it's okay to play with your food

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hanging Out with Ruth Reichl

I have already expressed my fondness for Gourmet and the sadness brought on by its recent demise. So I was especially excited to attend First Person Art's First Taste Preview Dinner with Ruth Reichl at Supper this past Monday. And then First Person asked me to blog about it. Rather than re-recount the event, allow me to share what I wrote for First Person's blog. Visit the original post for some great pictures of Ruth at the event.

Ruth Reichl Quiz

Which of the following statements about Ruth Reichl’s early career as a food writer is false?

A) She published her first cookbook at age 21.
B) She wanted her first gig as a food critic so she could satisfy the fellow members of her commune with free food.
C) She crafted her early restaurant reviews as if they were plots out of film noir and sci-fi flicks.
D) All three statements are true.

The answer is D.

Reichl shared the tale of her unconventional start as a writer at last night’s First Taste Preview Dinner. A packed house at Supper listened as Reichl joked about her early days in Berkeley and her wobbly transition to the big leagues at the LA Times. Despite her eccentric beginnings, she ultimately crafted a career as one of the top food journalists in America without so much as a degree in writing or journalism. (She has a master’s degree in art history.)

Some of the most touching remarks of the evening came from Mitch Prensky, chef and owner of Supper. He admitted that his childhood was not a typical one. With parents in the food business, average family outings included trips to Zabar’s and Dean and Deluca. Prensky also acknowledged the influence that the California cuisine movement of the 70’s (and Reichl herself) had on his own cooking style. It was obvious that Reichl is a food hero to Prensky and he was clearly honored to be preparing a meal for her.

Of course, the Q & A visited upon the recent (and controversial) decision by Condé Nast to stop publishing Gourmet after 68 years in print. Reichl handled the questions with grace, though it was clear that she was saddened by the change.

The rest of the evening included a four-course meal prepared by Prensky and ended with a book signing. It was a lovely kick-off to the 8th Annual Festival of Memoir and Documentary Art, featuring the wit and humor of one of our top food writers and memoirists.

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