Spiced: A Pastry Chef's True Stories of Trials by Fire, After-Hours Exploits and What Really Goes On in the Kitchen

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Overview

In the tradition of Kitchen Confidential, a revealing and entertaining insider's tour through top restaurant kitchens, told from the unique perspective of a critically acclaimed pastry chef.

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, ...

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Overview

In the tradition of Kitchen Confidential, a revealing and entertaining insider's tour through top restaurant kitchens, told from the unique perspective of a critically acclaimed pastry chef.

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."

Following Dalia's personal trajectory from nervous newbie to unflappable professional, Spiced is a clever, surprisingly frank, and affectionate glimpse at the sweet and sour of following your passion.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Apprenticeships generally look best in deep retrospect. When Dalia Jurgenson left her office job to pursue her cooking dreams, she didn't expect to become the head pastry chef of a three-star New York restaurant, but she also didn't anticipate all the kitchen disasters and staff wars that she would experience along the way. Spiced possesses all the insider's panache of an Anthony Bourdain tell-all and a sly feminism all its own. Jurgenson writes well, and her jauntiness redeems even her most depressing stories of behind-the-swinging-doors sexism. One of the best recent foodie memoirs.
Publishers Weekly

"Your lack of experience doesn't bother me," Jurgensen's first boss in a restaurant kitchen told her. "It just means... you haven't learned any bad habits yet." From that auspicious beginning, Jurgensen, pastry chef at Dressler in Brooklyn, makes a few mistakes along the way (one time, she managed to burn a hole in the bottom of a pot while trying to melt chocolate), although she steadily improves, landing jobs at several impressive Manhattan restaurants (with an interlude as a chef for Martha Stewart's TV show). In this amiable narrative, she describes various pitfalls: a hookup with one of her bosses eventually settles into a dating relationship; when they break up, it's right back to work for Jurgensen ever the professional. The edgy "backstage" atmosphere will be instantly familiar to fans of chef memoirs, but Jurgensen's promise of a feminine perspective to the sexist environment is barely fulfilled by the indifferent telling of a few raunchy anecdotes and her insistence that she got over it because she had no other choice. Individually, the stories are never anything less than entertaining, but when they're put together it feels like there's one more ingredient missing-an elusive something that would make a good dish great. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Joining the growing collection of restaurant-insider memoirs, Jurgensen's (executive pastry chef at Dressler in Brooklyn) book takes readers on a culinary adventure through her rise as a pastry chef at New York's best restaurants while attending culinary school. The highlights include her experiences at Martha Stewart Living Television, when she accidentally melted her glasses while making macaroons. A quick read, this book will appeal to those interested in chef stories and what happens behind the scenes in the kitchen. Recommended for libraries building a culinary collection, but not an essential purchase.
—Nicole Mitchell

Kirkus Reviews
Everything you always wanted to know about working in a high-powered restaurant kitchen-unfortunately, you may already know most of it. Now the well-respected executive pastry chef at acclaimed Brooklyn restaurant Dressler, Jurgensen previously cooked at such top-shelf New York eateries as Nobu and La Cote Basque. She has experienced nearly everything in and out of a high-end kitchen: on-the-job romance, getting freaked out by a visit from New York Times review goddess Ruth Reichl and, of course, being privy to some brilliant food. Despite the up-and-down wackiness of the restaurant world, Jurgensen loves her lot in life, and her debut memoir reflects great affection for the professional kitchen. But how much more attention do professional kitchens need? Ever since Anthony Bourdain made a splash with Kitchen Confidential in 2000, food-industry types have been trying to bottle that lightning again, with mixed results. Steve Dublanica's Waiter Rant (2008) and Phoebe Damrosch's Service Included (2007) were creative successes, but among them and the dozens of other restaurant confessionals that have emerged in the past decade, there isn't much further we can go behind the scenes. On the plus side, Jurgensen does a nice job with the female perspective in the testosterone-centric kitchen culture. She gently dishes on former part-time employer Martha Stewart, and her experience as a pastry chef puts a slightly different slant on the proceedings. Ultimately, though, her pleasantly told tale likely won't resonate beyond Food Network junkies. Likable, but doesn't offer enough new insights to stand out in the crowded field of behind-the-scenes foodie memoirs. Agent: Kirsten Neuhaus/ViglianoAssociates
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780594039327
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 4/16/2009
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Dalia Jurgensen is executive pastry chef for the highly regarded, Michelin-rated Williamsburg, Brooklyn, restaurant Dressler. Formerly pastry chef for three-star Manhattan restaurant Veritas, she has worked in the kitchens of acclaimed restaurants such as Nobu, Layla, and La Côte Basque. Her pastry and cooking have been widely reviewed and featured on radio and in magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, New York magazine, the New York Daily News, and USA Today. She also tested and developed recipes for Martha Stewart's television show. Her website offers insights into restaurant kitchens, recipes, food experiences, and reviews.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 24 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 13, 2009

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    I Also Recommend:

    Spiced is my first eBook on my nook and what a great read!

    I held off buying Spiced until I received my nook and what a great choice as my first eBook. One can't help but like Dalia as a person, and admire her as a pastry chef. The pace of the book was perfect, she didn't rush through any parts, and didn't offer anything that I felt did not belong in there. Her focus was strictly on her experience as a pastry chef and the path she took in getting to where she ended up.
    Great read and one I'm sure many lovers of "kitchen" memoirs would enjoy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 4, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    It's a hard-knock life: Jurgensen's fair warning to those with culinary aspirations

    For those of you who, like me, often dream of swapping a desk job for a pastry station, Dalia Jurgensen's Spiced is a revelation. Literally. Who knew the waters of kitchen politics would be as difficult to navigate as those of the typical office?

    While Jurgensen begins her journey, intending to become a chef, her experiences lead her to ultimately choose pastry. The mainly male-oriented profession leads to some predictable, testosterone-driven antics, and the restaurant hierarchy seems, at times, genuinely medieval. But the author's passion for food shines, as does her occasionally unflattering honesty.

    Jurgensen's hopscotching through disparate jobs for famed and failed restaurants in a lengthy, resume-building tour of New York City hotspots proves an interesting read, whether or not you have a culinary career in mind. From working the pastry station at Nobu to freelancing as a recipe developer for Martha Stewart, Jurgensen shares industry insight and a few dirty secrets along the way.

    And if at the end of the book, you're still itching to cook, don't say you weren't warned.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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