Monday, July 22, 2013

Book Review: Back of the House: The Secret Life of a Restaurant By: Scoot Haas

One of the things I love about reading is how it expands your world by way of perspective.  Its a way of traveling without checking luggage and can create some self-reflection and personal growth. I pride myself on finishing over 20 books since January 2013 and how in some cases-they were not easy to finish.

So when I picked up Scott Haas' Back of the House, I was looking to burn through it 2-3 days max and expecting something airing on the side of Bill Buford.  After a month, I gave up-I was 100 pages in and I couldn't read it any longer.  If you have read any of my book reviews, you'll see that I'm not an overly critical person-I enjoy reading about food and have found some wonderful new authors, this year especially, and am probably a more forgiving critic than the NYT. 

In Back of the House, Psychologist Scott Haas comes into Craigie on Main-the legendary Tony Maws' restaurant and (while I can only vouch for the first 100 pages) puts it through his own psychological assessment-making assumptions about the kitchen staff and seemingly butting-in to elements of the restaurant (tattling on a manager at one point) that are not his place.  I couldn't figure out what Haas was doing there and it was clear he just thought he was some VIP chasing around a famous chef-going on about all of Maws' achievements and how stressful the staff and business can be on Maws.  His writing was more of a daily log of what people were doing and didn't share much of a story or many personal elements of those who worked there.  He didn't talk about the kitchen staff as though they were people, but more as subservient workers and it disgusted me.  

As someone who has spent almost their entire professional life in a restaurant-I was amazed to find that when you let a guest into the kitchen and see behind the curtain, they still think of you as a second-class citizen.  The 100 pages I read, were a horrible struggle-so I recommend saving yourself the time and moving on to something else.

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