Spoiler Alert: A Look Inside Frank Bruni’s Born Round


Frank Brunis Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater doesnt come out till September, but weve managed to score the uncorrected advance proofs. First things first: This isnt a tell-all about Brunis tenure as Times critic. Sure, he recalls having to don a wig to avoid Chodorows wrath, but he doesnt go so far as to reveal the depth of his expense account (though he does admit to blowing $2,000 of his own cash raiding minibars when, as a campaign reporter, he put away up to seven meals a day). More than anything, this is the confession of a lifelong compulsive eater, and it turns out to be quite a candid and touching one. You should read it for yourself (especially for the moving passages about Brunis family), but in the meantime, heres an idiosyncratic index we drew up for reference.

(All page numbers refer to the uncorrected pages, which are subject to change.)

Amphetamines dabbles in little eggs senior year of high school 72
- goes from a 35 to a 33 waist thanks to Mexican speed 123
- guidelines for ingesting 123-124
Bacon moms love of wrapping things in 62-63
- mom wrapping cheese-filled hot dog in bacon 92
Batali, Mario had a jolly way of rolling with the punches, even when I could tell he was ticked 308
Bulimia as a toddler, has a tendency to throw up if refused a third hamburger 9
- becomes a genuine bulimic in college, also dabbling in laxatives it paid to know where the good bathrooms on campus were 8589
- quits after getting called out by college friends (did it taste as good coming up as it did going down?) 98100
Casella, Cesare after an article teasing the chef for wearing a rosemary sprig in his pocket, sends a rosemary bush to Brunis office 308
Cheesesteaks at his low point, eats two or even three at a time late at night 205
Chicken bones during his time in Detroit, has a horrifying habit of throwing them on the car floor during chicken runs 144
Chodorow, Jeffrey the $40,000 letter 310311
- threatens to eject Bruni from his restaurants and offers a free vacation to the employee who ousts him 312
- takes out a smaller really glad you loved the salmon ad after Bruni gives Wild Salmon a star 319
Cuba Brunis displeasure at being called gordo by half a dozen waiters while vacationing there 204
Dating life announces hes gay during junior year of high school 66
- starts dating at University of North Carolina 96
- breaks up with a guy after throwing away a box of Valentines chocolates that hes scared hell eat 140
- puts dates off while trying to reach ideal weight 147154, 207
- as a Detroit reporter, is ashamed that a boyfriend let him get to a size 38 waist 176
- becomes a practiced, accomplished celibate as his weight rises, having just five physically intimate moments across more than four years 208
Delicatessen regresses to binge eating after draining a third glass of white wine here. He downs the macaroni and cheese sampler, waffles, chicken, and meatloaf, then hits a bodega for a bunch of ice cream 343
Diets mom encourages him to pee on a strip while hes on Atkins 28
- in high school, breaks a three-day fast by caving to a burger 7072
- eats only bread and Greek salad during a trip through Europe 127129
- cooks Costco salmon fillets and skinless chicken-breast halves on a George Foreman grill 233
- see also Ex-Lax
Disguises once at V Steakhouse after seemingly being recognized: three-day stubble, slicked-back hair, and granny glasses. My companions kept giggling at me 314
- another time at Per Se: slicked-back hair, weeks beard, purple-rimmed eyeglasses. Waiter seems to recognize him despite the fact that he looks like an over-the-hill porn star 315
- At Wild Salmon: a custom wig, a green tie, and granny glasses. Picture the spawn of Farrah Fawcett and Andy Warhol 315
- worried about fake mustache coming off during second visit to Wild Salmon 318
Dominos Pizza trying to get down from 268 pounds, he treats himself to a weekly binge: A large sausage pizza and Buffalo wings, and then a pint of ice cream and an ice-cream bar and Nutter Butter cookies 229
Ducasse, Alain overhears an oblivious Bruni talking about him while at the next table, butts in to invite Bruni to his new restaurant 276277
Exercise routine
- getting up at 4:45 a.m. at the age of 12, in hopes of becoming an Olympic swimmer 4552
- traveling from NYC to D.C. in order to train with Maureen [Dowds?] trainer every Wednesday, at the cost of $440 per week 286287
- 90 minutes in the gym before special 30-course meal at El Bulli 328
- 80-minute sessions at the Reebok Club or on trails in Central Park, two out of every three days 328
- Pilates sessions in order to harden the pudding of pink flesh that was my stomach 329
Ex-Lax as a college student, almost has an accident and vows never to take more than three times the recommended dose 95
- switches to Metamucil and takes it along with Branola bread slathered in Shedds Spread El Bulli 125
Flay, Bobby the classiest, reacting to a review in which I demoted Mesa Grill to one star from two by leaving me a voice mail that thanked me for at least taking the time to visit the restaurant 308
Fruitatarianism a brief effort to be pear-focused rather than pear-shaped El Bulli 221
Gay bars Avoids them in D.C. because he didnt want to be rejected 297
- the first-time thrill of picking up a guy at Therapy 298
- going to them as much as once a week 299 (I liked knowing that the men who approached me or invited my approach did so without any knowledge of my job, which was considered unusually interesting by many people. These men were attracted by the way I looked.
Getting made at French Laundry, GM recognizes him from seeing him at Per Se and hes offered Kellers special tasting menu 280283
- politely accepts a tour of Per Ses kitchen, causing gossip that he stormed in 291
- leaves behind his issue of The New Yorker at a Japanese restaurant 297
Guacamole I suppose there are people who can pass up free guacamole, but theyre either allergic to avocado or too joyless to live. 217
Hamburgers prefers rare burgers not out of taste but out of haste, because they come fastest off the grill 66
Influencing, attempts at
- two-faced publicists hype a restaurant and then agree with Brunis criticisms after he reviews them 306
- chefs mom (and then the chef) e-mails Bruni to let him know about family health problems 307
- restaurateur guilt-trips him by showing photos of kids (my four stars), griping about his publicist, and saying hes hoping for a good review 307
Man-girdle (a.k.a. a cummerbund) shamefully wears one at a New Years Eve event that ends in him being called fat by his brother. Tears follow.
McNally, Keith publicly attributed my one-star rating of Morandi, an Italian restaurant he opened in Greenwich Village, to its employment of a female chef and to my clear sexism 309
Mistaken identity
- Manager at Bar Tonno thinks he has seen Bruni twice when he never dined there 300
- John McDonald e-mails Bruni to tell him he left his notebook behind, calling it a Pandoras Box that I prefer not to possess. It isnt Brunis. 302
- Someone tells Eater that Bruni rides a scooter and wears a fanny pack. Not the case 303
Parker, Sarah Jessica requests no parsley while dining with Bruni and Matthew Broderick at Artisanal 321
Portion control
- employs a taste and trash philosophy while sampling fast food at 35 restaurants in fifteen states over the course of a 3,650-mile drive 325326
- On reviews, confines himself to two bites from the edge of a pork chop (where its fatty) and three bites from the center (to determine whether meat is undercooked) 327
- Pat Reynolds, J.T. Martinson, Robin Parker 292
- Makes reservations using the names of authors of nearby books (Didion, Turow, etc.) or movie stars (Mr. Pitt, and mistakenly in one instance, Ben Stiller) 294
- Clumsily uses the surname Gentile when dining at Kosher restaurant Solo 295
- Blanks on reservation name at the Red Cat, and inadvertently uses the name of another (female) customer who is on the books 296
Reviewing method
- decides on a restaurant around its two-month mark; separates each visit by at least a week; dines with three others who each order different things 289
- at three-to-seven-minute intervals, has everyone pass their food Lazy Susanstyle in what sometimes becomes a table-top game of Twister 290
- text messages himself notes or speaks them into his voice mail while in the bathroom 290
- uses pseudonymous cards specially made by American Express; sometimes has a companion present them 291292
- leaves fake callback numbers when making a reservation 293
Ripert, Eric instructs staff to get old TV footage of Bruni so it can be studied 301
Roberts Steakhouse at the Penthouse Club expenses a fellow diners shoulder massage since its integral, after all, to an appraisal of this particular dining experience 324
Sleep-eating in his mid-twenties, starves himself to the point of making tuna melts while half-asleep 146
Special treatment
- female waiters switched out for attractive males: The restaurant had done its homework. It wasnt going to leave any trick untried 303
- servers gawk at Bruni 303
- managers from other restaurants are called in to gawk at Bruni 302
- manager at LAtelier de Jol Robuchon offers to launder Brunis shirt on-site when he spills tomato sauce on it 304
- gets two glasses of wine comped at Nobu 57 and an offer of dry cleaning after a run-in with the soap dispenser (Brunis fault), then receives an extra apology from the manager who proudly reports that the soap is Kiehls 304305
Vegetarianism experiments with it in college but finds that eating six slices of cheese pizza isnt much better than six slices of pepperoni 90
Waist size 33 34 as a teenager 65
- 35 down to 33 after college dalliances with Mexican speed 123
- 36 while a junior reporter for the Times 198
- 40 while on the campaign trail with George W. Bush 210
- 42 shortly after 227
- 38 during tour for Bush book 234
- 36 two months after Maureen [Dowd?] starts him off with her personal trainer by writing him a check for two free sessions
- 35.5 while reporting in Rome 263
- 33 by the end of the book 328
Weight 180 pounds as a teenager
- gets from 268 pounds down to 203. It was a weight I could live with and sometimes even forget about, which was the main thing, the best thing. 263