I have been waiting to read this book for ages, slowly chipping away at my un-read pile of books and finally it reached the top.
There are a few attributes that I love separately – travel, food, inspiration – that all come together in Lauren Shockeys story. Being non-fiction there are no twisted plot lines to unravel, no overly-complicated characters to love or hate, just raw truths wether pretty or not. I fell in love more and more with each page I read. With my own questionings in regards to career filling my head at the moment, I probably picked up this book at the perfect time.
With a love for food and cooking, Lauren is unfulfilled with her desk job within the food industry and to her parents bewilderment she makes herself a drastic yearly plan that she jumps in to, guns blazing. Four stages (unpaid kitchen internships) in four countries, each 3 months long to experience different styles, cultures and cuisines.
Stop one takes her to molecular gastronomy restaurant wd-50 in New York. Probably what I read as the hardest experience, if for no other reason than it was the first. Being thrown in to an unfamiliar environment, not knowing quite how to behave or how others would behave towards her, the hours and hours of menial prep work and experiencing for the first time the gruelling long hours. However, with so many new tequines and ‘sciency’ ingredients to play with, as well as the owner Wylie Dufresne cooking on the line every night there were so many valuable lessons.
Next up we find her in Hanoi restaurant La Verticale. This experience was my faviourite and the most fun to read. The colourful backdrops, talk of spices and delicious street food and the endearing people we get to know. Her colleagues, as well as new friends, are loveable and give the sense of a family away from home – keep an eye out for Thanh, he pulls my heartstrings. During her time here Lauren learns the importance of flavour and intuition over technique.
Now we travel to Tel Aviv and the Carmella Bistro. Amoungst shopping in the local markets and enjoying home cooked, comforting, holiday feasts with new friends, Lauren also gets her first taste of responsibility in the kitchen. Being bumped to a higher status than apprentices normally do, she finds herself in charge of a section and working the line during every service. With a job offer on the table, she still decides to finish out her yearly plan.
Naturally, the last stop brings us to Paris. Where else could it possibly be? Wanting to learn within a Michelin star environment we are dropped in to 2-star Senderens. A completely different world to anywhere she has worked before, the Holy Grail of work spaces, precicion skills and flawless dishes. Though, while her time here is invaluable, she also finds it has its flaws – dropped back to the endless hours of prep work seems a downgrade after her affair with responsibility and she notices that not only does Alain Senderens not work within the kitchen, she doesn’t even meet him.
With a scattering of recipes breaking up her tales and an unexpected ending, everything about this book is nothing short of endearing and inspiring, with a strong message to just go ahead and follow your dreams. I urge you to pick up a copy ASAP!
Let me know what you think…