Minnesota Historical Society

Fried: Surviving Two Centuries in Restaurants

$ 16.95

From the finest restaurants of Paris to the Kashmiri Dining Room at the Ambassador Motor Inn in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, Steve Lerach offers an entertaining, outrageous, and compassionate look at the people who put the food on your plate.For two hundred years, a rogues’ gallery of chefs, line cooks, and dishwashers have slaved away, largely unseen, to serve the dining public. Their pedigrees reach back to the first restaurants during the reign of France’s Louis XVI and extend to the Delmonico brothers in New York, Escoffier in Paris, and, in Fried: Surviving Two Centuries in Restaurants, a renegade cook in Minneapolis walking like a duck with a whole, raw salmon on his head.

Author and professional chef Steve Lerach first stepped through the swinging kitchen doors when he was in high school, starting as a dishwasher, and he never left. He introduces us to an old pot washer who did time for bootlegging, a stuttering Irish chef who collected funds for the bomb throwers of the IRA, and a gay Vietnam vet who found a measure of acceptance only in restaurants.

Lerach humorously and poignantly interweaves restaurant legend and lore with his own experiences, exposing similarities not only of profession but of the diverse characters who work the back of the house. Though funny and simply fun to read, these tales often end in tragedy, as various actors succumb to their excesses. Lerach serves up glimpses of the hard work, camaraderie, and satisfaction that distinguish careers in what may arguably be called the world’s second-oldest profession.

Fried is a feast for foodies, a fast and funny ride through Twin Cities restaurant kitchens in the heyday of meat and potatoes. Steve Lerach confesses that he ‘wasn’t much of a chef,’ but he’s one hell of a storyteller. This is the kind of history of everyday life that is too seldom recorded and too soon forgotten. Anthony Bourdain has met his match.”
Jeremy Iggers, The Rake


Fried serves up exuberant vignettes that traverse the history of restaurants as well as the author’s personal history within them. As he befriends a cast of oddball characters, Steve Lerach discovers the restaurant as a site of unanticipated kindness and treachery, of human triumph and tragedy.”
Darra Goldstein, editor in chief, Gastronomica

“An entertaining reminiscence on restaurants before chefs were celebrities and ‘foodie’ became a noun. Steve Lerach’s tales of cross-dressing dishwashers, drug-addled cooks, and silverware-swiping servers remind me why every restaurant I worked at went belly-up.”
Rachel Hutton, City Pages

Steve Lerach worked for over thirty years in the food industry, eventually running twelve kitchens at the University of Minnesota. He now teaches aspiring chefs how to cook and effectively manage their kitchens at the Art Institutes International Minnesota.


  • By: Steve Lerach
  • Format: cloth, paperback, 208 pages, 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Publisher: MNHS Press (Feb. 15, 2017 paperback edition)
  • Cloth ISBN: 9780873516327
  • Paperback ISBN: 9781681340531


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