My Place at the Table
By Alexander Lobrano
2021 • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
In this debut memoir, a James Beard Award–winning writer, whose childhood idea of fine dining was Howard Johnson’s, tells how he became one of Paris’s most influential food critics
Until Alec Lobrano landed a job in the glamorous Paris office of Women’s Wear Daily, his main experience of French cuisine was the occasional supermarket éclair. An interview with the owner of a renowned cheese shop for his first article nearly proves a disaster because he speaks no French. As he goes on to cover celebrities and couturiers and improves his mastery of the language, he gradually learns what it means to be truly French. He attends a cocktail party with Yves St. Laurent and has dinner with Giorgio Armani. Over a superb lunch, it’s his landlady who ultimately provides him with a lasting touchstone for how to judge food: “you must understand the intentions of the cook.” At the city’s brasseries and bistros, he discovers real French cooking. Through a series of vivid encounters with culinary figures from Paul Bocuse to Julia Child to Ruth Reichl, Lobrano hones his palate and finds his voice. Soon the timid boy from Connecticut is at the epicenter of the Parisian dining revolution and the restaurant critic of one of the largest newspapers in the France.
A mouthwatering testament to the healing power of food, My Place at the Table is a moving coming-of-age story of how a gay man emerges from a wounding childhood, discovers himself, and finds love. Published here for the first time is Lobrano’s “little black book,” an insider’s guide to his thirty all-time-favorite Paris restaurants.
Tags: Books, food writing, french, memoir, restaurants