Spiced: A Pastry Chef’s True Stories

201110271701.jpgSpiced: A Pastry Chef’s True Stories of Trials by Fire, After-Hours Exploits, and What Really Goes on in the Kitchen by Dalia Jurgenson was the October Kitchen Reader selection and was chosen by Libbi of Domestic Wandering.

I’m back on the food memoir train. Lately, when I struggle to find inspiration or excitement in my cooking, reading a bit of a food memoir brings me right back into it. I just can’t help but let the author’s love of food rub off on me, and find myself eager to get back in the kitchen, testing recipes.

Sadly, I was a bit disappointed by my most recent food memoir, Spiced by Dalia Jurgensen. It just didn’t have the depth of emotion and thoughtfulness of books like Blood, Bones and Butter, Jacques Pepin’s The Apprentice or Ruth Reichl’s memoirs. It almost felt as if Jurgensen was merely laying out the various jobs she had worked and the desserts she made there, without taking the time to discuss how she felt about the jobs and how her work affected her social life beyond the most basic observations. She may have been protecting her friends and family by not mentioning them much, but in doing so, she lost a lot of the depth to her story.

I give this memoir 2 stars out of 5. If you are looking for a quick and easy read, this book will fit your needs. But if you’re looking for a fantastic chef’s or food writer’s memoir, this isn’t the first book I’d recommend.

More of my book reviews can be found here.


  1. says

    Definitely an easy read but I have to agree…. We understand the restaurant kitchen but not much else. I enjoyed it on the superficial level at which it was written but missed the emotions and food descriptions that have come with some of the other selections!

  2. says

    Thanks for your review! I also wished for a little more insight into what it was like to make such a drastic career change (having gone through it myself this past year) and what it really felt like as a woman to work in such a male-dominated field.

  3. says

    Good review! I am new to Kitchen Reader this month 🙂 I agree, it was a quick, breezy read and a bit of a laundry list of her various jobs. I did appreciate the variety of environments in which she worked and getting even glimpses at how the restaurant kitchen compares to catering compares to Martha Stewart! But yes, when you put it next to Ruth Reichl, there is no comparison.

  4. says

    It felt as though Jurgensen was so insanely busy that she didn’t even have time to have feelings, let alone explore them much. I was also intrigued, as you were, by the lack of mentions of her family. I wonder what they thought of her restaurant life?

  5. says

    I completely agree with your comments on the lack of insight into Jurgensen’s emotional world. It seemed like such a glaring omission to me! I can understand wanting to shield your friends and family, and I can certainly believe that she was too busy to deal with those emotions at the time… but overall, for a memoir, this book wasn’t an introspective as I thought it would be. Interesting and entertaining, yes, but not my favorite.

    Thanks for the review!