Memoir of the Sunday Brunch
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Memoir of the Sunday Brunch

4.2 7
by Julia Pandl

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For Julia Pandl, the rite of passage into young-adulthood included mandatory service at her family’s restaurant, where she watched as her father—who was also the chef—ruled with the strictness of a drill sergeant.

At age twelve, Julie was initiated into the rite of the Sunday brunch, a weekly madhouse at her father’s

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For Julia Pandl, the rite of passage into young-adulthood included mandatory service at her family’s restaurant, where she watched as her father—who was also the chef—ruled with the strictness of a drill sergeant.

At age twelve, Julie was initiated into the rite of the Sunday brunch, a weekly madhouse at her father’s Milwaukee-based restaurant, where she and her eight older siblings before her did service in a situation of controlled chaos, learning the ropes of the family business and, more important, learning life lessons that would shape them for all the years to come. In her wry memoir, she looks back on those formative years, a time not just of growing up but, ultimately, of becoming a source of strength and support as the world her father knew began to change into a tougher, less welcoming place.

Part coming-of-age story à la The Tender Bar, part win- dow into the mysteries of the restaurant business à la Kitchen Confidential, Julie Pandl provides tender wisdom about the bonds between fathers and daughters and about the simple pleasures that lie in the daily ritual of breaking bread. This honest and exuberant memoir marks the debut of a writer who discovers that humor exists in even the smallest details of our lives and that the biggest moments we ever experience can happen behind the pancake station at the Sunday brunch.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A witty and affectionate debut from Pandl, an occasional standup comic who first self-published this book in 2011, is rife with colorful recollections of familial adventures at home and at her parents’ Milwaukee restaurant, Pandl’s. The youngest of nine, the author, now 41, began her restaurant career at 12, and she quickly learned the joys and horrors of working the Sunday brunch (hilarious depictions of panicked pancake-making and hungover fish-deboning are particularly memorable). Her parents, whom she calls Terry and George, are kooky for sure, but when George is in boss mode, he transforms into a twitching, tongs-wielding, dining-room tyrant. But it’s all part of the lovable, unforgettable package that is George—which makes Pandl’s story all the more poignant as she writes of Terry’s illness and death, and later, George’s own illness and dependence on his children. Pandl shifts perspectives from daughter and sibling to caregiver and companion; she writes, “Our parents are planted everywhere in us.” There’s much to relate in this worthwhile read, from funny family and workplace tales to thoughtful musings on faith, mortality, and loyalty. (Nov.)
Library Journal
In 1968, 40 miles north of Milwaukee, George Pandl opened a restaurant that became known for its ambience, service, and generous menu of local seafood and meat dishes. His daughter Julia writes here in a crisp, irreverent style about growing up as the last of nine children and, at 12, being initiated into working the grueling Sunday brunches with her father's "chain gang." Now, at age 42, she reflects on how her laidback dad morphed into a crazed taskmaster at work, snapping tongs and scowling at employees. She expresses her deep pain, anger, and confusion regarding lessons learned during her teenage years when her parents became distant and her home and the restaurant became unwelcoming places from which to escape. However, as illness required both parents to depend on their children, each family member's perspective changed, feelings deepened, and home again resembled a place of caregiving and companionship. VERDICT In this unmemorable memoir, Pandl shares a few sarcastic comments about food preparation and reflects on her eventual rekindling of fondness and care for her parents and siblings.—Jerry P. Miller, Cambridge, MA
Kirkus Reviews
Pandl's memoir recounts her Midwestern childhood and the behind-the-scenes action of her family's restaurant. The youngest of nine, the author and her siblings grew up working in their Catholic family's Milwaukee restaurant under the supervision of their father, the chef. Pandl's tenderhearted, humorous debut explores her childhood memories, at home and in the kitchen, and her relationships with both of her parents, particularly that with her eccentric, ferociously hardworking father, George. After he caught the 12-year-old Pandl on the couch in her pajamas one summer afternoon, he put her to work. Her first job involved "doing pancakes" during the restaurant's brunch service, and she rose to the task with hilarious results. The majority of her stories reflect the loving, chaotic atmosphere of her family, both in and out of the restaurant kitchen, but Pandl doesn't sugarcoat the darker ones with unnecessary sentimentality. Instead, she relies on humor to keep her vignettes engaging. "The few baby pictures that exist were all taken on the same day," she writes, "as if someone said, 'Let's get a few pictures, just in case she's kidnapped.' " In her 20s, Pandl watched her father "retire and unretire" more than a dozen times, continuing the work he had done his entire career even as his efforts grew less and less appreciated. She describes her parents' deaths with astonishing, plain honesty, and discusses the myriad ways, good and bad, in which they live on in herself and her siblings. Sweet, simple and often funny.

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Product Details

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.62(w) x 8.02(h) x 0.75(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Pandl’s Restaurant in Milwaukee is a Midwest tradition: What makes Julia Pandl’s memoir shine is not only its charm and humor but also its insider’s look at how high standards and love equals extraordinary food. In Memoir of the Sunday Brunch, she cooks up a delicious story that deserves a wide audience. We thank her for the memories.” —Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean

“I don’t use the word ‘charming’ often, but that is the word that kept coming to mind as I read Julia Pandl’s memoir. Funny, sad, sweet, inspiring, every page wrapped in genuine emotion and sharp-eyed wisdom, Memoir of the Sunday Brunch is the work of a writer we’ll want to watch.”
—Keith Dixon, author of Cooking for Gracie and The Art of Losing

Meet the Author

Julia Pandl was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she still lives and works. Memoir of the Sunday Brunch is her first book. When she is not writing and otherwise working, she moonlights as a stand-up comic. Author website:

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