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

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  281 ratings  ·  48 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, 243 pages
Published June 23rd 2009 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published June 1st 2009)
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3.54  · 
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 ·  281 ratings  ·  48 reviews

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Jun 11, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
With the exception of one or two chapters, this book was kind of a snooze fest. It was also guilty of some of the most extreme food and wine snobbery. It was written in 2009, so I can't help but wonder if it is just totally outdated at this point. I should have skipped this one.
May 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: cooking
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
Aug 08, 2012 rated it liked it
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
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
Jul 26, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Mar 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Forest Collins
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
This isn't about French dishes, but rather a comprehensive look at French gastronomy from medieval times to today that's well worth reading for anyone interested in France and its culinary culture.

What was particularly interesting personally is that I've been here and remember so many things that are touched on in the book over the last decade plus - like the outrage when Tokyo got more stars than Paris or chefs turning down Michelin stars. But reading about them puts them in a more orderly con
R Fontaine
Jan 01, 2018 rated it liked it
French cuisine- threats,changes, 'business chef's. CConstant of La Violin D'Ingres ++ his favorite. France is in a rut, and so is French cuisine. For the first time in the annals of modern cooking, the most influential chefs and the most talked-about restaurants in the world are not French.
Ça ne peut pas être.
Aug 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food-studies, 2017
This was an interesting book but I think it would appeal more to those who love French food and culture. He mostly talks about restaurants. I was hoping he would talk about French eating habits at home but he just mentions that women are too busy to cook and that young people don't give much thought to their food.
Andrea Boudreau
Apr 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Skimmed, did not finish. Mostly about the food not wine
Jun 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, dnf
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
Jul 29, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Jul 16, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Maureen M
Apr 28, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: france
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.
Feb 01, 2010 rated it liked it
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.
Dec 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Max Wilson
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Michelle Despres
Jul 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
Jun 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
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.
Oct 25, 2009 rated it liked it
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.
Jul 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: foodie, france
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...
Mar 12, 2010 rated it liked it
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.
Jun 01, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!

Feb 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
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...
May 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
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!
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