Make no bones about it — life in a restaurant is difficult work. The hours are long, the pay isn’t much, and the work is ultimately thankless. Or at least, that’s how it used to be. The past few years, we’ve watched “foodie” culture explode into prime time, elevating many chefs to celebrity status. It’s no wonder, then, that the chef memoir has become as much of an art form as cooking itself. As many of you know, Gabrielle Hamilton, owner and chef of New York’s Prune restaurant, recently released Blood, Bones & Butter, a book that many are calling just as beautiful as her simple, impassioned food. Using Hamilton’s book as a starting point, we examine ten chef memoirs — from the newbies to those seasoned with experience — that we’ve found particularly enjoyable.
Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
Gabrielle Hamilton, in addition to being a lauded chef, also happens to have an MFA in writing. This becomes blindingly apparent very quickly in Blood, Bones & Butter as Hamilton doles out nuanced morsels of autobiographical information from her childhood on a farm in rural Pennsylvania to her dirt-poor, drug-addled time lying about her age to get restaurant jobs. She’s never as passionate as when she’s writing about food, though, and the way she conveys the the entire sensory experience of the fire pits she and her family would use to cook food for her father’s massive parties leaves you feeling as though you yourself must smell of wood, charcoal and too much wine. It’s also worth noting that, on Blood, Bones and Butter, Anthony Bourdain contributed this blurb: “I put this amazing memoir down and wanted to crawl under the bed, retroactively withdraw every book, every page I’d ever written. And burn them.”