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A Waiter in Paris: Adventures in the Dark Heart of the City

Edward Chisholm

13 Reviews

Rated 0

France, Memoirs, Society & culture: general, Hotel & catering trades, Restaurant, cafe & pub guides

Inspired by Orwell, a brilliant portrait of the underbelly of contemporary Paris through the eyes of a young waiter scraping a living in the city.

SHORT LISTED FOR THE ACKERLEY PRIZE FOR AUTOBIOGRAPHY

***
'This astonishing book describes a cruel, feral existence and is worthy of standing on the shelf next to George Orwell's Down And Out In Paris And London (1933) as another classic about human exploitation.' - Daily Mail

'Chisholm's story is immersive and often thrilling ... He's a fine writer.' - WSJ 'Kitchen Confidential for Generation Z' - Fortune

'An English waiters riveting account of working in Paris' - Daily Mail

'Visceral and unbelievably compelling' - Emerald Fennell

'Vividly written and merciless in its detail' - Edward Stourton

'An excellent book'
- Strong Words magazine

'A Dickensian tale of a young man's trial by fire in a French bistro gives rise to biting commentary on Parisian culture in Chisholm's intoxicating debut' - Publisher's Weekly

'Ah, Paris... gastronomie magnifique and... insane shit going on behind the scenes. A Waiter in Paris charts Edward Chisholm's jaw-dropping experiences while serving tables in the French capital, a demi-monde of sadistic managers, thieves, fighting for tips and drug dealers. Seems like not much has changedsince George Orwell worked the same beat.' - Evening Standard

A waiter's job is to deceive you. They want you to believe in a luxurious calm because on the other side of that door... is hell.

Edward Chisholm's spellbinding memoir of his time as a Parisian waiter takes you below the surface of one of the most iconic cities in the world and right into its glorious underbelly.


The waiter inhabits a world of inhuman hours, snatched sleep and dive bars; scraping by on coffee, bread and cigarettes, often under sadistic managers, with a wage so low you're fighting your colleagues for tips.


It's physically demanding, frequently humiliating and incredibly competitive. And with a cast of thieves, narcissists, ex-Legionnaires, paperless immigrants and drug dealers, it makes for a compelling and eye-opening read.

Shortlisted for the 2023 Ackerley prize.

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Praise for A Waiter in Paris: Adventures in the Dark Heart of the City

  • An English waiter's riveting account of working in Paris restaurants (...) a searing account of what life is really like 'at the bottom of the food chain', Chisholm's prose positively delights in describing the graffiti, sodden cardboard boxes and litter-strewn pavements. (...) This astonishing book describes a cruel, feral existence and is worthy of standing on the shelf next to George Orwell's Down And Out In Paris And London (1933) as another classic about human exploitation. - Daily Mail

  • Ah, Paris... gastronomie magnifique and... insane shit going on

  • behind the scenes. A Waiter in Paris charts Edward Chisholm's

  • jaw-dropping experiences while serving tables in the French

  • capital, a demi-monde of sadistic managers, thieves, fighting

  • for tips and drug dealers. Seems like not much has changed

  • since George Orwell worked the same beat. - Evening Standard

  • Edward Chisholm's book is vividly written and merciless in its detail. Paris and its pleasures always leave one wondering about the seamier side beneath the surface, and here it is. I'd advise readers to enjoy it somewhere warm and comfortable, and on no account to try it before a gastronomic weekend.

  • This tough little book documents the experience of being a foreign worker, lost in the understrata of the often exploitative industry from which we benefit. It seems glib to compare it to Orwell when it's more universal, or Bourdain when it doesn't glorify the mess. Not exactly a jolly read, but important. - Financial Times

  • Chisholm's fortitude in the face of hot-headed, violent chefs and infernal fourteen-hour days without breaks in pursuit of his goal is admirable, and makes for compelling reading. - The Times Literary Supplement

  • An absorbing and moving inside look at a Parisian restaurant. - Library Journal

  • We are always hungry for stories from behind the ever-swinging door that separates the calm of a restaurant from the hot temperatures and hot tempers of the kitchen. Edward Chisholm's brilliant memoir shows us the behind-the-scenes chaos, but also lets us tour nocturnal Paris and the strange characters he meets. This is a fascinating book, full of anecdotes that would sound far-fetched in a work of fiction, but that are all absolutely true. - Woman & Home

  • A Dickensian tale of a young man's trial by fire in a French bistro gives rise to biting commentary on Parisian culture in Chisholm's intoxicating debut. - Publisher's Weekly

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