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Publisher's Summary

"Inspiring." (Danny Meyer, CEO, Union Square Hospitality Group; Founder, Shake Shack; and author, Setting the Table)

James Beard Award-winning food journalist Kevin Alexander traces an exhilarating golden age in American dining

Over the past decade, Kevin Alexander saw American dining turned on its head. Starting in 2006, the food world underwent a transformation as the established gatekeepers of American culinary creativity in New York City and the Bay Area were forced to contend with Portland, Oregon. Its new, no-holds-barred, casual fine-dining style became a template for other cities, and a culinary revolution swept across America. Traditional ramen shops opened in Oklahoma City. Craft cocktail speakeasies appeared in Boise. Poke bowls sprung up in Omaha. Entire neighborhoods, like Williamsburg in Brooklyn, and cities like Austin, were suddenly unrecognizable to long-term residents, their names becoming shorthand for the so-called hipster movement. At the same time, new media companies such as Eater and Serious Eats launched to chronicle and cater to this developing scene, transforming nascent star chefs into proper celebrities. Emerging culinary television hosts like Anthony Bourdain inspired a generation to use food as the lens for different cultures. It seemed, for a moment, like a glorious belle epoque of eating and drinking in America. And then it was over.

To tell this story, Alexander journeys through the travails and triumphs of a number of key chefs, bartenders, and activists, as well as restaurants and neighborhoods whose fortunes were made during this veritable gold rush - including Gabriel Rucker, an originator of the 2006 Portland restaurant scene; Tom Colicchio of Gramercy Tavern and Top Chef fame; as well as hugely influential figures, such as André Prince Jeffries of Prince's Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville; and Carolina barbecue pitmaster Rodney Scott.

He writes with rare energy, telling a distinctly American story, at once timeless and cutting-edge, about unbridled creativity and ravenous ambition. To "burn the ice" means to melt down whatever remains in a kitchen's ice machine at the end of the night. Or, at the bar, to melt the ice if someone has broken a glass in the well. It is both an end and a beginning. It is the firsthand story of a revolution in how Americans eat and drink. 

©2019 Kevin Alexander (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“An anecdotal, episodic, wide-ranging accounting of the strange, slow deceleration of the restaurant mania of the aughts, and the human costs of the decline.” (Helen Rosner) 

“Sharply insightful.... From new urbanism and gentrification to identity politics, venture capital, and the difficulty of ‘eating local’ when the local is subject to abrupt climate change, Alexander gets at how the buzzy restaurant scene of the past twenty years has depended on trends much bigger than its own.” (The Times Literary Supplement

“Mr. Alexander is an admirably thorough researcher. He conducted hundreds of hours of interviews for the book, meeting with some of his subjects dozens of times and revisiting most at least once to chart the arc of their careers. This groundwork allows him to bring us deeply into their worlds, probing their motivations, backgrounds, flaws and virtues, writing with authority not just about public perceptions but also about private moments.... [T]he book provides an entertaining and informative picture of the American restaurant scene over the past dozen years. Just dipping in and out of it pretty much guarantees learning something new.” (Wall Street Journal

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What listeners say about Burn the Ice

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  • Overall
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Kept my attention

As a chef with 30 years of experience, I was very pleased with the authors approach to not rehashing chefs stories that have been over celebrated in recent years. He avoiding the "usual suspects" and shed some light on some of the lesser unknowns who had an interesting story to tell and had an impact on the industry in their regional location.
I learned a lot from these stories about individuals that I really hadnt heard much about, which I was hoping to acheive by listening to the book.

Good story, well written, kept me engaged, would like to hear more stories from this author within the food and beverage industry as I think he has a good perspective.

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Accurately Explained

A truly great listen if you are in the hospitality industry. Accurately explains how the last 20 years have been in the restaurant industry with emphasis on the more "eye opening" dramas and dilemmas.

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Top book of 2019.

My favorite read of 2019. Interesting from beginning to end. Couldn’t put down and may have to read again.

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  • JJ
  • 08-13-19

Excellent

Very well written and researched. Would highly recommend for foodies and non alike! Great story.