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.