The first biography of Craig Claiborne, the founding father of the American revolution in cooking, who as the food editor of the New York Times invented the whole idea of independent restaurant criticism; introduced the country to Julia Child, Wolfgang Puck, and Alice Waters; and in thirty years as the reigning arbiter of all things epicurean in the country, introduced Americans to the food of the world, from French haute cuisine to the previously unknown flavors of the Far East.
THOMAS McNAMEE's essays, poems, reporting, and reviews have appeared in Audubon, The New Yorker, Natural History, and the New York Times. He wrote the PBS documentary Alexander Calder, which won a Peabody Award and an Emmy.
Contentment’s Elusive Recipe
"Next month marks the 50th anniversary of the first of the many restaurant reviews that Claiborne, who indeed became The Times’s food editor and is widely regarded as the father of contemporary restaurant criticism, wrote for this newspaper. It also brings the publication of the first serious biography of him, The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat: Craig Claiborne and the American Food Renaissance, by Thomas McNamee."
Read Frank Bruni's whole column here.
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“Craig Claiborne was the greatest influence of my professional life in America. Knowledgeable, dedicated, and driven, he was determined to better American eating habits. As Thomas McNamee nicely portrays in The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat, Claiborne's impact on the culinary revolution of the last forty years cannot be ignored or overstated.” —Jacques Pépin
“The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat assures that a poignant life whose meaning so impacted the restaurant world will not be permitted to fade from our collective memories. Bravo Tom McNamee for illuminating the erudite gentleman who paved the way for today’s legion of professional restaurant reviewers, as well as for an entire generation of amateur critics who now daily express their judgments on every platform the Internet provides. This must-read book profiles Claiborne’s turbulent, brilliant, and unscripted life which had such a profound and enduring impact on a huge swath of American culture." —Danny Meyer, author, Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business
“Claiborne’s enormous influence — signaled by the title Thomas McNamee has given his new biography, The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat — was due to good timing, but also to his eccentric and willful imagination, his openness to the cuisines of the world, high and low, and not incidentally to his enormous capacity for hard work
McNamee’s book brightens when he turns from Claiborne himself to the world he helped create, a world in which food became an element of social currency and competition. It’s a world McNamee, the author of Alice Waters and Chez Panisse... seems to have participated in himself, though he self-effacingly omits his own experience and memories while making some of his opinions clear. (Claiborne’s shockingly mussel-free version of billi-bi is ‘insanely delicious,’ ‘the early Quilted Giraffe really was awful.’) Set pieces like that of young urban couples discussing The New York Times Cookbook — a classic that has sold three million copies... are as vivid as a visit to the theater. They are proof not only of the central role the book played in the lives of status-conscious urbanites but of how well McNamee writes when he’s really engaged with his subject.” —Corby Kummer, The New York Times Book Review
“Claiborne’s biography, The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat by Thomas McNamee, is a big juicy dish bubbling with scandals and rivalries, thickened with oft-told secrets....Dig in, and it is likely to persuade you that this Clark Kent of a food editor really did exert superpowers on the cultural life of 20th-century America.” —Phyllis Richman, Washington Post
His books include The Grizzly Bear, A Story of Deep Delight, The Return of the Wolf to Yellowstone (named by Amazon.com as one of the ten best nature books ever written), and Alice Waters and Chez Panisse. He lives in San Francisco.