A memoir of an untrained chef with an English degree who set out to temper bad behavior by serving good food and to change junk-food die-hards into foodies.
When Barnes took a job as a cook for the Alpha Sigma Phi house on the University of Washington campus, she knew “that ‘frat boy’ was shorthand for ‘arrogant, drunk, and disorderly,’ ” but she didn’t know that house chefs were generally glorified warmers of precooked meals. Her new job came with major challenges. The kitchen—with its “archaic gas range,” freezer held together with duct tape and a rat in the pantry—was a nightmare, requiring critter control and rigorous scrubbing and disinfecting. Though frat-house jobs were on the bottom rung of the chef hierarchy, for Barnes, a job in which customers respected her was a dream compared with her stint as a chef for a demanding family or at a cafe, where the health violations were frequently flagrant. At least in the Alpha Sig kitchen, she called the shots—often laced with expletives. When the rowdy, grungy frat-house atmosphere, the guys ignoring her kitchen rules and the uncooperative vendors got to her, she vented. Thankfully, her humor, honesty and a steadfast vision save the book from becoming one long rant. Resistant at first, the guys grew to love her food. Eventually, she gained the respect and friendship of the vendors, and the reputation of her table grew. Sorority girls often raided her pantry for leftovers and left fan notes. The book is as much about nourishment as it is food. Barnes’ affection for the fraternity brothers carries the narrative. It wasn’t all about consuming, it was about connecting,” she writes.
A heartening memoir of good food and tough love with a few down-home recipes thrown in.