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All the Presidents' Pastries: Twenty-Five Years in the White House, A Memoir

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This extraordinary success-story-told by the hero himself-of a young French pastry chef who climbed his way to the top, embodies the great American dream. After working at the Savoy in London, the George V in Paris, the Princess in Bermuda, and the Homestead in Virginia, Roland Mesnier took on the job of a lifetime as pastry chef to the White House. He provides behind-the- This extraordinary success-story-told by the hero himself-of a young French pastry chef who climbed his way to the top, embodies the great American dream. After working at the Savoy in London, the George V in Paris, the Princess in Bermuda, and the Homestead in Virginia, Roland Mesnier took on the job of a lifetime as pastry chef to the White House. He provides behind-the-scenes insight into the characters, tastes, and obsessions of the five presidents and first ladies he served during his 25 years in Washington. Having witnessed major world events from the hub of the world's superpower, Mesnier has unique perspective on both crises and celebrations. He recounts stories such as Carter's incessant battle for the return of American hostages in Tehran, the aftermath of the attempt to assassinate Reagan, Bush senior's doubts after the war in Kuwait, and the shock of September 11. He uncovers intimate details such as Mrs. Reagan's bad moods and Prince Charles's embarrassment at not knowing how to use a tea bag. Fiercely loyal to each of the first families, Mesnier's bipartisan message is positive and inspirational. Twelve easy-to-follow recipes include the favorite desserts of presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.


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This extraordinary success-story-told by the hero himself-of a young French pastry chef who climbed his way to the top, embodies the great American dream. After working at the Savoy in London, the George V in Paris, the Princess in Bermuda, and the Homestead in Virginia, Roland Mesnier took on the job of a lifetime as pastry chef to the White House. He provides behind-the- This extraordinary success-story-told by the hero himself-of a young French pastry chef who climbed his way to the top, embodies the great American dream. After working at the Savoy in London, the George V in Paris, the Princess in Bermuda, and the Homestead in Virginia, Roland Mesnier took on the job of a lifetime as pastry chef to the White House. He provides behind-the-scenes insight into the characters, tastes, and obsessions of the five presidents and first ladies he served during his 25 years in Washington. Having witnessed major world events from the hub of the world's superpower, Mesnier has unique perspective on both crises and celebrations. He recounts stories such as Carter's incessant battle for the return of American hostages in Tehran, the aftermath of the attempt to assassinate Reagan, Bush senior's doubts after the war in Kuwait, and the shock of September 11. He uncovers intimate details such as Mrs. Reagan's bad moods and Prince Charles's embarrassment at not knowing how to use a tea bag. Fiercely loyal to each of the first families, Mesnier's bipartisan message is positive and inspirational. Twelve easy-to-follow recipes include the favorite desserts of presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.

30 review for All the Presidents' Pastries: Twenty-Five Years in the White House, A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Roland Mesnier was the White House pastry chef for nearly a quarter of a century. By the time he retired in 2004, he had worked for five different presidents. He grew up one of nine children in Bonnay, France, and followed in the footsteps of his two baker brothers. After training in France and Germany, he worked at the Savoy in London and then as the head pastry chef at the Princess Hotel in Bermuda – all by the age of 20. His specialty was intricate sugar sculptures, for which he won internati Roland Mesnier was the White House pastry chef for nearly a quarter of a century. By the time he retired in 2004, he had worked for five different presidents. He grew up one of nine children in Bonnay, France, and followed in the footsteps of his two baker brothers. After training in France and Germany, he worked at the Savoy in London and then as the head pastry chef at the Princess Hotel in Bermuda – all by the age of 20. His specialty was intricate sugar sculptures, for which he won international competitions. He married an American science teacher and worked in Paris, Bermuda and Virginia before hearing that Rosalynn Carter was looking for a White House pastry chef. Fast-tracked to U.S. citizenship, he began making elaborate desserts for presidential family occasions and state dinners. The latter were always based on research into a particular country’s culture, products, taste and traditions. These impressive constructions included molded sorbets, petits fours and marzipan figures, and were often feats of logistics and timing. “Looking back over my notebooks, it seems as if the entire world passed through the White House—or at least its highest representatives,” Mesnier writes. “And each time, it fell to me to devise an appropriate, pleasant greeting. Because desserts, like cooking itself, are a universal language to which the different cultures of the world bring their particular accents.” He made desserts for Prince Charles (who was, famously, baffled by a tea bag), Jacques Cousteau, François Mitterrand (a disastrous meal the guest Julia Child rated poorly), and pretty much every other head of state you can imagine. The memoir is undoubtedly more interesting for what it tells about the First Families than for its author’s life. In the White House years Mesnier rather disappears from his own book – you won’t find anything revealing about his wife or son, for instance – except as a pair of hands preparing endless desserts. I was reading Hillary Clinton’s Living History in parallel, and he’s clearly drawn on that plus other White House memoirs to add in piquant anecdotes he might not have known of otherwise. But his little insights into the presidents and First Ladies are also interesting: Nancy Reagan was a hard taskmistress, Barbara Bush was his personal #1, Bill Clinton had dairy and gluten allergies that complicated his work, and so on. Staff members experienced apprehension at the arrival of a new president, but grew to love each occupant and were absolutely loyal and discrete no matter who was in post. (I wonder if the same could possibly be true for those having to cater to Trump’s whims?) Perhaps the single most arresting story is from 9/11, when the entire staff had to evacuate the White House because planes might be about to crash into it; he walked four miles in his chef’s clogs to shelter at a colleague’s house. It wasn’t just the one day of terror, but the long-term surge of anti-American sentiment in France, that cut him to the quick. This is a minor theme of the book: learning how to be American as well as French – not always an easy balancing act. An appendix includes 15 fairly simple (i.e. replicable at home!) recipes from his 2004 cookbook Dessert University, such as pecan bourbon pie and baked apple soufflé. (I must also marvel at the journey that this particular book has been on. It is signed by the English translator and inscribed to her mother: “Mum, with all love, Louise – 8 May 2007”. This hardback copy somehow made it all the way to the £1 bargain shelves outside the upper level of the castle in Hay-on-Wye, Wales, where my husband snatched it up last spring.)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    While this book has all the makings of a very interesting memoir, its success is lost because of Roland Mesnier's over-sized ego which he expresses on nearly every page. While the book is interesting, I just got tired of his needless digs at everyone around him and his self importance so about 75% through I just gave up. While this book has all the makings of a very interesting memoir, its success is lost because of Roland Mesnier's over-sized ego which he expresses on nearly every page. While the book is interesting, I just got tired of his needless digs at everyone around him and his self importance so about 75% through I just gave up.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Graney

    This was a delightful book. Mesnier has an inspiring life story and he tells great stories about the presidents he worked for; Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush. Of course he didn't reveal too much which of course is appropriate. After a while his descriptions of the incredible desserts he made (very creatively depending on the guest or event) blurred together. I'd say this book is 60/40 food to history. This was a delightful book. Mesnier has an inspiring life story and he tells great stories about the presidents he worked for; Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush. Of course he didn't reveal too much which of course is appropriate. After a while his descriptions of the incredible desserts he made (very creatively depending on the guest or event) blurred together. I'd say this book is 60/40 food to history.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Memoir of the White House pastry chef. He worked there for like 25 years and still kept coming up with dramatic new desserts. If I was the chef we would probably have cinnamon graham crakcers and milk for pretty much every occassion. Instead this dude was making sugar sculptures of world architecture and exotic vanilla pomegranite tangerine sorbets in the shape of the Chinese emperor's favorite flower. (Ok, I made that up, but only because I read the book last year and can't remember details.) Memoir of the White House pastry chef. He worked there for like 25 years and still kept coming up with dramatic new desserts. If I was the chef we would probably have cinnamon graham crakcers and milk for pretty much every occassion. Instead this dude was making sugar sculptures of world architecture and exotic vanilla pomegranite tangerine sorbets in the shape of the Chinese emperor's favorite flower. (Ok, I made that up, but only because I read the book last year and can't remember details.)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    Is it possible for this guy to tell his tale without putting other people down? His arrogance killed the book for me.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    A fun memoir by the White House pastry chef. I loved the stories about the five presidents for whom he served and would have preferred less background about his career prior to the White House.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    Reading this book, I realized that I have had a fascination with all things White House since reading, "The President's Daughter" and "White house Autumn" in junior high. This fed that very well. I really enjoyed seeing history from a completely different perspective. It is definitely a "memoir" so there is only as much detail as the pastry chef could provide and it's full of his commentary but thankfully he's appears to be the kind of guy you'd want to hear a story from. I thoroughly enjoyed th Reading this book, I realized that I have had a fascination with all things White House since reading, "The President's Daughter" and "White house Autumn" in junior high. This fed that very well. I really enjoyed seeing history from a completely different perspective. It is definitely a "memoir" so there is only as much detail as the pastry chef could provide and it's full of his commentary but thankfully he's appears to be the kind of guy you'd want to hear a story from. I thoroughly enjoyed the beginning and seeing how he worked so hard to accomplish his desires to be a great pastry chef. It reminded me that good things come from work. I also appreciated his devotion to the First Family regardless of political party (see p 233). I also appreciated his interjections about the Marine Band, of course, even if he didn't remember the uniforms accurately. The only annoying thing in the whole book (and there wasn't much) was that sometimes he seemed to be building up to something and then there was nothing. By the end of the book you could tell he was done too but there was enough throughout the book that this was a very interesting read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    This was an enjoyable book written by the pastry chef at the White House, hired by Rosalyn Carter and retired during W's reign. It gives lots and lots of details about each First Lady's entertaining style with observations about the personal behavior of the First Families. Chef Mesnier is clearly not a political animal; his adoration of each family is based more on longevity and comfort than politics, and he finds considerable unrest each time a new family appears. While one can't draw too many This was an enjoyable book written by the pastry chef at the White House, hired by Rosalyn Carter and retired during W's reign. It gives lots and lots of details about each First Lady's entertaining style with observations about the personal behavior of the First Families. Chef Mesnier is clearly not a political animal; his adoration of each family is based more on longevity and comfort than politics, and he finds considerable unrest each time a new family appears. While one can't draw too many conclusions based on each President's sweet tooth (Reagan's - considerable; Clinton's - governed by numerous allergies), the way one treats one's hired help is broadly revealing. Bonus: this man is a true artist and it sounds like his sweet concoctions were not only mouth watering but inspired.

  9. 4 out of 5

    LRK

    A very sweet (pardon the pun) reflection on 25 years of life spent as the chief pastry chef in the White House. I picked the book up because I was interested in this experience in particular, but I also deeply enjoyed reading about his childhood and apprenticeship and his early career in several of the world's greatest hotels. At points the book suffers slightly from being a translation, but the author's sincerity, loyalty, and good will always shine through. A very sweet (pardon the pun) reflection on 25 years of life spent as the chief pastry chef in the White House. I picked the book up because I was interested in this experience in particular, but I also deeply enjoyed reading about his childhood and apprenticeship and his early career in several of the world's greatest hotels. At points the book suffers slightly from being a translation, but the author's sincerity, loyalty, and good will always shine through.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Keri Murcray

    I had already read the White House Chef and enjoyed it, but found this book to be more interesting. Especially because Roland Mesnier was the pastry chef for 5 different presidents. I loved reading his personal history and all his descriptions of the marvelous desserts he created over the years. I just wish there had been more pictures. Very good read! :)

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mina

    Very interesting read. I especially loved the beginning of the book, detailing his childhood in rural France and his career before the White House. The last third of the book can get very repetitive, however, it was very interesting to me as a scholar of international relations to hear about the way he researched for foreign desserts.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I was pleasantly surprised with this book. I was surprised reading some of the reviews as I thought it was Very well written, almost like you are in the same room hearing stories. Roland starts way back in his childhood, where he lived, what it was like and what lead him to be a pastry chef. Unbelievable in the old days he left home at 14 to be an apprentice but was lucky to work for a good boss, not one that beat him. Very impressive resume of places worked prior to the White House. He was able I was pleasantly surprised with this book. I was surprised reading some of the reviews as I thought it was Very well written, almost like you are in the same room hearing stories. Roland starts way back in his childhood, where he lived, what it was like and what lead him to be a pastry chef. Unbelievable in the old days he left home at 14 to be an apprentice but was lucky to work for a good boss, not one that beat him. Very impressive resume of places worked prior to the White House. He was able to stay employed for 25 yrs so of course thru many presidents. Other reviewers said they didn't like how he said he was the best all the time--well, guess what--he has a wealth of awards for his pastries and sugar work. I really enjoyed this well written book and read it in one sitting (several hours). I highly recommend this book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    Seemed to me like a cross between a menu and an autobiography. The author either has a phenomenal memory on the desserts he prepared during the time range of his account, or he keeps very detailed records. A rags to riches story of sorts, although the author achieved fame more than wealth. An interesting European perspective on the Presidents from Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush, as seen through the eyes of the White House pastry chef. Includes a few recipes at the end.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia Smith

    An interesting look into the world of the White House pastry chef. The book is a recollection of Mesnier's journey from growing up poor in France, becoming an apprentice perfecting his craft, an impressive resume of places he worked before moving to the White House to serve the Presidents and First Ladies the amazing desserts that complete the State Dinners. A selection of favorite deserts of the First Families he served during his 25 years is included in the back of the book. An interesting look into the world of the White House pastry chef. The book is a recollection of Mesnier's journey from growing up poor in France, becoming an apprentice perfecting his craft, an impressive resume of places he worked before moving to the White House to serve the Presidents and First Ladies the amazing desserts that complete the State Dinners. A selection of favorite deserts of the First Families he served during his 25 years is included in the back of the book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sara Goldenberg

    It was a wonderful, fabulous book. Even though it was translated, it's not archaic or stilted at all. I wasn't as interested in the author's early life as much as his takes on each president and first lady .. so I sort of skipped a little bit, in the first third of the book. But it was well written, super interesting, and a lot of fun to read. Recommended !!! It was a wonderful, fabulous book. Even though it was translated, it's not archaic or stilted at all. I wasn't as interested in the author's early life as much as his takes on each president and first lady .. so I sort of skipped a little bit, in the first third of the book. But it was well written, super interesting, and a lot of fun to read. Recommended !!!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Laetitia-Laure Brock

    The least political "political memoir" ever. Roland served under 5 different presidents, republicans and democrats, and doesn't take any side. He just tell it like he saw it from the kitchen and mostly focuses about the food. I kinda loved it. The least political "political memoir" ever. Roland served under 5 different presidents, republicans and democrats, and doesn't take any side. He just tell it like he saw it from the kitchen and mostly focuses about the food. I kinda loved it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Elsa

    Mr. Mesnier was the head White House pastry chef for 25 years, from Carter to George W. Bush. This is his memoir. Looots of food descriptions and some interesting behind the scenes information on presidents and working in the White House. Good!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lori Mendenhall

    fun and interesting! he is a little full of himself but I think he deserves to be.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Russell

    Just what I wanted in a book like this: splashy, a little gossipy, and an unusual slice of life. Also makes me want to explore more fruit-based desserts.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lori Bruce

    Parts of the book are fun and interesting but some of it loses your attention. Recipes are great!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Beverly

    Good book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    This book has been on my list for years, but it is not available at the library systems I frequent most. It has everything I love in a memoir; travels, rags to riches, anecdotes and name dropping. After about the first half of the book though, it felt like the book was on repeat, 'This person came to dinner, I made this dessert and they loved it.' Throughout the book I couldn't help but think of the family he left alone at home (a wife and son) when he was busy following presidents to Camp David This book has been on my list for years, but it is not available at the library systems I frequent most. It has everything I love in a memoir; travels, rags to riches, anecdotes and name dropping. After about the first half of the book though, it felt like the book was on repeat, 'This person came to dinner, I made this dessert and they loved it.' Throughout the book I couldn't help but think of the family he left alone at home (a wife and son) when he was busy following presidents to Camp David, and as if being the Head Pastry Chef at the White House was not enough of a career, he also taught night classes. I don't think his family ever saw him. I know that's not the point. I wish I had stopped reading after he reached the White House, and simply skimmed for interesting tidbits about the Presidents and their families. He spoke respectfully of all he served (from Carter to George W. Bush)but clearly Nancy Reagan was his most difficult. I would say the most interesting bit was his experience in the White House on 9/11/01 where the staff were rushed out with such haste staff was not permitted to grab their wallets, purses, car keys, phones, etc. They were left waiting outside with little to no information until after 3 hours a colleague said, "Let's walk to my house" so dozens of staff walked four miles and found their own way home on that horrific day. It's a bit disheartening that the White House a presumed top terrorist target, didn't have a better emergency plan in place, I'm sure they do now. Again I digress, Mesnier's arrogance got under my skin although he kept asserting he is humble, maybe something was lost in translation. I would have liked to learn more of the nitty gritty of how his job worked, for example; how much time did he have to prepare, did he do the shopping himself, how much help did he have, did he have a budget? Over all not a total waste of time, but didn't quite live up to my years of anticipation.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    All the Presidents’ Pastries starts off slow with Roland Messnier's humble beginnings and his entry into the pastry world bouncing back and forth between kitchens which was demonstrating his rise to stardom. I started to skim. What I found most interesting about this book was when Mesnier told stories about the 5 Presidents and how they and their families lived at the White House. It was like getting a private peek of the goings on inside. He seemed fair in his descriptions and remained fairly n All the Presidents’ Pastries starts off slow with Roland Messnier's humble beginnings and his entry into the pastry world bouncing back and forth between kitchens which was demonstrating his rise to stardom. I started to skim. What I found most interesting about this book was when Mesnier told stories about the 5 Presidents and how they and their families lived at the White House. It was like getting a private peek of the goings on inside. He seemed fair in his descriptions and remained fairly neutral politically which was refreshing. I was surprised when Mesnier wrote about Thomas Jefferson’s purchase of the state of Louisiana. His editors obviously need to brush up on American History. A dumb comment he made that blew my mind (no pun intended) was calling the Monica Lewinsky scandal “minor.” Must be the French in him. There were times when he could have embellished on a story but dropped it like a lead balloon. For instance, when Mrs. Clinton sent him a Sachertorte asking him his opinion of it. Instead of sharing his response, he goes into a diatribe about good and bad hotels. Sharing the discussion of the cake would have been delightful. My guess is he didn’t want to share his negative opinion of the cake with the public. This book was a huge Horn Toot but I guess he has that right due to his hard work and successes but, I heard myself utter “blowhard” under my breath a few times while reading it. With the thousands of desserts he baked, you would think there would have been more photos of them. After a while, I caught myself skimming dessert descriptions. He never used names but I think he was also using this book as an opportunity to call people he didn’t enjoy dealing with, a-holes. This was an okay book but I am so glad it is over.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Malmola

    Mesnier is definitely not a writer, but his story is interesting. I found the very beginning--his childhood in France--interesting, and his work in the White House, but there is a lull when he talks about his early time as a pastry chef in Germany, England, and Barbados. It wasn't bad, just didn't hold my interest all that much. I very much liked getting to know the First Ladies and the first families from the point of view of a loyal, much-admired employee. It helps you see the presidents and t Mesnier is definitely not a writer, but his story is interesting. I found the very beginning--his childhood in France--interesting, and his work in the White House, but there is a lull when he talks about his early time as a pastry chef in Germany, England, and Barbados. It wasn't bad, just didn't hold my interest all that much. I very much liked getting to know the First Ladies and the first families from the point of view of a loyal, much-admired employee. It helps you see the presidents and their families more as human beings and less as public and political figures--each of us knows how one feels about them in that regard. Some people say they found Mesnier to be terribly pompous; this is not my take. Certainly he prides himself on his career, but then he's a famous, very talented, hardworking chef, so why not? I also didn't feel like he put his colleagues down unnecessarily. He mostly seemed to give a review of their standing in his respect, and the results varied from not-worth-much to adored-and-respected. I have yet to try any of his recipes in the back.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    This was a fun book, although it began to read like a grocery list toward the middle. I enjoyed learning about Mesnier's training and the "behind the scenes" workings of major hotels like the Savoy. As for Washington, this is no "tell all" book about Mesnier's experiences at the White House, but a serious description of his most successful dessert menus and events. Yet I wish for more personal context, more warm anecdotes--I still don't have a sense of Mesnier's life, just a taste of his work et This was a fun book, although it began to read like a grocery list toward the middle. I enjoyed learning about Mesnier's training and the "behind the scenes" workings of major hotels like the Savoy. As for Washington, this is no "tell all" book about Mesnier's experiences at the White House, but a serious description of his most successful dessert menus and events. Yet I wish for more personal context, more warm anecdotes--I still don't have a sense of Mesnier's life, just a taste of his work ethic and the culinary culture of the White House--I don't want gossip or sassy stories, just more honest context about his working life as head pastry chef.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Susanne

    This is a memoir of roland Mesnier's 26 years in the White House as the pastry chef for the Carter, Reagan, Bush, Bush and Clinton administrations. He was born in France into a rather poor family, and shooed out of the house at age 14 to apprentice. In the book, he comes across as a little arrogant, probably because of his frank comments and writing style. However, when I saw him in person as a keynote speaker, he was very charming and funny. Either way, the book is quite interesting, even if yo This is a memoir of roland Mesnier's 26 years in the White House as the pastry chef for the Carter, Reagan, Bush, Bush and Clinton administrations. He was born in France into a rather poor family, and shooed out of the house at age 14 to apprentice. In the book, he comes across as a little arrogant, probably because of his frank comments and writing style. However, when I saw him in person as a keynote speaker, he was very charming and funny. Either way, the book is quite interesting, even if you have never made a pastry yourself.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Shana

    An entertaining memoir from Roland Mesnier, who was the pastry chef at the White House for 25 years. I enjoyed the anectodes about the different presidents from Jimmy Carter to W. I was impressed how Mesnier tactfully told you a great deal about the personalities of the different First Ladies.... It got a bit long, but his retelling of the Sept. 11 period and the Iranian hostage crisis were especially poignant. A enlightening focus on the First Ladies, even more than the presidents.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Meh. If my husband hadn't trained under Roland for his pulled sugar work, I probably wouldn't have finished it- even so, it's an interesting view of the White House from a unique perspective. I enjoyed the parts about Roland's training in Europe. My husband says he's not the pompous egotist he often comes across as in the book. I'd guess that this was an artifact of the translation and cultural differences. Meh. If my husband hadn't trained under Roland for his pulled sugar work, I probably wouldn't have finished it- even so, it's an interesting view of the White House from a unique perspective. I enjoyed the parts about Roland's training in Europe. My husband says he's not the pompous egotist he often comes across as in the book. I'd guess that this was an artifact of the translation and cultural differences.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sasdhill

    This is a highly entertaining behind the scenes look at the White House pastry kitchen. The book takes you from the Carter administration through George W Bush. The desserts and pastries that this guy made were incredible, some very interesting photos included. Favorite desserts of presidents and some impressions of famous visiting dignataries and notables are mentioned. The chef himself has an overly inflated view of himself which must come with the territory.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This may not be the most well written memoir, but it is an accurate portrait of a chef's life. I also liked how the author refused to make political judgments. It was sweet and refreshing. When I read it a wave of memories from my own culinary apprenticeship rushed my mind. Readers looking for a glossy impressive invective will be disappointed. This memoir is a nice simple tale. This may not be the most well written memoir, but it is an accurate portrait of a chef's life. I also liked how the author refused to make political judgments. It was sweet and refreshing. When I read it a wave of memories from my own culinary apprenticeship rushed my mind. Readers looking for a glossy impressive invective will be disappointed. This memoir is a nice simple tale.

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