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Restaurant reads to reinvigorate you for the new year

Book by a fireplace
Photo: Shutterstock


For the first time in a long time, I am working at a restaurant that is closing for Christmas! And then we are always closed on Mondays, so I have a long weekend like a regular human. I want to lay in bed all day and read something to motivate me for 2023. What should I read?

– General manager


I hope everyone in the industry will manage to grab some downtime for themselves this holiday season. I know for many readers in restaurants, it means that Jan. 2 can’t arrive quickly enough, while others in settings like college and university dining may have begun winding down already. As you suggest, I love taking this time of year to reflect on the way things have gone and where I will improve. I find that books by industry leaders are a great tool through which to think about your own practice and goals.

I am answering this question by reviewing the books on my own nightstand, which have taken up all the nightstand real estate and expanded to two large piles on the floor. I chose three titles that I’m moving to the top of my holiday must-read list. They’re a mix of management books, memoirs and how-to from leading industry voices.

All are newly published. And all are fun, easy reads that don’t require a dictionary or highlighter. In addition, they represent a foodservice 360: back of house, dining room and bar.

Back of house

Pinky Cole, Eat Plants, B*tch: 91 Vegan Recipes That Will Blow Your Meat-Loving Mind (Gallery, 2022)

One trend that will remain prominent in 2023 and beyond is a shift to plant-based eating, even among omnivores. But vegan food need not be austere or even particularly healthy. Chef-founder of Slutty Vegan ATL, Pinky Cole, nails what I want vegan menu items to be: rich, indulgent, fun and with bold flavors that make it simply great food. It doesn’t need the “really good for vegan” caveat but just “really good.”

Front of house

Will Guidara, Unreasonable Hospitality: The Remarkable Power of Giving People More than They Expect (Penguin Random House, 2022)

It is hard to pin down what differentiates a good restaurant from a truly great one. While they may look similar on paper when you compare menus, furniture and staffing, it is the hospitality that can take make a dining experience transformative for the guest and one of those meals they remember forever. Will Guidara, former co-owner of Eleven Madison Park and the NoMad, provides the answer succinctly: “unreasonable hospitality” by “consistently giving people more than they expect.”

Bar and beverage

Steven Grasse and Aaron Goldfarb, Brand Mysticism: Cultivate Creativity and Intoxicate Your Audience (Running Press, 2022)

Steven Grasse may not be a familiar name to most restaurant guests or even most restaurant workers, but the brands he developed are: Hendrick’s Gin, Sailor Jerry Rum, Narragansett Beer and the new Dunce Whiskey. I recently tasted Dunce and can attest to it being stupid good. Grasse attributes his success to an approach called “brand mysticism,” which combines “keeping an open mind, taking risks and developing authenticity,” an approach that all of us could do well to bring into the new year.

More professional development suggestions here.

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