Worth A Thousand Words

Thanks to Salvatore Rizzo of De Gustibus for capturing this for-the-time-capsule image of me and Paul Liebrandt prior to our class the other night:

Andrew Friedman, left, and Paul Liebrandt (photo courtesy Salvatore Rizzo, De Gustibus)


The Writing Life: The Down Payment

One Year, 50 Pages. Why Book Proposals Are Worth the Trouble.

[Editor’s Note: This piece–about writing a book proposal with Paul Liebrandt–first ran May 18, 2010 on the original, short-lived, 1.0 version of Toqueland. As I’m teaching a class on cookbook proposals tonight at the Institute of Culinary Education (if you missed it, no worries, we’ll be doing it again in July), and co-presenting with Paul tomorrow night at DeGustibus, it seemed like a good time to re-post it. The story has a happy ending: Clarkson Potter will publish the book in 2013. You can read a little about it at the top of this site’s book page, and stay tuned for frequent updates as the project comes together.]

NEW YORK, NY. MAY 18, 2010 — Having just introduced this site in December, on the occasion of the publication of my last book, I’ve only been able to speak about writing in the past tense. But this past weekend, as I tweaked a proposal for a new collaboration, I thought it might be interesting to spend a little time in the future tense and share a bit about the great unknown for a writer like myself who primarily makes his living in the book world . .. the next project.

For about a year now, I’ve been engaged in an ongoing dialogue with Paul Liebrandt, the wildly talented chef of Corton restaurant in TriBeCa, about writing a book together. Usually proposals come together much more quickly for me, but this was a unique relationship because unlike the other chefs I’ve worked with–most of whom I’d known pretty well socially before we became business partners–Paul and I had never met until a mutual friend took me to dinner at Corton for the purpose making a literary match and sending us off down the book path together. (It also took a while because we connected while I was barreling down the homestretch of penning Knives at Dawn, so meetings were few and far between at the outset.)


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Depictions: The Odd Couple, Fine Dining Edition

A Fascinating Encounter Between Marco Pierre White and Raymond Blanc

I’ve had Marco Pierre White on the brain lately, mostly because I’ve been working with Paul Liebrandt on a book project. Coming of age when he did in London, Paul was heavily influenced by Marco, who towered over the dining scene there in the 1980s and 1990s. The first book that ever moved Paul was Marco’s classic and brilliantly titled White Heat, and for his second “proper” cooking job, Paul tried, and succeeded, in snagging a job at White’s celebrated The Restaurant Marco Pierre White at the Hyde Park Hotel (now a Mandarin Oriental).

Before opening that eponymous establishment, Marco made his name at Harvey’s, and while there, the BBC shot and aired a fascinating miniseries of sorts in which the chef cooked for, and then dined with, four kitchen masters for whom he had once worked: Pierre Koffman, Albert Roux, Nico Ladenis, and—most memorably to my mind—Raymond Blanc, the eternally childlike optimist who ran then, and still runs today, Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons.

Featured below is the third and final segment of the half-hour episode. The first two segments are here and here, and mostly concern Marco and his brigade preparing dinner; in other words, for two-thirds of the program, it’s a cooking show. But then, about 1 minute 15 seconds into part three, Raymond comes to lunch and you could cut the tension with any one of the knives just off camera in Marco’s kitchen. (The episodes featuring the other chefs are easily found on You Tube as well, and I recommend them all.)

Here’s the clip, with my time-stamped commentary below… if you can watch this just once, you have a lot more discipline than I do:

:38: Historical footnote: That plate is the Villeroy & Boch basket weave that become a darling of chefs in both London and the US around this time. Prior to its popularity, you’d have had a hard time finding oversize plates, so common in restaurants today, anywhere in the United States, not even at a restaurant show.

1:23: Sign of things to come: Raymond, full of enthusiasm, lifts his glass for a toast. Marco corrects him: “You’re supposed to do this at the end, Chef.” And away we go…. 

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Origin Stories:The Once and Future Sorbet

Paul Liebrandt Revamps His Legendary Apple-Wasabi Palate Cleanser

“Almost everybody who ate that little morsel thought it was the best thing they ever tasted.”

–  Former New York Times restaurant critic William Grimes, in the documentary A Matter of Taste: Paul Liebrandt

New Take on a Classic: Apple-Wasabi 2012

Anybody who’s followed Paul Liebrandt from his earliest days in New York will be familiar with the dish to which William Grimes refers in the above-quoted snippet from the recent HBO documentary.

During his brief tenure at Atlas restaurant, on Manhattan’s Central Park South, from late-summer 2000 until fall 2001, Paul introduced what might be the only “signature” palate cleanser in the annals of modern cuisine: his Apple-Wasabi Sorbet.

The genesis of the sorbet is described in detail in the book Paul and I are writing. (You can read a little about it at the top of this site’s book page.) Hailing as he did from the three-star dining temples of Europe, Paul found the notion of including a palate-cleansing sorbet on the menu appealing, but wanted to take it to the next level. For the sample chapter that was included in our book proposal, we penned a description of its genesis, in Paul’s voice, of course:

“It was a telling exercise in developing a dish instinctually that began with a combination that intrigued me: crisp, tart green apple and icy, hot wasabi. It was a satisfying sorbet, but I wanted it to have more of a presence in the meal, to linger on the palate. So I tuned to Moulin de Peneton olive oil from Provence (it actually has a slight hint of banana, what I think of as a greenness), and finished it off with a grain of Maldon sea salt, perched atop the sorbet like an ice flake. By the time the dish debuted on the menu, I had the idea of waiters finishing it at the table with a drizzle of the oil.”

For all of the attention it received at Atlas, once he left that restaurant, Paul never served the sorbet again. Not at Papillon, which made perfect sense. Not at Gilt, where it would have been right at home. And not at Corton. Until now…. 

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