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Spiced
By Dalia Jurgensen
ISBN: 0399555319
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication date: April 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
List price: $24.95 
Type: Restaurant
Sample recipe: No recipes
Ambitions
Intended audience: novice advanced beginner good home cook gourmet professional
Competition: outclassed follower in the pack strong challenger likely champ
Format/Ease of Use
Layout: ugh cluttered fine considerate work of art
Legibility: unpleasant challenging tolerable clear brilliant
Production quality: cheesy dubious years of service gift quality stunning
Page numbers: non-existent hard-to-find spotty sufficient every page
Author
Writer: beginner food writer writing cook personality auteur
Cook: unknown self-taught chef teacher celebrity
Summary
Fulfills ambitions: falls short almost there satisfactory exceeds home run
Overall tone: sterile trying too hard straightforward best friend mom
Value: ouch! a little pricey worth splurging on the money a deal
Overall rating: skip it good very good excellent Ochef Top 100

Comments: If Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential was the ultimate tell-all of the behind-the-scenes New York restaurant world, Dalia Jurgensen's Spiced is a tell-some.

The book recounts her decision to leave a 9-to-5 office job and sign up for cooking school, how she quickly fell into pastry chef work at Nobu, and worked her way from great job to great job (Layla, La Côte Basque, working in Martha Stewart's television kitchen), sometimes doing "legitimate cooking," but always finding her way back to desserts.

The book offers plenty of insights into the role of pastry chef, and is at its best when Jurgensen is describing the process of inventing new desserts. It also addresses some of the sexism inherent in rough-and-tumble restaurant kitchens.

Plenty (likely too much for some) about dalliances and relationships, but, interestingly, not a word about meeting and marrying her husband (whose existence is confirmed by the book jacket). Similarly, there is not a peep about her current restaurant situation (executive pastry chef at Dressler restaurant in Brooklyn – again, giving credit to the book jacket).

Frankly the one point that seems to come through the book, is that Dalia Jurgensen is a reserved, private, and quite possibly shy person (in the same way that reading Kitchen Confidential instantly convinces you that Anthony Bourdain is not a shy person). You leave the book wondering why a quite possibly shy person would write a memoir in the first place. You can imagine an editor looking at the first draft and saying something like, "we need more details, more names, we need more sex, and fights. Fights would be good!"

The editor's comments may account for some of the names and some of the sex in the book, but in the end, the reader still feels the author's reluctance to open up. Perhaps a dessert book – with recipes translated for the home kitchen – would be a better option for her next book.



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