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The Saucier's Apprentice: An Amateur's Adventures in the Great Cooking Schools of Europe

3.06  ·  Rating details ·  296 ratings  ·  66 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, 336 pages
Published May 17th 2008 by W. W. Norton Company (first published May 12th 2008)
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Average rating 3.06  · 
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 ·  296 ratings  ·  66 reviews


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Lianne Burwell
Nov 29, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Sigh.

The only reason I actually finished this book was that it checked off another item on the Book Riot 2016 Read Harder challenge (read a food memoir).

To summarise: the writer is in financial jeopardy, having just finished a book on the Beatles (which a quick google finds a distinct dissatisfaction with his work), and fairly recently divorced. He likes to hold dinner parties for his friends, including a woman he wants to practically bludgeon into being his girlfriend, even though she does ever
...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
Drew
Sep 23, 2010 rated it it was ok
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.
Abby Jean
Jan 30, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-finish, 2018
could not get through it because the way he talked about women was so jarring and offensive - and totally unnecessary to the ostensible plot. boo.
Rogue Reader
Mar 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food-writing
He traveled Europe to learn the cuisines of the countries there, signing up for cooking classes willy-nilly. The results were mixed, with some lovely experiences and some really, really bad. You'd think there would be a better way to fulfill one's intentions to travel and learn the local cuisines. The subtitle references "the great cooking schools of Europe," but I don't think so; more accidentally found and experienced. ...more
Mazola1
Aug 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 01, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Toby's Mom
Jun 10, 2022 rated it it was ok
I can definitely understand why more than a handful of the people Bob Spitz encountered during his travels in Europe instantly disliked him. They probably had the high EQ he lacks and realized within a nanosecond of spending time in his vicinity that he is a self-important asshat who looks down on just about everyone who doesn't have the culinary skills or interest he has--or thinks he has.

When Carolyn, the romantic partner who wisely ended things with Spitz, told him that his Friday night meal
...more
Sharon
Jun 27, 2020 rated it liked it
This was a good story about a middle aged, recently divorced man trying to find something he feels is missing in his life. He loves to wine and dine his friends but is insecure in his relationships with all of them. The kithen is his comfort zone so he wants to master the art of cooking and understanding more about food.

I like reading about the ins and outs of working in a kitchen, developing food combinations, tastes and smells! Bob writes a realistic account of his adventures and the chefs a
...more
Catherine
Feb 04, 2022 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
While well written and full of interesting and educational anecdotes, I just cant get past the constant use of female metaphors that are annoying at best and derogatory and inflammatory (maybe even a bit rapey?) at worst. For example, “…the mist rising around it like a showgirl’s slip” or the way Spitz had to “…struggle to keep my hands in my lap” in reference to a particularly appealing restaurateur. I bought this book from the bargain bin and the bin is clearly where it belongs.
Betty
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
I finished it only because of my interest in the food cooking options in Europe. The author was not afraid to reveal his personal flaws, but it made the trip less enjoyable. The few recipes he gives are a bit sketchy. For example, duck breast sautéed for 6 minutes each side with no mention of scoring the fatty skin. I might try the sauce.
Kristen
Aug 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
You know, you go to the big downtown library and you pick your book off the shelf. You take it to the front desk and hand it to the girl who works there. Now these library types are quiet people who don't always look you in the eye. They put up with their low-paying jobs because the love being around books, love handling them. They love books more than they love people, I'm pretty sure. It's a not-quite-human experience, this passing your book back and forth and bleeping it through the check-out ...more
Lady
Jun 19, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: culinary-memoirs
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
Jul 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: cooking
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
Christine
Apr 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-cooking
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
Rachel Rogers
Feb 09, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Joel
Sep 23, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Rachelle (ReaderRachelle)
WARNING: Have snacks around when you read this because it will make you so hungry!

This is one of the first memoirs I've read so I don't have a lot of experience to compare it to but I'll give it my best shot.

This book made me want to run into the kitchen, cook up a storm and devour the results! I was fascinated by the author's experiences, learning about various cooking techniques and the reputations of certain chefs and their cooking school. While I enjoyed the descriptiveness of the authors wr
...more
Jessi
After eight years working on a Beatles biography and then going through a divorce, Bob Spitz is finding joy in cooking Friday night dinners for his friends. Especially one drown in particular, a woman who may or may not return his affections. He, as he says "like so many others", decides to take a trip around Europe to shake up his life a little bit. And maybe some time spent with Carolyn will help decipher their relationship. Also, it will allow him to learn from some of the masters.
This isn't
...more
Jerry
Feb 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Christy
Mar 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dawn
Mar 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
I love cookbooks. I love to read. I love to travel. My secret pleasure are books such as this where there are little treasures of recipes. I have made the biscotti recipe already and the curried chicken fricassee is on tomorrow's dinner menu. Bob is one lucky guy to finance a four-month excursion and share his self discovery with us. I enjoyed the wit with which he shared his encounters with the people he met. I am also a bit more aware of the whole "cooking school" experience abroad. I will def ...more
Betsy
Feb 05, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2017-reads
Two stars for some pretty good recipes, and an interesting travelogue. As someone who has worked in good restaurants, I found his egotism in top kitchens -- opened to him to indulge his mid-life whim -- unappealing. Why WOULD a fine chef in a highly rated restaurant let this man anywhere near the line? And threaded throughout, the judgy whining. Oh my, the whining. Sometimes it is fun to read about an author's mid-life crisis. This is not one of those times. ...more
Laurie
Mar 14, 2009 rated it liked it
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 recip ...more
karen
Feb 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Niya
Sep 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Gwen
May 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'll admit there was a lot of broke up and am wallowing but that is real life. I'm looking forward to trying some of the re pies in this story. Bob Spitz goes on a journey similar to Eat, Pray, Love without the praying and failing in the love department. He goes to several cooking institutes throughout France and Italy. A once in a lifetime experience I can dream of. Th opportunity to work with fancy chefs and home cooks seemed amazing. The writing style was descriptive in all the right ways. If ...more
Lisa Osur
Sep 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Claire
Oct 01, 2008 rated it did not like it
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.

...more
Tvshi
Oct 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
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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.

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