A chef as well known for his turbulent life as his dishes chronicles his quick rise, spectacular fall and reinvention.
Success in the competitive world of professional cooking generally comes after years of grueling work, discipline and determination. Not so for 28-year-old Baltzley. By 9, he was working alongside his single mother in her cafe in the back of a gay bar in Jacksonville, Fla. “Most people aren’t lucky enough to know before they’re nine years old what they want to do with their lives," he writes. "But for me, it was never really a question—my fate was sealed in the back of the Whistlestop Café, chopping corn at my mother’s counter.” Baltzley left high school to concentrate on improving his cooking skills and playing music with a heavy metal band. In Savannah, he scored a job with Paula Deen at The Lady & Sons. After that, he roamed through restaurants from Maine to Pittsburgh, continuing his experimentation with food, cooking techniques and menus. Meanwhile, his escalating drug use ruined relationships with employers, co-workers and girlfriends (he fathered a child with one of them). His talents continued to land him gigs in prestigious restaurants, but his substance abuse finally culminated in a revolving-door year in and out of four top Chicago restaurants, including Alinea. At the pinnacle of his tumultuous career, named executive chef at Simon Lamb's trendy Tribute, the author entered rehab. “Normalcy was something I never thought I could obtain, but I realized that that’s what I wanted, even more than sobriety,” he writes. Now married and sober, with his first solo restaurant, TMIP, in the works in rural Indiana, he seems poised for a new life. His unrelentingly candid memoir delivers in-your-face details about his missteps, larded with juicy peeks into the restaurant world, cutting-edge culinary practices and supersized personalities.
A wild ride for foodies and those captivated by sagas of recovery.