Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Nonfiction Files

The Nonfiction Files is a weekly journal of my adventures reading my toppling piles of nonfiction books. I won't be posting reviews, but rather my thoughts about what I'm reading, while I'm reading it.

I'm joined in The Nonfiction Files by Jehara. If you would like to play along with us, let me know!

My current read is Spiced: A Pastry Chef's True Stories of Trials by Fire, After-Hours Exploits, and What Really Goes On in the Kitchen by Dalia Jurgensen. You can read my previous posts about this book here and here.

Synopsis from publisher:

Spiced is Dalia Jurgensen's memoir of leaving her office job and pursuing her dream of becoming a chef. Eventually landing the job of pastry chef for a three-star New York restaurant, she recounts with endearing candor the dry cakes and burned pots of her early internships, and the sweat, sheer determination, and finely tuned taste buds-as well as resilient ego and sense of humor-that won her spots in world-class restaurant kitchens. With wit and an appreciation for raunchy insults, she reveals the secrets to holding your own in male-dominated kitchens, surviving after-hours staff parties, and turning out perfect plates when you know you're cooking for a poorly disguised restaurant critic. She even confesses to a clandestine romance with her chef and boss-not to mention what it's like to work in Martha Stewart's TV kitchen-and the ugly truth behind the much-mythologized family meal.

My final thoughts:

Jurgensen concludes her story of life and work as a pastry chef with her job in a 3-star restaurant. In many ways this is her best job, as she has complete control over her dessert menu, better working conditions, and a much better schedule. However, she experiences the full brunt of workplace tension, as the staff around her subject each other to harassment, sexual innuendo, and full-on aggression. By the end of her book, she is looking to the future, wondering if she will be able to continue working in her current position in the restaurant world.

This was probably my least favorite part of the book, although the tone and style remain as entertaining as before. Jurgensen chooses to share, in great detail, the seedier parts of restaurant life, and I just didn't care that much about those details.

She was working in New York during 9/11, and her restaurant's response to the tragedy was remarkable. Basically shutting down regular service, they spent several days preparing and serving food to search-and-rescue workers, medical personnel, and survivors, walking the food to ground zero themselves. Eventually they became a sort of control center for the many restaurants, distributors, and other food services who came together to help in the rescue efforts. Of all the stories of 9/11, I hadn't heard this one before, and it was a pleasure to read.

In general, Spiced was a lot of fun. It reminded me in many ways of Top Chef, one of my favorite TV shows, and was a great read for this busy time of year. My biggest complaint is that Jurgensen didn't share recipes for any of the countless yummy-sounding desserts she talks about making - however, if you look on her blog (My Spiced Life), you can find a few, including a brownie recipe you can bet I'm going to try. Ultimately, Jurgensen isn't probably going to change your life, but I bet she'll give you a few hours of entertainment, and probably make you a little bit hungry, too!

Finished: 12/23/09
Source: the publisher - thank you!
Rating: 7/10

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