Serious eater A food lover's perilous quest for pizza and redemption

Ed Levine, 1952-

Book - 2019

James Beard Award-winning founder of Serious Eats Ed Levine finally tells the mouthwatering and heartstopping story of building--and almost losing--one of the most acclaimed and beloved food sites in the world. In 2005, Ed Levine was a freelance food writer with an unlikely dream: to control his own fate and create a different kind of food publication. He wanted to unearth the world's best bagels, the best burgers, the best hot dogs--the best of everything edible. To build something for peo...ple like him who took everything edible seriously, from the tasting menu at Per Se and omakase feasts at Nobu down to mass-market candy, fast food burgers, and instant ramen. Against all sane advice, he created a blog for $100 and called it...Serious Eats. The site quickly became a home for obsessives who didn't take themselves too seriously. Intrepid staffers feasted on every dumpling in Chinatown and sampled every item on In-N-Out's secret menu. Talented recipe developers like The Food Lab's J. Kenji López-Alt and Stella Parks, aka BraveTart, attracted cult followings. Even as Serious Eats became better-known--even beloved and respected--every day felt like it could be its last. Ed secured handshake deals from investors and would-be acquirers over lunch only to have them renege after dessert. He put his marriage, career, and relationships with friends and family at risk through his stubborn refusal to let his dream die. He prayed that the ride would never end. But if it did, that he would make it out alive. This is the moving story of making a glorious, weird, and wonderful dream come true. It's the story of one food obsessive who followed a passion to terrifying, thrilling, and mouthwatering places--and all the serious eats along the way.

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 641.5092/Levine Checked In
[New York, New York] : Portfolio/Penguin [2019]
Item Description
Includes recipes.
Physical Description
xix, 264 pages ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references.
Main Author
Ed Levine, 1952- (author)
  • Missionary of the delicious
  • The love I lost
  • Grinnell College : where everything seemed possible
  • Trying to hook all the shit up
  • From jazz guy to ad guy to New York eats
  • One small thing
  • Gusto : the meal ticket that wasn't
  • The siren call of the blogosphere
  • Next stop startup-ville
  • Team Serious Eats
  • Tribe Serious Eats
  • 2007 : the year of living deliciously and dangerously
  • Meltdowns, traitors, and truth
  • The great, slow pivot to recipes
  • Some dreams die hard
  • The dramamine years
  • Only the strong survive
  • The jig is up
  • Waiting to exhale
  • The aftermath
  • A day in the life of this Serious eater (2018).
Review by New York Times Review

Levine, a "knish-loving journalist and accidental M.B.A." (his glazed expression in an introductory finance course prompted the professor to ask him to "seriously reconsider" his chosen field), founded the trailblazing blog Serious Eats in 2006. Early on, one of his partners issued a "prescient" warning: "People like you who start passion-based businesses do so because they want to spend 90 percent of their time doing the stuff they love to do and 10 percent of their time doing other stuff. The sad truth is that... those percentages are in fact reversed." Levine's passion - and the blog's stated objective - was telling people where to eat, what to cook and what was happening in food culture, but he came to loathe spending almost all his time on the "other stuff." Unfortunately, he tells his story in the same painful proportion. Far too much of "Serious Eater" details Levine's endless fretting about making payroll, locking in advertising dollars and - especially - hitting up friends and family for money. Perhaps he meant to inspire by showing that for nine years he persevered through it all, but the effect is exhausting. Only in the sparkling interstices, when he talks about what he ate at those disappointing business lunches ("Shake Shack pro tip: Order a coffee malt and ask for extra malt powder"), do you understand why Ruth Reichl called him "a missionary of the delicious." Levine is clearly a nice guy, and one can't help breathing a sigh of relief when he narrowly averts financial ruin by successfully selling the blog in 2015. He gets to stay on, finally free to focus on the good stuff. DAWN DRZAL is the author of "The Bread and the Knife: A Life in 26 Bites." She has written about food, travel and fiction for The Times, Food & Wine and other publications.

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [July 14, 2019] Review by Booklist Review

This is the very personal story of how Levine, accomplished writer for the New York Times and other publications and foodie extraordinaire, launched and eventually sold his first-of-its-kind food blog/digital business, Serious Eats. To be expected, his narrative is filled with the ups and downs of life: the passing of Levine's mother and father when he was in his teens; life in Los Angeles with his brother; a college-age search for purpose in Iowa; and his alternating music and writing careers. The tone is very conversational, full of lively and believable dialogue and events. Readers will see attempted acquisitions of Serious Eats from the likes of Scripps, Reader's Digest, Condé Nast, and American Express fail. Marital and familial relationships are strained, and money issues figure prominently (of course). Yet through the eventual payday, Levine remains the same too nice man and also provides readers with a bonus of eight somewhat-complicated recipes from his New York favorites, like white clam pizza and magic bagels. A reminder for all that good guys can finish first.--Barbara Jacobs Copyright 2019 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Food writer turned entrepreneur Levine tells of how he launched the James Beard Award-winning website Serious Eats website at age 54 in this passionate personal business history. Levine found his calling while writing a book titled New York Eats on the best non-restaurant food in New York City; it sparked a mission to celebrate "even the cheapest and most common foods, like pizza and hot dogs." When writing opportunities for him started to dwindle around 2006, he began blogging and soon launched Serious Eats in an attempt to educate food lovers and keep "deserving food purveyors' dreams alive." Levine excelled at attracting talented staff and writers (J. Kenji Lopez-Alt and Stella Parks among them) but struggled at first to run the business. He writes of an "insane thrill ride" through office robberies, failed buyouts, and family investments that put his personal relationships at stake. "We were changing the way people cooked and ate," he writes. "We taught people to think critically about received wisdom in food science." Foodies and tech junkies will tear through this fast-paced tale from a food-loving entrepreneur who changed the course of food media. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

In just over a decade, food blogs have gone from a niche for hobbyists to multi-millionaire dollar properties. Levine rode the entire wave; he started the blog that became the Serious Eats website in 2005, which he sold in 2015 after ten years of chasing money to keep the enterprise afloat. In that time, the concept, content, tone, and business model were constantly in flux. Levine had already cobbled together a freelance writing career while working in advertising and promotion. While he had some business training, he was naïve among venture capitalists, traitorous partners, and hard-nosed businessmen. But he had the support of friends and family and found excellent creative partners including J. Kenji Alt-López and Stella Parks, both of whom contributed a handful of recipes to the text. Alt-López also wrote the forward. Other positives include Levine's entertaining writing style, his impressive memory for food experiences, and a suggested playlist to accompany the book. While Levine never forgets to name-check a good meal or restaurant, the focus of this memoir is more entrepreneurial than culinary. VERDICT An exciting read for fans of the site and those interested in the start-up process from one who has been there.--Devon Thomas, Chelsea, MI

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

A food blogger chronicles his rocky road to success.From childhood, Levine (Pizza: A Slice of Heaven, 2005, etc.) reports in an effusive, often self-deprecating memoir, he gravitated "toward the most delicious food I could find." He loved to eat, to discover out-of-the-way restaurants, and to recommend hidden gems to friends. After working unhappily in advertising, he finally was able to turn that passion into a career. In the 1990s, his books New York Eats and New York Eats (More) won praise (restaurant critic Ruth Reichl called him the "missionary of the delicious") and led to a local cable TV show, a short-lived show on public radio, and gigs as a freelancer. But with a wife and son to support, he needed a more secure way of making a living. His first idea was to launch EATv to give him a forum for his many food stories; when he failed to find backing, he came up with the idea of a food blog, Ed Levine Eats, where he could be both editor and star. "I loved everything about blogging," he writes. "I love the soapbox that it gave me, allowing me to proselytize about the food and the purveyors I felt so passionately about." He leaped into the blogosphere with high hopes: "Belief, passion, and willful naivet are the first-time entrepreneur's best friends." However, the reality proved to be grueling. Levine recounts in detail the frustrations he faced as he tried to raise money, solicit advertising, and assemble a team of talented, energetic employees for a site he called Serious Eats. Forced into "constant money-raising mode," he found some support from family and friends but also faced repeated rejections from potential advertisers and, after nearly a decade, when he decided to sell the blog, from would-be buyers. "The day-to-day was exhausting," he writes, "a never-ending financial crisis." Finally, he found a buyer, and Serious Eats, he reports delightedly, is thriving.Recipes for bagels, spiced onion clusters, white clam pizzaand moreadd further flavor to an entertaining memoir. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.