Review: Let Them Eat Pancakes

Craig Carlson set out to do the impossible: open the first American diner in Paris. Despite never having owned his own business before—let alone a restaurant, the riskiest business of all—Craig chose to open his diner in a foreign country, with a foreign language that also happens to be the culinary capital of the world. While facing enormous obstacles, including convincing French banks to give him a loan, finding “exotic” ingredients like bacon, breakfast sausage, and bagels, and dealing with constant strikes, demonstrations, and Kafkaesque French bureaucracy, Craig and his diner, Breakfast in America, went on to be a great success—especially with the French.

By turns hilarious and provocative, Craig takes us hunting for snails with his French mother-in-law and their attempts to smuggle them past U.S. Customs. We encounter a customer at his diner who, as a self-proclaimed anarchist, tries to stiff his bill, saying it’s his right to “dine and dash.” We navigate Draconian labor laws where bad employees can’t be fired and overzealous inspecteurs can pop in at any moment and close down your business and battle antiquated French bureaucracy dating back to Napoleon as Craig tries to purchase an over-priced Paris apartment the size of a shoebox. When Craig finds love, this debonair French man makes clear he won’t be satisfied until Craig learns how to properly use a knife and fork.

For all those who love stories of adventure, romance, and over-coming the odds, Let Them Eat Pancackes will satisfy your appetite and leave you wanting even more.

This was an instance where I judged a book by it’s title… and boy am I glad I picked it up! Let Them Eat Pancakes is the second memoir of Craig Carlson, an American man who set off to open the first American diner in Paris!

Carlson’s memoir was heartfelt, sweet, and very informative, as he gives us an insight to how French government works, especially in that of being a business owner. Who knew it was nearly impossible to fire someone in France? Even if they steal from you?! Of course, there are perks too that make you want to live and work in France, like vacation time and healthcare. Carlson portrays the best of America and France, and how the countries could learn from one another.

His story is quite intriguing. He came from a broken family and grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, but instead of letting that kick him down, he got out of Frenchtown and went off to live his dream. Sure, it took him some time to really find out what that dream was, but that’s how it works for a lot of people. In fact, I think it’s because of his childhood that he was able to make something that seemed impossible (because the idea of an American diner in Paris, the culinary capital of the world, is shooting pretty far) and yet, he made it work. So well that he now has two diners in Paris!

I was totally engaged while reading this memoir. The hard lessons he learned about French laws he took in stride and was able to turn them into humorous anecdotes. Learning small things about France was gravy on reading this (as I am a self-proclaimed Francophile) as well as learning that Craig Carlson is from Connecticut of all states! I had no idea he was a fellow Nutmegger when I picked up the book, so learning that someone from my tiny state did something as amazing as owning two American diners in France… that’s just awesome!

So basically, if you love France, pancakes, diners, or just reading memoirs, I highly recommend Let Them Eat Pancakes! Now I have to back-track and read Carlson’s first memoir, Pancakes in Paris!

Rating: 4/5 stars

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