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Travel Book Club: Hungry By Jeff Gordinier Discussion

Eden Book Club: Hungry Discussion

When I first picked up Hungry, I mistakenly thought it was a memoir. There I was, beneath The Hans Christian Andersen Museum, in the clearance section of The Book Loft, a sweeping expanse of packed shelves, looking for a souvenir. When I saw the words “Denmark” and “food”, I knew that this would be the perfect momento to remind me of my trip.

Hungry is not all about author Jeff Gordinier though. It’s a biography more than anything else. The biographer, whose voice startles at the start, later slips into oblivion under the hefty shadow of René Redzepi, the “greatest chef in the world” (as the book effortlessly reminds us over and over lest we forget the title).

Hungry is a book that completely pulled me into the cultish (as Amanda Montell would perhaps put it) world of Noma. And it is with schoolboy fanaticism (and New York Times staff level prose) that Gordinier writes about Redzepi, the man, the myth, and the legend behind Noma. You learn about Redzepi’s humble character, his fiery passion for food, his deeply moving philosophy. At times, Hungry feels like self-help, as therapeutic as food itself.

Noma is a well-known restaurant, an establishment renowned for its unbeatable creativity. This book is a behind-the-scenes look at the genius (or madness, if you will) in charge of Noma.

And yes, this book absolutely made me hungry.

I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping, And Risking It All With The Greatest Chef In The World!

Book Club Discussion Guidelines

Discussion posts (like this one) will have a series of questions as starting points. But honestly, you can talk about whatever you want regarding the books (or questions). You don’t have to answer all (or any) of the questions. I’d still love to hear your thoughts!

You can join in regardless of whether you’ve read, not read, or DNF’d the book! I understand that not everyone has the time to read or finish the book so I try to include a general discussion question as well to make the discussions more inclusive.

Hungry Discussion Questions

  • How did you feel about Redzepi at the start of the book? Did your opinion about Redzepi change over the course of the book?
  • What surprised you the most about Redzepi’s approach to Noma?
  • How do you view the risks Redzepi takes in this book?
  • Why do you think Redzepi was fascinated by mole?
  • This book mentions many different dishes (both from Noma’s repertoire and Gordinier’s tagalong travels). Are there any dishes you would be interested in trying?
  • How do you feel about The Saturday Night Projects? (pg. 72)
  • How did Redzepi’s past and upbringing tie into his decisions about Noma and the direction he wanted to take Noma in?
  • Do you think there was anything that could have been done to prevent some of the issues that arose during the Noma Mexico pop-up? (pg. 166-196)
  • On pg. 124, we see the start of an A-list Chef picnic. If you could summon chefs together “like the Avengers of cuisine” (as Gordinier more eloquently writes), who would you invite?

May 2022 Book Club Pick

sincerely anshula

Let me know your thoughts about Hungry by Jeff Gordinier in the comments below! Of course, these are just starter questions. There are no right or wrong answers. Feel 100% free to discuss anything regarding the book (or otherwise). I’ll be jumping in and responding as well!

7 Comments

  • Vyas Nellutla
    April 29, 2022 at 7:25 AM

    This was a really cool book to read (finally finished the book before the discussion 😄), previously I didn’t think much about how a chef see’s food and what their thought process would be in studying ingredients and making recipes. This opened my eyes to how a chef can be so passionate about their work and industry.

    > How did you feel about Redzepi at the start of the book?

    I thought he was quite crazy to get wild vegetables and greens from a beach and serve it directly to his customers.

    > Did your opinion about Redzepi change over the course of the book?

    A little bit, now I can understand his mindset of how he searches for the freshest ingredients and tries to use the best resources the natural environment around him provides. I found it inspiring that he finds so much meaning and drive to create dishes that best reflect the region and the culture. But I still think serving raw meats and foraged veggies is too risky for me.

    > How do you feel about The Saturday Night Projects? (pg. 72)

    The concept is so cool! The idea of allowing all his employees to try their best at creating new recipes and honing their craft in new ways is such a great idea.

    > What surprised you the most about Redzepi’s approach to Noma?

    That he would tear it down and restart!

    Reply
    • Anshula Varma
      May 2, 2022 at 7:47 AM

      That’s one of the aspects I found intriguing as well! Even though Hungry is a biography, from the lens of Gordinier, it taps into much of Redzepi’s actions and emotions, and through the “show” of Redzepi in certain situations, we are able to glean little bits of how he works and perceives food (and foraging).

      Do you think some of the other chefs mentioned in the book have a similar mindset? How do their approaches differ? Do you think Redzepi has influenced any chef’s process and take on food?

      Reply
  • Roy
    April 29, 2022 at 12:44 PM

    If I could summon chefs together “like the Avengers of cuisine”, I’d invite
    1. Gordon Ramsay
    2. Carme Ruscalleda
    3. Thomas Raquel
    🙂

    Reply
    • Anshula Varma
      May 2, 2022 at 7:54 AM

      Oh my goodness, I’d want to invite Thomas Raquel as well (for all the delicious desserts)! I’ve seen him in a few YT food videos before and he seems very down-to-earth and humble as well.

      I love how he deconstructs a coconut and rebuilds it in this video (so clever): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lwq2WfpY-ss

      Reply
  • Everett
    April 29, 2022 at 10:09 PM

    I was kind of interested in his whole weirdo philosophy, like I’m not about to go out to a field and start chewing on grass but I find it kind of interesting because I can see where he went with his thought process, the hunt for fresh ingredients. Like in the Australia pop-up, I thought the approach was unique. I never thought about it like that, like how a forest could be looked at as a salad bowl.

    Reply
  • Laura
    April 29, 2022 at 10:16 PM

    I didn’t understand the concentration on mole when it was first introduced but the way it is explained in the book helped me understand the significance of the dish more. Hungry makes mole seem like this living, breathing dish that transcends time. It’s completely cultural. It’s layers and layers of history in a bite. Based on the way Redzepi seemed to want to dissect mole, it made sense why he was interested in it.

    I also can’t believe the Saturday Night Projects used to be held more often than just Saturday! It seems very intensive but in a fun, creative, professional development sort of way.

    Reply
    • Anshula Varma
      May 2, 2022 at 8:02 AM

      I’m still not sure how I feel about the Saturday Night Projects (I think I’d be too anxious) but I do agree with you! It’s a great professional development exercise (and I think from a leadership perspective, Saturday Night Projects also offer valuable insight about “strengths and weaknesses”).

      “We used to do this every night, ” Redzepi said. “Every night. And every person.” (pg. 75) Good grief, that is so intense.

      Reply

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