Praise

"Randy Fertel has been twice blessed: first by having a family quirky enough to reflect the true madness of New Orleans; second, by possessing in abundance the gift of storytelling with which he put it all down on paper. I loved The Gorilla Man. It's as entertaining as it is informative."
 – John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize

"When a gorilla lover and the siren of sizzle aren't your most outrageous forebears, you know that, as rogues galleries go, you've entered the Louvre. Randy Fertel's beautifully written memoir (cum social history) doesn't just clinch New Orleans' claim on raffish eccentricity, it retires the title."
 – Jed Horne, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Breach of Faith and Desire Street.

"Sizzle, steak, and the real back story. They're all there in "The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak," a delicious recounting of his life by New Orleans native Randy Fertel that is as savory and satisfying as one of his mother's steaks."
 – Jessica Harris, High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America

"Randy Fertel authors this wild family history without making anything up. Why would you need to when you have parents this extra-ordinary, and a tale played out against a New Orleans full of scalawags and hustlers? This is no teary-eyed memoir of the good old days; it's a fine look back at an era by a very fine writer."
 – John Mariani, "The Holiday Food Books You'll Actually Want to Read," Esquire

“New Orleans forms the richly atmospheric backdrop for a determined, eccentric family who found success in the steakhouse business…[a] zesty chronicle.”
Kirkus Reviews 

“Lots of New Orleans history in this family story, which is wilder than the gorillas and almost as juicy as the steaks.”
 – Roy Blount Jr., author of Feet on the Street: Rambles Around New Orleans

“Randy Fertel’s soulful Southern storytelling captures you instantly. I love how he uses the lens of family and food to tell the rich, complex history of New Orleans.”
 – Alice Waters, Founder, Chez Panisse Restaurant

“Ambition, abandonment, revenge, the Napoleonic code, broken promises, gorillas, bad contracts, evil intentions, and lawsuits never-ending; they’re all here in Randy Fertel’s feast of a memoir, served with a healthy side of New Orleans history, and, for dessert, ville flottante! Balzac would be envious, Tennessee Williams would feel right at home.”
Valerie Martin, Orange Prize-winning author of Property and Mary Reilly

“A vivid, engrossing evocation of New Orleans, an exceptional city, in part because of characters like his parents, Ruth and Rodney, the Empress of Steak and the Gorilla Man. A wonderful reading experience.”
Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief and Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend

“This memoir was a complete pleasure, beginning to end, full of love and zaniness and tenderness and absolutely fascinating detail. Randy Fertel was blessed with an incredible wealth of anecdote, and his prose brings it all vividly to life. What a fine piece of writing this is.”
Tim O’Brien, National Book Award-winning author of The Things They Carried

“Funny, smart, poignant, and richly redolent of New Orleans, Randy Fertel’s The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak is a brilliant memoir by a very talented writer indeed.”
Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from A Strange Mountain: Stories
 
“A giant jambalaya of a book that throws into the pot a huge variety of ingredients that surprise,
delight, burn the tongue, sear the heart, make you laugh until you cry—and beg for more. Randy Fertel’s triumph, as a writer obsessed with history, is to have turned the story of his own disastrous family into the story of the city itself, and of its survival.”
Betty Fussell, James Beard Foundation Award-winner and author of Raising Steaks: The Life and Times of American Beef

The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak is a one-of-a-kind real-life tale, as layered, rich, and full of surprises as a street map of New Orleans. Randy Fertel had the good fortune to be born to a pair of American originals, and his parents had the great fortune to live out their fascinating lives in front of a son who’s a natural-born storyteller. This is one of my favorite books of the year.”
Mark Childress, New York Times bestselling author of Georgia Bottoms and Crazy in Alabama

“With unsparing honesty and love, Randy Fertel unravels the mystery of his eccentric, legendary parents. The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak is by turns wry and sad, hilarious and heartbreaking, but always, always delectable.”
Stewart O’Nan, award-winning author of Emily, Alone

“This wonderfully affecting family memoir is a well-told tale of personalized social history, a sentient evocation of the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and feel of New Orleans and its sprawling interface with the mighty river and gulf that are its hope and despair, its inescapable fate. Drawing from 200 years of his family’s thrive-and-survive presence on the lip of a watery grave, Randy Fertel gives us a palpable sense of its essence—as close as you can get without living there yourself.”
John Egerton, author of Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History

“His mother was the ‘first lady of American restaurants.’ His father was ‘odd, self-centered and nuts.’ Randy Fertel leverages a raucous New Orleans upbringing, in which Salvador Dali and Edwin Edwards play bit parts, to tell the story of an uncommon American family, defined, in equal measure, by bold swagger and humbling vulnerabilities.”
John T. Edge, series editor of Cornbread Nation: The Best of Southern Food Writing

The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak is that rare memoir that manages to be both intimately personal and yet of broad appeal. For it is truly the portrait of a generation, even as it brings vividly to life a panoply of individual characters in New Orleans. They may be black or white or Creole; they may be male or female. But all fill the reader with joy and wonder, and a fair share of tears as well. Beautifully written, affectionate, witty, this book tugs us from one cover to the other.” 
David H. Lynn, Editor, The Kenyon Review

“Who better to deliver the strange soul of New Orleans, a city we can’t live without, than Randy Fertel?
Ruth and Rodney’s child, who suffered and gloried terribly at their hands, is New Orleans’s latest beautiful family memoirist.”
Paul Hendrickson, National Book Award finalist and author of Looking for the Light: The Hidden Life and Art of Marion Post Wolcott

“Fortune gave Randy Fertel this zany cast of characters: the shoplifting grandmother, the litigious, multi millionaire mother with a taste for the  ponies, the father whose family made its money in pawn shops. But  from this rich raw material he has added his own wit, meticulous research and gift for telling a tale. Read this book for the joy of it. But be forewarned. If you’re not careful, you’ll laugh your way into a knowledge of running a steak house, collecting debts from the mafia, and taking the family out of a ‘family business.’”
– Lolis Eric Elie, Story Editor, HBO’s Treme, co-producer, PBS’s Faubourg Treme

“I loved Randy's book! A real page turner. And to my delight, Louis Armstrong appears throughout the book.”
– Michael Cogswell, Director of the Louis Armstrong House Museum

Now in its 3rd Printing

from the University Press of Mississippi

Eat Like Ruth

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Read the blog

An interview with LOLIS ERIC ELIE, New Orleans' ombudsman, documentarian,
and storyteller

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