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David Kamp: The Serious Eats Interview, Part 2

Editor's note: We've long been fans of David Kamp's work (author of The United States of Arugula and, now, along with Marion Rosenfeld, The Food Snob's Dictionary), so we turned loose Adam Roberts on him for a chat. What follows is the second part of a lengthy but entertaining interview. Here's Part One, if you missed it. One of the things I found most fascinating in the book was the idea of objectivity and subjectivity and Giorgio DeLuca's discovery that food can be objectively good. How do you feel about that subject? Do you feel that good food can be objectively good or is it always a matter of taste? People obviously have different preferences. But the idea that some... More

Waitering, Part Two

As I relive all this, writing this story, I’m realizing how dehumanizing the whole experience was. Restaurant culture mirrors real-life culture, and if you have any delusions about how the world works, about absolute power corrupting absolutely, go work at a restaurant. Your romantic bubble vision of the world will burst. More

Waitering, Part One

I was working as a host at an Atlanta restaurant, but I wanted to be a waiter. Not because I’d make more money (which I would) but because I wanted to be like Flo at Mel’s Diner in Alice and tell customers to "Kiss my grits." A few weeks into my hosting stint, I overheard a manager talking about how a waiter quit and how they needed a fast replacement. "I can do it!" I said. "I learn really fast." More

Fully Stocked

I looked at myself in the mirror, and I said, "Adam, do you want to spend the rest of your life trading integrity for convenience? Stop being a chicken-stock whore. You need to pull yourself together and make this dinner count. Look up some recipes, go to the store, and have the time and patience to do it right." More

My First Recipe

I’ve been following recipes for as long as I’ve been cooking. If I keep following recipes, the best I can be is a great recipe follower. Don’t I want more for myself? Why can’t I come up with my own recipe? I envy home cooks who throw in a dash of this, a dash of that, and make a mini masterpiece. Why shouldn’t it be my turn? More

Bagel Love

If you chopped my arm off with an axe, you might be surprised to see that the stump that remained had a giant hole in it. That’s because my body is made of bagels. I am 70 percent water, 30 percent bagels. No week passes in my life without the consumption of at least one or more bagels. More

Bathroom Fixtures and Fairy Cakes

I reflect on my day's activity. On one hand, I've done something perceived as masculine: I have built a bathroom fixture, mounted it to the wall with my bare hands, and did so by following instructions on a sheet of paper. On the other hand, I did something perceived as feminine (if not downright girly): I made fairy cakes. More

Gourmet Genesis

Eve enjoyed her time with Adam in the garden but found that she had strange cravings. "These tomatoes are nice," she'd say. "But wouldn't they be better slow-roasted in an oven and served on toasted bread with cold-pressed olive oil and aged pecorino?" One day, a snake overheard her thoughts and whispered to her. "Wouldn't you like to try some apple gelée with peach nectar foam on a bed of rose petals? Or mango soufflé in a moat of rosemary vapor with the essence of camel?" More

Food at Work

Work, like school, camp, and prison, is an institution. Institutions operate like mothers—feeding, nurturing, and structuring the day for the “children.” People who enjoy institutions tend to have oral personalities—they like to be nurtured—and it makes sense, then, that people at work crave food. Hence the weekly cake-fueled parties at offices throughout the nation. More

Coffee Culture

Coffee shops offer one of the last vestiges of community in this day and age of isolation, iPods, and Internet. To my single friends, I say, "Don't go to a bar, go to a coffee shop. Read a book and drink some coffee and you'll meet someone." More

Eating Pretty

I suspect that when it comes to making nutrition choices, what worries us has nothing to do with health or longevity and everything to do with a subject that's much more complex and much more powerful: beauty. More

Meeting Mario

Mario Batali is in the kitchen at Otto, and I'm at a table waiting for him. There are two bottles of water in front of me: one flat, one sparkling. I'm offered coffee. I'm offered lemonade. I politely refuse, take out my notebook, and wait. And then he appears. More

Does Cooking Make You Gay?

While men cooking at home frequently raise an eyebrow, restaurant chefs are, if anything, considered more masculine for what they do. Who’s gruffer than Anthony Bourdain? Who’s more brazen than Mario Batali? And look at how those Japanese Iron Chefs wield their knives like action stars. More

The Food Bully

I’m a passionate person—particularly about food. And that’s just my problem. I can’t mind my own business. I care too much. I care so much that I’ve become something of a food bully. A description my friends find all too appropriate. More

Squirrel Cake

The original idea was to make croissants, but that would've been too time consuming. Croissants require lots of resting. I didn't want to spend 36 hours making pastry, so I made a squirrel cake instead. More

Eggs Benedict Arnold

Eggs Benedict is made with Canadian bacon; Martin Short is hammy and Canadian. The comparisons end there, except for the fact that they were obstacles in my relationship with my boyfriend of nine months. More

'A Passage to (Southern) India'

The Amateur Gourmet and friends take a culinary tour of Southern India by way of Saravanaas in New York City: "We begin studying our menus. They have words we've never seen before, like 'bisibelabath'." More

'Cooking Light with Pancetta'

Ever hear of food-show host Pancetta? It's OK. Neither had we, until the Amateur Gourmet brought her to our attention. Here she is with a perfect easy-to-follow New Year's Day recipe. Happy 2007! More

A Blind Date at Babbo

A few months ago, at the end of September, John Kessler--former food critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constiution and one of our nation's best food writers--e-mailed me. John and I met back when I lived in Atlanta. He wrote a really kind and thorough piece about me just when I was starting out (you can read it here; you have to register and then wither at the sight of my horrible picture (the photographer insisted on using a fish-eyed lens: never fall for that!)) and we've stayed in touch ever since. Last year he took me to a fashion show; more recently he e-mailed me after my Alain Ducasse post to warn me about compromising my integrity. (I haven't eaten... More


Tonight I met Craig's mom and sister for the first time (they're visiting from Washington State) at one of my favorite restaurants, Prune. The reservation was for 8:30 and Craig and I arrived at 8 to have drinks at the bar. When Craig's mom and sister arrived (at exactly 8:30, perfectly prompt) the hostess told us that it'd just be a few minutes longer. We weren't seated until almost 9. But guess what? We didn't care! Why? Service! They were so nice about it. The hostess took our coats, our bookbags (mine was especially heavy because I just got my manuscript back from my editor with line edits!) and then helped make room for us at the bar. The... More

Happy Birthday to Us: Serious Eats Is 2

Congrats Ed & Serious Eats team! It's amazing to think about how much this site has grown over the past two years. I'm proud to have been a part of it.

Anyone watching the Batali/Paltrow show on PBS?

This comment made me laugh:

"It's like watching Mario and Bittman's televised mid-life crisis."

Thank you, Lisa23.

Amateur Gourmet Adam Roberts Revealed as Semi-Pro in New Book

Hi Dominic,
Thanks for snagging the book! Before I was The Amateur Gourmet I would eat frozen California Pizza Kitchen pizzas by the caseload; I'd make those Pilsbury cinnamon buns for a treat; I made a decent chili. But mostly I'd eat out, order in, very rarely cook at home. Amazing how much has changed in just a few years...

The Serious Eats Fried Clam Honor Roll

Ed, it just so happens that I had Brooklyn Fish Camp's fried clams just a few days ago. I found them perplexing. They were whole steamer clams with the little bootie still on, the whole thing fried so it looked a bit like a giant sperm. They paled in comparison to the fried clams I had at The Clam Shack (I must've gone there on a better day than David Leite). I much prefer Brooklyn Fish Camp's Oyster Po' Boy and Trout BLT.

Thai Restaurant Hunting This Weekend

Wondee Siam II has a terrific duck salad. It's almost like duck bacon mixed in with chiles and pineapple and cilantro and all sorts of goodies. I highly recommend it.

Tap that Glass

This is the best post title ever.

Venice restaurant recommendations

Trattoria Alla Madonna. That's the first place we went to when we got to Venice and it was fantastic and totally memorable. Really fresh seafood--I still remember the seafood risotto I had--and not touristy at all. Also, don't miss the Peggy Guggenheim museum when you're there. It's off the beaten track, but really cool. Another tip is to go to Mario Batali's site and check out his Italy picks--I'm sure he has a section on Venice.

"Sopranos" Finale Party?

I may try Mario Batali's lasagna with the homemade pasta dough. Could be too ambitious though--but the occasion is probably worth it!

Do you share your real identity on your blog? Why or why not?

I'd never reveal anything about myself--too dangerous!

Cooking With Liberace!

Ok, I'm sorry but somebody has to make a joke about Liberace and sticky buns.

Thank you.

What Happened to the AG?

Lou, I actually agree with your feedback on that post---I'm here in San Fran and trying to blog as much as I can about my trip, while at the same time not wanting to spend too much time on the net when I could be out doing things. So I write posts like that almost like an e-mail--I re-read them once and click post without too much fussing over it. It's just a choice I make and for the most part my readers don't seem to mind.

The work I do for Serious Eats, on the other hand, I do spend lots of time on. And my book, you'll be surprised to see when it comes out, has gone through almost a year of editing---I've been revising, reworking, reshaping, rethinking each chapter so much that you may not even recognize the work as my own. That's because it's just a different medium.

It's funny, Livetotravel started this thread and then slammed me in the video section and slammed me elsewhere too, and then I clicked on my site because "Livetotravel" sounded familiar, and after doing a search I see Livetotravel's left 121 comments on my blog over the course of more than a year. Quite a lot for someone who hates me and my writing.

What Happened to the AG?

Well hello---I'm surprised to read some of the comments in this thread. There's been no break-up between myself and Serious Eats: I'm currently working on re-designing my site and temporarily took down the Serious Eats widget while trying to figure out how to clean things up. With the new Serious Eats format (with more focus put on blog updates) I'll now be writing one column a month; but, as someone pointed out above, this week will bring a new contribution from me---I'll let you be surprised.

As for my writing, I've studied writing from my first year of college, when I declared a Creative Writing major, to the two years of writing grad school I did at NYU where I did a masters thesis with Pulitzer Prize winner Marsha Norman. There are lots of ways to evaluate writing: you can look at grammar, you can look at sentence structure, you can look at the nuts and bolts and ignore the larger edifice. I consider myself a stylist more than anything else: I like to tell stories in an idiosyncratic way. Those who like my writing (and that group includes Michael Ruhlman, Ed Levine, Regina Schrambling--all of whom are blurbing my book) admire it because there's lots of life to it. That's what I do. And, if I may say so, many of the blogs that I find dull and off-putting are blogs with no life to them. You can grammar check and spell check all you want, but if your writing is dull, no one care's how much Strunk and White you've digested.

Graham--I'm surprised that you said what you said in a public forum where I'd be likely to read it. That's nice that your editor friend thinks my writing's a "train wreck," I'll keep my thoughts about your writing to myself.

Bathroom Fixtures and Fairy Cakes

Hello readers, thanks for the praise! A certified playwright is someone, like me, who spent two years in grad school studying playwriting. I think the reference, though, is a bit oblique so my bio will be clearer next week!
ALl the best, Adam

What to put on which kind of bagel?

Are you people MAD? The answer is onion bagel--lightly toasted--nova spread, onion and tomato. Duh!

Question of the Day: Do you have a food-related pet name for your sweetheart?

Cauliflower Penis.
(Just kidding.)

So I hear raves about Prune's brunch-what's best on the menu?

Prune's giant pear pancake is the best I've ever had. I highly recommend that.

Roadfood: Louis' Lunch

Well I, for one, really enjoyed this video: it was great seeing Jane and Michael Stern live in action and I'm fascinated by the idea that ketchup does a disservice to a quality hamburger. I'll have to check this place out when, in my next life, I ace my SATs and get a scholarship to Yale.

Know any interesting non-chain restaurants in Boca Raton?

Hey I'm from Boca Raton! My parents love the steak at New York Prime. I love the chicken pasta at Max's Grille. TooJay's has decent deli food. The bagels at Bagelworks (at least the way I remember them) are among my favorites (get the works with lox spread and whitefish salad.) Otherwise, Boca's a bit of a wasteland. Good luck!

Eggs Benedict Arnold

Oops! No, Meg, sad to say that Glo's eggs Benedict does have Canadian bacon. Craig is furious that I forgot to mention that. Editors, please fix this immediately!

Pre-Theater Valentines Day

Esca! Esca! Esca! Hope that helps.

'I've Never Had a Christmas Ham'

Ya, I think the final blow came in putting it in the oven. When it came out of the apple juice/cranberry juice mixture, after simmering for four hours, it was really tender and sweet and moist. I should've skipped the glazing step because the glaze was more like a paste and the oven was too hot with the potatoes and the duck fat. Next time I'll try an easier ham--if there is a next time!

Question of the Day: What's your guilty pleasure?

How much do you tip the person who delivers your food?

Hmmm. Well here was the nature of our discussion last night: 20% is what we tip a waiter at a restaurant. This is for the work involved in serving an entire meal--a meal that often takes over an hour to complete. The job of delivering food is always the same: the same bag is carried to your apt regardless of how much you order. If you order $5 worth of food or $100 worth of food, it's the same work involved for the delivery person (give or take the extra weight of the bag.) If you order $10 worth of food, should you only tip $2? Similarly, if you order $100 worth of food, should you really tip $20? I think it's a complicated issue.

where to find good cassoulet in manhattan?

On my first date with Craig, my boyfriend, I had cassoulet at Lucien in the East Village. I recommend it highly, but I don't recommend having cassoulet on a first date. All those beans do not romance make.

Question of the Day: Milk Chocolate or Dark Chocolate?

I'm starting to appreciate darker chocolates. Recently I made hot chocolate with 60% bittersweet chocolate and added Grand Marnier because my friends are lushes. I thought it tasted fancy and was impressed with myself. But at the movies I'll happily eat a box of Buncha Crunch (Nestle Crunch Bar bits.)

Susan Boyled Potatoes

The Amateur Gourmet's recipe for Susan Boyled Potatoes makes a dish that is "seemingly plain on the outside but on the inside an embarrassment of riches." They're stuffed with a pancetta-enhanced cheese fondue sauce.... More