Mini Reviews: Generation Chef by Karen Stabiner and Before the Wind by Jim Lynch

December 8, 2016 Mini Book Reviews 15

Can a mini review include not one, not two, but three quotes, thus making it look more like a full length review?! Yes, I’m going with it. There’s no other choice when the writing is as glorious as Jim Lynch’s in Before the Wind.

Generation Chef, Karen StabinerGeneration Chef by Karen Stabiner
Nonfiction – Cooking / Food (Released September 13, 2016)
288 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Avery Books)

Plot Summary: Journalist Karen Stabiner follows young chef Jonah Miller as he opens his first New York City restaurant, the East Village Spanish spot, Huertas.

My Thoughts: Generation Chef‘s look into a new restaurant’s first year of life is equal parts food and business book. I particularly loved getting a behind the scenes look at the ups and downs of an entrepreneurial restaurant venture. Running a new restaurant clearly takes courage and a steady hand and I was frighteningly nervous for Miller and his team as they approached each new milestone (applying for a liquor license, awaiting a New York Times review, etc). I realized how much I respect people who run small businesses and I’m fairly certain I couldn’t pull it off without an emotional breakdown.

Specific to the restaurant business, Generation Chef highlighted how hard a new restaurant has to work to get noticed amidst the NYC clutter. Stabiner provides illuminating color about the frenzied restaurant environment of the early 2000’s and the impact of social media. She also compares Miller and Huertas’ story with that of other famous chefs including David Chang, Stephanie Izard, April Bloomfield, and Gavin Kaysen. Generation Chef reminded me of Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter, minus all the drugs and sexual angst, and is a great choice for people interested in the business side of opening a new restaurant. Plus, it made an appearance on my 2016 Books That Make Perfect Holiday Gifts List!

Before the Wind, Jim LynchBefore the Wind by Jim Lynch
Fiction (Released April 19, 2016)
306 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Knopf)

Plot Summary: Josh Johannssen and his somewhat estranged family, a sailing dynasty, reunite in an attempt to win the Pacific Northwest’s prestigious Swiftsure race.

My Thoughts: Behind the Wind is 100% up my alley and I have no idea why I’d never heard of it until Catherine at Gilmore Guide shoved it into my hands recently. It plops the dysfunctional family element of Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth into a sailing environment with brilliant results.

For years, sailing bound us. We were racers, builders and cruisers. It was our family business, our sport, our drug of choice. Yet eventually, sailing blew us apart, too.

Within the first five pages, Lynch delves into the psyche of sailors and boaters in general and his writing about sailing is filled with “yes, that’s exactly how it is” moments. 

Sailboats attract the loons and geniuses among us, the romantics whose boats represent some outlaw image of themselves. We fall for these things, but what we’re slow to grasp is that it’s not the boats but rather those inexplicable moments on the water when time slows.

His sense of humor sparkles when making fun of sailing (i.e. a hilarious rant about the ridiculous sailing lingo) and when describing his family’s quirks (of which there are many), but a genuine love for both shines through it all.

Nobody forgets meeting my father. Loud, tall and meaty, he invades your space and claims the right-of-way. There is nothing moderate about him. A leader and a lout, a gentleman and an ass, he never concedes a weakness, admits a sickness or says he loves anybody. Yet the flip side is that when you please him, your body temperature climbs a degree or two.

As with many books I love, the suspense lies in what ends up happening to these characters. The questions of what made Josh’s sailing prodigy sister (Ruby) abandon the sport, what shady antics are most of the family members up to now, and what incident figuratively blew up the family decades ago drove the novel’s suspense. Lynch does go on sailing tangents fairly often, but I found them interesting because he adopts the tone of the rare tour guide that uses dry humor to make something you’re not that interested in come alive. Before the Wind is an underrated gem that you should read immediately if you’re a fan of dysfunctional family stories…and, I can’t wait to read more of Lynch’s work.

Get Weekly Email Updates!

15 Responses to “Mini Reviews: Generation Chef by Karen Stabiner and Before the Wind by Jim Lynch”

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Yep – that’s pretty much what it ended up being. Probably should’ve just given it it’s own post – haha!

  1. Susie | Novel Visits

    Great review of Before the Wind. You captured the story perfectly! (And made it hard for me to write about it! Haha!!) I love the quotes you used. I had highlighted a couple of those, too. Like you, I found the dysfunctional family part of the story the best part.

  2. Amanda

    I’m definitely going to read Generation Chef. I’ve been slightly obsessed with food/restaurant memoirs lately. I still talk about Bourdain’s book about once a week and I read it 2 months ago. I will never buy the fish entree on a Sunday or Monday again!

    Amanda @ A Bookshelf Monstrosity

  3. susan

    My husband is reading the Jim Lynch book now, which is good because he’s big into sailing. So I think he will like it. So glad you gave it a good review.

  4. Naomi

    I really can’t imagine all the stuff you have to take into account and deal with when opening a restaurant. Besides worrying about whether or not anyone’s even going to come and eat, you have to worry about all that food – what you need, how much you need, the safety aspect of it all, and then being able to mange making many different meals and having them all taste good! Does it talk at all about wastage? I always wonder how restaurants handle making sure they have enough of what they need without wasting any. (I’m thinking I would find this book interesting!)

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I got the sense that food inventory and waste was a huge, huge priority for this restaurant and I would imagine all restaurants. Discussion of using every single part of every piece of food that came in…mostly use the leftovers to create the specials.

  5. Megan @booksandcarbs

    Before the Wind sounds great! My friend loves to sail so I just sent the link to her husband to check out as a gift for her. Thanks for bringing the book to my attention.

    Generation Chef also sounds good, but I overdid it with chef stuff several years ago (watching Top Chef, reading blogs about Top Chef, and reading every chef memoir I could get my hands on) and have been taking a break from food writing until I’m hungry for it again.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Oh good! I hope it works for them!

      And I hear you getting burned out of certain genres…that happened to me with mysteries/thrillers.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.