• Ashley Margaret Waterman

Pancakes in Paris


Pancakes in Paris

By Craig Carlson

320 pp. Sourcebooks. $15.99

Blueberry; chocolate chip; protein; pumpkin; I am obsessed with pancakes. Pancakes are the perfect breakfast food because you can get away with ordering something ridiculously sweet in the morning.

Every day I get emails about books. Shelf Awareness tells me what books are coming out, who's writing what, and any big bookstore/industry news. Occasionally, you can click on a book blurb or banner add and put your name in to receive an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC). A while back, I put my name in the hat to receive Pancakes in Paris by Craig Carlson. A memoir written by the owner of the Breakfast in America (BIA) restaurant chain, I was curious to see how "the last person anyone would expect to open an American diner in Paris" achieved such success.

The book takes us on a food-driven business adventure. Set up like a French menu, we learn about Craig's childhood and how the dream began as our aperitif. The starter shows Carlson's struggle to find funding. During the main course, we are blown away by French labor laws, American politics, and the hardships of transforming a space into a vintage American diner. Dessert is, of course, the sweetest. Carlson falls in love and gets ready to open his second BIA location. Our dessert ends with a bittersweet hospital moment, leading us into the digestif to process the ups and downs of opening a restaurant while learning to love and experience life.

Carlson's memoir is full of near misses. Funding and locations fall through––we're left wondering how he'll ever be able to open a diner in France as an American. But we know one thing just by looking at the cover: he eventually starts a restaurant chain. Knowing this before I began reading the book reminded me that everything was going to be okay despite the fact that Carlson did a wonderful job portraying his darkest moments as a new restaurant owner in France. One particular moment that stands out is when an employee is fired and begins stalking BIA. When Carlson calls the cops, they do nothing. He faces charges for firing an employee who just wasn't working out.

Carlson's memoir is full of crazy restaurant stories that are so absurd they must be real, but you also begin to see BIA become a successful American diner in France and experience the sweet moments with Carlson and the BIA family. Carlson is living his American Dream in France––not something most people can say they're doing. The road to owning a successful restaurant is shaky, and Carlson doesn't give us a story that's picture perfect. Instead, Carlson gives us motivation; he doesn't come out and say, "and you too can open your own diner in France if you just follow in my footsteps!" I like this about Carlson. He's a realist who had a dream and worked hard until his dream came to fruition.

My qualm with the book is that it could have more pancakes. Carlson tells us his favorite pancakes are blueberry white chocolate chip. The first customers to wander into BIA are Americans who proclaim: "They've got pancakes!" The menu offers a 2 x 2 x 2 (two pancakes, two eggs, and two pieces of bacon). Carlson establishes that pancakes are love in subtle ways throughout the memoir, but the recipes in the back of the book don't include any for pancakes.

As a reader who requested the book mainly because it has pancakes in the title, I was disappointed with the lack of my favorite breakfast food. I did, however, find myself rooting for Carlson. Reading his story, despite the minimal pancakes, was still fulfilling.

As I finished reading Pancakes in Paris, I made pancakes to celebrate. Even though these are made with Bisquick, the blueberries and homemade blueberry sauce added to the plain pancake batter.

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