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Burn the Ice: The American Culinary Revolution and Its End
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Burn the Ice: The American Culinary Revolution and Its End

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  165 ratings  ·  26 reviews
James Beard Award-winning food journalist Kevin Alexander traces an exhilarating golden age in American dining, bringing a new kind of food writing to the remarkable story of the last decade in the restaurant industry

Over the past decade, Kevin Alexander saw American dining turned on its head. Starting in 2006, the food world underwent a transformation, as the
Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Published July 9th 2019 by Penguin Press
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Jack It's becoming more and more plain that there is a contraction taking place. Both new, high profile restaurants and older, legendary restaurants are…moreIt's becoming more and more plain that there is a contraction taking place. Both new, high profile restaurants and older, legendary restaurants are closing. Young kitchen talent is bailing because they can make more money doing other things. New restaurants continue to open. They cannibalize the business from restaurants that opened immediately before them. This increases the cycles of boom and bust. Overvalued real-estate and undervalued employees mean restaurants as we know them are not economically sustainable.

To compensate, there's been a shift away from investing in traditional dining. Big-name chefs are trending towards opening "fast-casual" establishments. These rely on low cost, temporary employees. There's also been a rise in temporary restaurant hiring services. This means restaurants are less willing (or unable) to invest in long term employees. Traditionally this is how restaurants grow and expand.

Currently, the biggest motivator in the restaurant industry is social media. Specifically things like Yelp! and Instagram hold sway. Yelp! (and food blogging in general) democratizes reviews, and does offer helpful insight into a restaurant. The problem is that it's populated with amateurs who tend to perpetuate systemic problems that other amateurs are unable to identify. It's a platform for popularity, not insight or critique. That has its place, but it does tend to hurt innovation. Instagram is picture and personality-based. As such, it takes away from what has long been the standard of great food: deliciousness.

This book outlines some of these problems. But it's worthwhile to read the author's three-part Thrillest series "Why the 'Hot New Food Town' Must Die." for more insight on this decline.

P.S. - Totally my own opinion: NY & SF can no longer reasonably sustain sizable youth and immigrant populations (lower income groups). As such, many significant food innovations aren't made in major metropolitan areas now. The arbiters of taste may still live in these places, and they still house great restaurants. But food innovation isn't happening where it's too expensive to live, experiment, and fail. This is a two-edged sword. It means there's now great food in the suburbs. It also means there's less contact between separate communities. It's that forced contact that fosters real and exciting innovation.(less)
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Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is a series of "how-I-got-there" stories from about two dozen chefs between 2006-2017 detailing the rise and fall of various restaurant trends (e.g., farm to table, organic, etc.) with 1-2 updates for some chefs after their debut in the book. Hard-core foodies will probably enjoy reading about their favorite chefs. Unfortunately, I found most of the profiles tedious, and the writing style profanity-laden. I was hoping for a more holistic view, tying several food trends together into ...more
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-reading
For better or worse Burn the Ice: The American Culinary Revolution and Its End is an accurate reflection of the American restaurant industry and a view not usually covered in mainstream food ("foodie") media. This book is not foodporn, and it's not celebrity fueled, even though it addresses both. I wish there were more books like this. It highlights the things that people obsessed with "food" often overlook - how the institutions that put that food on the plate function and grow.

Confession: I've
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Forgot where I saw the book but it sounded like a very interesting read. Food, food history, reading up on food/foodie culture is a field I like reading about, even if I'm not really one myself. So I was curious to see what the author had to say.

Alexander takes us through a series of profiles of various food people, some of whom you may have heard of, many you haven't (I think I really only knew of one person). The rise, how they got to where they are or their heights, their struggles, sometimes
Judy G
Sep 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an awesomely impressive summary of the highlights and major chefs in USA. Kevin Alexander interviewed many people in the culinary world to put together this book.
I read most of it and at some point in the book altho it was very interested I decided to only read about the restaurants and chefs in NY and SF. Also to be honest I didnt read about the cocktail places and their experts.
I read a lot about the food lives and the brilliance of the husband and wife who did northern or southern
Jan 13, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting premise. The narrative mirrors the years of my adulthood this far, which has been shaped in part by the revolution the author mentions. Notably missing from the book are In depth discussions about Los Angeles and Chicago as major food cities in the US. The author showcases some amazing stories, but it feels a little rushed. I wish he had gone into greater depth. If you are familiar with the hospitality industry, it’s an engaging read; if you are not familiar with the hospitality ...more
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Very entertaining book covering the nationwide trends of U.S. independent bar/restaurant innovation from 2006 through 2018. Told is essay format this covered many areas that non-restaurant people likely knew little about. As far as the time frame of when the so-called 'American Culinary Revolution' either started or ended I would disagree - at least from the viewpoint of an involved participant during the period in LA/OC from the early 70's through currently. Little was covered in either the ...more
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thoroughly entertaining. I was absorbed - a witty and provocative collection of stories. Lots of names in this book - some famous, some not - it could have very easily become pretentious, but the author’s humour and straightforward telling made it a joy to read.

I felt a little short changed on the Epilogue. The wrap up was very quick, and I’m not sure the author effectively concluded his argument that this revolution is over...I felt a little like I missed last call, and was now being escorted
Jul 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ridiculously well written. The last few chapters left me breathless, left me wondering "Ok, what's next then?". So I'm hoping in a few years time, Alexander will write a follow up. I would have liked more about the #MeToo movement in the culinary world, but that would (and should) be its own book; after all, that crisis is still unfolding.
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable and entertaining book on the food scene in America in the last 10-15 years. Learned a ton, enjoyed the authors relatable style and the in-depth, personal history each chef was given.

I feel like #MeToo was glossed over and at times the book didn’t flow as well as it could have. That being said, I’d read future works by this author.
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Entertaining, great read. Lot's of interesting history and some of the major/minor players in the American dining and drinking scene in the 2000's.

Side note: Thought I had 25% of the book remaining when it ended on kindle. LOTS of works cited.

Anywho, I'll be recommending this book to industry folk for years to come.
I liked this one - it was a decent read, but I'm not sure it was successful in arguing its point. The stories were good, but then he just kind of stopped. I see where he was going with it, but I'm not sure he finished the job. Living in Nashville, it was fun to read about Prince's, even if I'm too chicken to try it.
Judy Aulik
Oct 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Fairly interesting treatment of the early 2000's restaurant scene, focusing on the coasts, and on Nashville's hot chicken craze. I would have enjoyed this more if there had been attention paid to the lively Chicago restaurants.
Amy Gray
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, food
One of my favorite books of 2019, fiction or nonfiction. As someone who loves eating good food and reading about food, I thought this book gave a great overview of the 'restaurant renaissance' that happened over the last 15-20 years.
Entertaining and insightful. At times the over the top delivery is too much.This book is proof that a publisher that scrimps by skipping the editing process is a failure IMHO. Reads like a rough draft at times. Sad this is the norm for many American publishing houses.
Joe Parker
Some good profiles on some chefs I admire, but overall this book is one in a line of a million things to come out only to serve to bash white people who like to eat. If you’re white, middle class, and like food - you’re apparently racist and obnoxious.
Aug 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cooking
Extremely well-written and engaging. I'm surprised this hasn't gotten more press attention. Plus, several chapters on Nashville hot chicken!
Bo Belanger
Oct 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So many great characters and stories woven into a page-turning (and funny) narrative about the evolution of restaurants in America. Highly recommend.
Anna Sullivan Reiser
I’m a foodie and I loved this book! Very well written and funny.
Diana Hayden
Jul 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kevin Alexanders book “Burn the Ice” is witty and smart.
Jul 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I haven’t read a single word of this book that I’d change.
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some interesting parts, got slow at the end
Ben Rosene
Engaging read, but the prose was a little too casual and cutesy for me at times.
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kevin Alexander the most original writer in food... His rip-roaring debut completely transcends the category — provocative and hilarious!
Cara Shortsleeve
I have always loved Kevin Alexander's writing and his debut book followed suit: super well written, engaging, informative and of course, fun. Highly recommend!
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed the storytelling!
Ula Lechtenberg
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Sep 20, 2019
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