Book Review: Spiced – A Pastry Chef’s true stories of trial by fire, after-hours exploits, and what really goes on in the kitchen

My friends and family who know me best are well aware of my book sickness. I read constantly and generally have two to three books going at any given time. I collect cookbooks, non-fiction, fiction, antique and collectible books…again, it’s a sickness. In fact, I turned my ex-husbands garage sized studio (he was a glass artist) into my personal library. One wall has floor to ceiling book shelves and my sacred comfy chair is right there in front of my simply beautiful book collection. I added an electric fireplace last week. Can’t wait to use that…need some cool weather here in Florida soon! So, when I found an online book club, The Kitchen Reader, devoted to reading and sharing thoughts on books related to cooking, I decided in about 30 seconds that I was in (even though my sister has declared me “an official nerd” now).

October’s book selection is Spiced: A Pastry Chef’s true stories of trial by fire, after-hours exploits, and what really goes on in the kitchen by Dalia Jurgensen. This work of non-fiction is the true story of Dalia’s transition from corporate office employee to restaurant chef. I instantly related to her desire to work in the food industry, although I have no interest in working the crazy hours of a restaurant chef as Dalia did. There were a few experiences in Dalia’s career that made me really think…

  • The restaurant kitchen is filled with testosterone, the type that encourages inappropriate behaviors in the interest of having some fun. My sister always told me this. Women have to have some pretty thick skin to survive this environment. Dalia seems to survive it quite well but I have to tell you, coming from the corporate world, my first instincts were to find ways to manage the behaviors described in the book. After finishing the book I realized that there may be no management technique quite prepared for what goes on in the restaurant kitchen. The hard working people behind those doors need a release valve…and sometimes a little bad behavior is that release.
  • An encouraging and patient mentor can many times be the key to future success. Dalia’s first experience in the kitchen required that she learn from a very kind, compassionate and very patient pastry chef. Not only did Dalia take full advantage of this opportunity but she recognized that she needed to do the same for those she trained one day. Regardless of the industry we work within, having a strong mentor can make a big difference, and will hopefully encourage us to help others as well.
  • The people in our restaurant kitchens work really hard. I don’t know about you but I can’t imagine working 12-18 hour shifts, sleeping for a few hours, and then waking up and doing it all again six days a week. The behind the scenes work that goes into our dining experience is strenuous, stressful and sweaty work. Those that choose this line of work out of love for it have not selected an easy way of life yet they do it day in and day out. I know I appreciate them!

So, am I glad I joined The Kitchen Reader? You bet! In my first month, I got to read an outstanding and interesting book. I was inspired by the delicious sounding desserts Dalia Jurgensen brought to life in her book. And now I get to look forward to a new book in November!

5 responses

  1. It’s my first month in Kitchen reader too! And I can’t say that I find reading a lot a sickness :-) I love your point about how important a good mentor is – I didn’t address this at all in my review, but it really is one of the takeaways of the book. She was fortunate to have people willing to guide her along the way. I get the sense that as tough as she had it in a professional kitchen, it can be even worse.

  2. The people working in a restaurant kitchen, give us the pleasure of their good food. Showing some appreciation is a wonderful thing to do. I agree with Fran about this. Thanks for your review, and welcome to The Kitchen Reader.

  3. Your library sounds amazing! I am jealous and would love to sit in that comfy chair in front of a fire. :) Your point about having a mentor is an excellent one – thanks. I think that there are “official nerds” for all areas of life, eh? We might be book & cooking nerds, but there are language nerds, technology nerds, and all other sorts. I’m proud to have found my nerd-niche!!

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