Spiced: A Pastry Chef's True Stories of Trials by Fire, After-Hours Exploits, andWhat Really Goes on in the Kitchen
by Dalia Jurgensen
April 16th 2009 by Putnam Adult
Hardcover, 288 pages
0399155619 (isbn13: 9780399155611)
rating: 3 of 5 stars
"Order, fire!" screamed Steven from the window that separated the small, open kitchen from the dining room.
Dalia Jurgensen left an office job and jumped head first into the New York restaurant scene. Fourteen years later, she wrote Spiced, a memoir of her time in the kitchens of some of the most famed restaurants in the city. You'll read about her first mentor, Mika; her struggles with a male-dominated industry; problems with chef uniforms and her decision to pursue pastry rather than savory cooking.
I love Food Network, especially those Vegas competitions where high-strung people have to make wicked amazing cakes. So I thought I would like Spiced. In fact, I liked it better than I expected to, but I wasn't dazzled. The difficulty with memoirs, of course, is how to have an assertive presence without seeming to grandstand or be stuck-up. Jurgensen didn't figure out this lesson. Her insights seem pretentious, her priorities seem unbalanced. One sentence indicates she contacted the union about sexual harassment; only a few pages are given to her time with Martha Stewart. Yet there are several pages about feelings of resentment when she realizes her boss has been sleeping around with the staff, and not with Jurgensen exclusively.
Mostly, however, Jurgensen really does try - and sometimes succeeds - in being an observer, merely recounting events to which she was witness. My sense is she's a gutsy, talented woman who's just not as gifted an author.