Alexander Lobrano took a job with Women's Wear Daily in 1986 for one reason: It gave him the chance to move to Paris, where he has lived, for the most part, ever since. In the intervening decades, Lobrano has built a celebrated career as a food and travel writer, working for Gourmet magazine, The New York Times, Bon Appétit and many other publications.
These days, Lobrano, who has spent part of each year in Sarasota since buying a condo in the Rosemary District in 2016, is also a memoirist. My Place at the Table: A Recipe for a Delicious Life in Paris, his latest book, was released earlier this year, and it tells the story of how Lobrano, an American born and raised in the Northeast, ended up becoming an authority on French food. He'll discuss the book during a Zoom event hosted by Bookstore1Sarasota at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 19.
Lobrano says he was drawn to writing about food because of the sensual, communal nature of preparing food and eating with others.
"Cooking is meditative, contemplative, loving, gentle," says Lobrano. "It's not the craziness that makes for good TV."
Lobrano also calls food an excellent "prism" through which to see the world—a topic that can touch on history, the environment, nutrition, politics and much more.
While My Place at the Table includes what Lobrano calls his "Little Black Book," a list of his 30 favorite restaurants in Paris, it's more devoted to telling stories than telling you where to eat. He recounts his upbringing, his adventures in the world of publishing, his life as a gay man and his encounters with food world luminaries.
Lobrano visited Sarasota periodically before deciding to buy a second home here. He and his partner, Bruno, picked the Rosemary District so they can walk and bike as much as possible. "I'm very comfortable here," says Lobrano. "I'm very nourished here." He likes Sarasota because, he says, "it's a town that's still in the process of becoming."
Lobrano is a regular at the Sarasota Farmers Market, and raves about the quality of the Gulf seafood sold at Maggie's Seafood (the shrimp, in particular) and the products from Worden Farm, Fermentlicious and other vendors. He also has high praise for Sarasota's Grove Ladder Farm. "That's the best chicken I've ever eaten in the United States," he says.
Lobrano credits Artisan Cheese Company and owner Louise Kennedy Converse for introducing him to the exceptional cheeses being made by small regional American producers. "America is in the midst of this great cheese renaissance," says Lobrano. "Artisan Cheese Company has a very special place in my Sarasota life."
"Let things taste like what they are," he says. "Simplicity is a virtue. It's a virtue in the kitchen, and in writing."
Lobrano's Bookstore1Sarasota Zoom event begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 19. The event is free, but the bookstore does ask participants to pay $7 to help cover the cost of the event. Register online here.