25 April 2009

7. Spiced

Thank you to Putnam’s for the opportunity to read and review this wonderful memoir which mixes restaurant hijinks that we all suspect happen with the hysterically funny rise of Dalia Jurgensen to the title of Pastry Chef. Like everyone else on the planet, I have watched Hell’s Kitchen, 30-Minute Meals, Cooking with Paula, Top Chef…and every other television show which allows me special access to the secrets of cooking. I know how to make things semi-homemade and with a little touch of BAM! But even I knew that most of what I saw was fake and taped in two or three minute segments with someone artfully handing the host or chef or contestant just what they needed for the next segment. After reading Dalia Jurgensen’s Spiced, I think I know what really goes on behind the scenes. And it is even funnier than I had imagined.

As a baby-boomer who for some reason went straight from my part-time babysitting job in high school to housewife and college student to mother, I never had the opportunity to work in a fast-food or other restaurant in any capacity. So the stories shared by Jurgensen were new to me and I found them delightful. Jurgensen took a risk, leaving her office job to go to culinary school. Turns out, like most things, that experience was the best teacher. She generally skips over culinary school because it really didn’t matter and heads straight to the kitchens of some of New York City’s very best restaurants. We are taken with her from preparing desserts for the real pastry chef to becoming the real pastry chef. We come to understand the personalities often matter just as much as the food. Ultimately, Jurgensen had very good teachers along her path to pastry chef and her success is a testament to their patience and willingness to bring her into the profession as well as her own tenacity and creativity.

The author has a delightful website, www.myspicedlife.com, where she shares more stories, recipes, and kitchen tips. I am very happy she does, because I loved the book and was sorry I would end our relationship when it was over! Now, I can stop by and chat with her whenever I need some help with a dessert!

TITLE: Spiced: A Pastry Chef's True Stories of Trials by Fire, After-Hours Exploits, and What Really Goes on in the Kitchen
AUTHOR: Dalia Jurgensen
PAGES: 288
TYPE: memoir
RECOMMEND: I loved it. A great compliment to the sweet and easy cooking shows I see on Food NetWork.