Excerpt from Hungry by Jeff Gordinier, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Eating, Road-Tripping, and Risking It All with the Greatest Chef in the World

by Jeff Gordinier

Hungry by Jeff Gordinier X
Hungry by Jeff Gordinier
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2019, 240 pages

    Jul 2020, 240 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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Print Excerpt

No, it turned out that Redzepi wanted to talk about tacos. This brightened my day. As a kid in Los Angeles, I had grown up on tacos. In fact, something about Redzepi struck me as temperamentally Californian. I was taken aback by this. He disarmed me with an easy laugh and a sort of barefoot-on-the-beach demeanor that seemed antithetical to his status as an avatar of stark Scandinavian mission statements as well as his reputation as a restless, hot-tempered taskmaster in the kitchen. As I would come to learn, Redzepi's identity as a Dane didn't conform to some Viking stereotype. Growing up in Copenhagen, he had been a migrant kid. His mother, Hanne, was a Dane who had worked cleaning houses and hospitals, but his father, Ali-Rami Redzepi, was a Muslim and ethnic Albanian from Macedonia who had sought citizenship in Denmark to get a foothold as a cabdriver and fishmonger. When Redzepi was a boy, his father had shepherded him and his twin brother to sleep by reading passages from the Koran by their bedsides. The family had endured the constant grind of bigotry from anti-immigrant Danes. Sometimes Redzepi and his brother had gone to bed hungry. The seed of the New Nordic movement could be found in his desire to subvert the Danish establishment, not to enshrine it. By now he came across as the food world's consummate insider, but, as so often happens, what had gotten him there was an outsider's hunger to rise up and take charge.

Anyway, Redzepi had an idea. It seemed innocuous. It seemed impossible, too, or at least unlikely to lead to anything real. The years to come would teach me that Redzepi was always dreaming up ideas. These ideas usually came across as impossible, and their very impossibility fueled him.

"We should go to Mexico," he said.

"Sure, sure ..."

I humored the guy for a while in that coffee shop on Greenwich Street, but I never believed that Redzepi and I were destined to head south of the border, no matter how contagious his enthusiasm. I listened and let my thoughts drift.

Mexico. Right. "Yeah, man, that would be cool." I murmured something like that—something noncommittal. I detected a rising intensity in his voice, a feverish élan that called to mind Peter O'Toole before he set out to make his sprightly slog across the desert in Lawrence of Arabia. Was I being summoned? Was I being inducted into a cult? Did Redzepi, his brown eyes unblinking and trained upon me, sense that my depression made me vulnerable? How was I going to break it to this Danish chef that slashed-to-the-bone media budgets meant that I might never find an editor willing to pay for this trip? Why even try?

I figured I'd just go back to the office and let this electric Kool-Aid taco quest of a whim gather dust in the cobwebbed cellar of my Gmail account. Little did I realize that Redzepi viewed the word "no" as a minor impediment—no more of an obstacle than the buzzing of a mosquito, barely worth a swat. His brain appeared to be missing synapses that would help ferry "no" to the proper cognitive checkpoints. Maybe he had an enzyme that blocked it. Later, after we met, he emailed me. He texted me. He reassured me. He kind of badgered me.

This was going to happen, he said. I just needed to get an editor on board. I needed to find a way.

Excerpted from Hungry by Jeff Gordinier. Copyright © 2019 by Jeff Gordinier. Excerpted by permission of Tim Duggan Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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