has more to do with the fact that he's impossi ...more
Jul 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
rayner is undoubtedly one of the most gifted food writers around: he is funny, greedy (idefinitely a good quality for a food writer), straightforward and most important of all knows what he is talking about when it comes to eating. if you love his word of mouth blog entries, guardian columns and various appearances on tv, radio etc. there is no chance that you won't enjoy this. in his 2008 book rayner questions the possibility of hunting down the perfect dinner at the most notable fine dining re ...more
Sep 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: foodies,
I found this book and the voice of Jay Rayner very enjoyable to read. The premise of the book is his search for a perfect high-end restaurant meal. He travels to Moscow, Dubai, New York, Tokyo, London and Paris in his search. He is funniest when he has a bad meal, but he does a lot of reflecting on the whole world of high-end restaurants from the blogs, reviews, chefs, ingredients, decor, patrons and personnel. He goes off on many tangents, but he doesn't get lost in them, and the narrative make ...more
Serena Schroeter
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I like to read about food, and I found the author's writing style to be enjoyable and conversational. I really enjoyed reading the descriptions of the meals that the author has, and drew personal inspiration from both the ingredients and cooking styles as well as the restaurant design, interiors and menu style in each different setting. I read this on a long day of travel and found it immersing but at the same time easy to pop down at a moment's notice and then to pick up again when needed. A go ...more
Aug 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I was surprised at how much I liked this book. I picked it up expecting to not like it, because he kind of annoyed me on Top Chef Masters, but I enjoyed it immensely. And I'm very jealous of his little project to find the best fine dining experience there is. He's pompous, but amusing, which makes the former okay. Now, if I were to see him on Top Chef, I'd appreciate him.

If good food photography is "food porn," then this book is "food erotica." I could read his descriptions of meals anytime.
Aug 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: foodstuff
Jay Rayner, the restaurant critic for The Observer, goes around the world to investigate and document the globalization of high end gastronomy, in search of the perfect meal. He starts in Las Vegas, on to Moscow, Dubai, Tokyo, New York, London, Paris. Wretched excess? You betcha. It will make your most self-indulgent treat seem positively abstemious by comparison. The high notes are spectacular, but there are an almoat equal number of memorably awful experiences. It's great fun.
Sian Bradshaw
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Another Jay Rayner coup. Very readable, funny and well observed. Rayner is careful not to disappear up himself despite having a job which involves eating food in cushy places. He is careful to point out he is on a budget set by his newspaper. It's one I could easily live by but I suppose if your job is to judge the best of the best from the middle of the menu and the wine list, it must chafe a little.

His visit to Russia was as odd as his visit to Vegas.
Martin Budd
Mar 15, 2018 rated it did not like it
If this was a meal you wouldn't want a second helping, repeats itself more than a dish of radish. Leaves a smell like overboiled cabbage, devoid of anything authentic, the book is a soiree around noted cities famed for good eateries, and yet leaves little of rememberance.
It's writing like this that makes me realise what a loss A.A.Gill is to restaurant criticism.
Fiona Black
Jun 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
A lovely, tempting culinary literary journey with a writer who appeals to my sense of humour. This book had me laughing out loud in places, and dashing to the fridge for left-overs as he stirred my appetite.
Shelby A
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
It seemed like he didn't enjoy anything
Steven Werber
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are at all interested in fine dining this is a fascinating book!!
Sam Swicegood
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Rayner describes food in a way that makes you hungry. He describes people in a way that makes you like them. He describes places in a way that makes you want to leave home and go searching for a new adventure yourself.
Rachel C.
A decent enough food book, but a thought struck me early on and only became more reinforced as I read: Jay Rayner is a journalist first and a foodie second. His first love is clearly words; the book takes place too much in his head and not enough in his mouth.

Some distractingly bad copy-editing. For example, there's a hotel, the name of which is spelled two different ways on successive pages. Oh, and if there's one word you need to get right in a book about food, that word is "palate."

Worth borr
Courtney Williams
Mar 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a big fan of the UK version of "Masterchef", on which the author of this book often appears as, well, himself – a snarky food critic. (I know many other countries have their own versions, but I really don't need another cookery show rabbit-hole to fall down...) I always enjoy his appearances, and also like reading his writing in the Guardian, so when I saw this book in my local library I decided to check it out (in both senses of the word). I'm never going to have enough money to eat in the ...more
Mike Zyskowski
Apr 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hadn’t watched any Top Chef Masters, but after reading Marcus Sammuelson’s “Yes, Chef” I ordered his season, and found Jay Rayner’s (one of the judges) character interesting, his voice and style intriguing. The book is a melding of self depreciation you can only get from somebody who’s partially full of themselves but can’t pull the trigger on being completely full of themself. If that makes any sense to you

And it’s chock full of that personality . . .

Talking finding hidden wine gems . . . “Th
Nonito Abbu
Jun 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
As a self-confessed and self-proclaimed foodie, I can only drool with envy when I read accounts of really brilliant dinners in the world's most expensive and influential restaurants. Through Rayner's book, I am able to vicariously sit in many a Michelin starred restaurants the world over and acquire an appreciation for the work, the care and the passion that goes into different dishes that have put such places on the map of gastronomy. Whether it is restaurants in Dubai, Moscow, Paris, Tokyo, Lo ...more
Genene Murphy
Jul 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
While reading this book, avoid Expedia and Orbitz or any deep-seated desires to taste Toyko or tour New York City. Stay far, far away from wine auctions and think twice about booking reservations at restaurants that issue fraud alerts. Because after reading Rayner's adventures and quest for the perfect meal, you'll want to spend a lot of money for your next travel/foodie fix.

With each chapter--and arrival in another city--you may crave exotic food and culinary adventure and more of Rayner's writ
Feb 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
It's hard to describe how much I love this book because unlike other books I love, it is not a book that I had a hard time putting down. On the contrary, I needed to take breaks. I could picture and sometimes taste the dishes Rayner described, therefore I was sometimes too full to eat (read) the next paragraph. It was also disheartening at times to have to put the book away, get off the bus, and choose among bagels, donuts, and McDonald's for breakfast after reading about a Michelin three-star m ...more
Anita Pomerantz
Jul 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book wasn't actually tagged travel, but Mr. Rayner, an established British restaurant critic, traveled to London, Vegas, Paris, NYC, and more in search of the perfect meal.

The reason I read this book is because Jay Rayner is a judge on a favorite show of mine - - Top Chef Masters (BRAVO). He is extremely witty on the show, so I thought he might be in the book as well.

I was right.

The book is part memoir, but mostly is dedicated to telling the tale of Jay's fine dining experiences around the
Dec 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: food-cooking, memoirs
Being a person who enjoys a good meal, I definitely salivated over the descriptions of some of the dinners. I enjoyed the - at times acid - descriptions of chefs and restaurants.

BUT - I was terribly, terribly put off by the editing. For the first third of the book, all of the prices were given in dollars and pounds (but the format wasn't always the same). That stopped in the second third, and only pounds were used. The third third then resumed the double explanation. Early in the book, a footno
Jan 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
I like the reviews of a man who is not worried about panning something! Rayner's Guardian restaurant reviews are great - I love them!

This book is a food travelogue - I've been to Las Vegas and Dubai but not to Moscow. These are the three cities I've read, thus far. I'm not quite sure, though, why he wrote about Moscow and not St. Petersburg.

This is the type of book I can put down and pick up a month or two later, continuing with a 'new' city he's written about.

I finished the book - have been to
Sep 02, 2009 rated it liked it
Still reading this... its a loan from a co-worker so I probably need to hurry up and finish! I've gotten to Dubai and so far what I've enjoyed most is the foreword and the flashbacks to childhood meals. The introduction was downright hilarious and I thought I'd be laughing my way through this book, but that hasn't happened. I've not seen the author on the Food Network so I'm not familiar with his persona except as it reads through this book. He seems to hold a certain level of guilt or self-deri ...more
Jul 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like Jay Rayner and his writing. Having devoured his text, I'm left slightly unsatisfied and slightly hungry - not as hungry as he promised I would be, but not entirely unmoved. But them, it would be difficult to have no feelings at all for a man who recreated Spurlock's "Supersize Me" with Michelin 3 star restaurants in Paris (and then bemoaned his fate). While I'm not surprised that he is disenchanted with the notion of consuming large quantities of food on someone elses' la ...more
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Jay Rayner is a British journalist, writer and broadcaster born in 1966.

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