Sánchez (Simple Food, Big Flavor, 2011, etc.) plates a taster's menu of personal and professional influences, not to mention a few culinary travails, in a memoir infused with succulence, revelation, and ethnic pride.
Son of a gustatory pioneer, the author is a seasoned chef, restaurateur, and TV personality (currently seen on MasterChef) whose Latin roots run deep. Born in El Paso, nurtured in New York, and now based in New Orleans, he shot to international fame as a regular on the Food Network. This chronicle of an adventurous life in and out of the kitchen is a love letter not just to expansive pan-Latin cuisine, but to the power of food to bring cultures together and discover the most nourishing qualities of each. The book is also a cautionary tale for the higher reaches of a hospitality industry often distracted by inessentials, risky behavior, and the traps of celebrity. Throughout the well-constructed narrative (which includes recipes), the writing is crisp, candid, and rich with emotion, the latter ingredient applied liberally. The author’s account of the evolution of Food Network is especially flavorsome. But Sánchez reserves much room in the pot for an inward and outward journey of self-exploration as a man of two worlds, Mexican and American. The “life lessons” of the subtitle are not original—whose are?—but they are certainly valid for those in the food industry struggling to balance family and sanity with workload and opportunity, and they are no less instructive for aspiring chefs or those dealing with chronic depression and anxiety. With a soupçon of sympathy, Sánchez can even make the painful palatable. Occasionally, the narrative is somewhat repetitive, and, though trivial, a too-liberal use of the F-word might be off-putting for some readers. Nonetheless, the author offers readers a delicious reading experience.
If the Michelin guide gave a star to memoirs of a life in food, Sánchez rates at least a pair.