One of Canada’s most famous and successful restaurateurs chronicles the ups and downs of being a successful woman in a famously sexist industry.
Restaurant memoirs are notoriously salacious, from the escapades of Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential to the rash of waiter memoirs of recent years. Here, one of Canada’s most well-known restaurateurs offers something different: a confessional, observational autobiography that is as unapologetic as it is instructive. Agg may not be a household name in the United States, but her charcuterie-based restaurant empire—including The Black Hoof in Toronto and Agrikol in Montreal—is legendary north of the border. The narrative opens on a busy night as the author observes the rhythms and swells of her restaurant. She also drops observations that seem casual but can be mapped back to give clues to her success. “Having the front and back function as a team rather than opponents begrudging each other at every opportunity isn’t just important, it’s essential,” she writes, “but it’s a new model, completely opposed to how it’s always been done.” Agg also offers a raw chronicle of her trials and tribulations, from burning out a starter marriage and suffering bankruptcy after her first venture to meeting her husband Roland Jean and launching The Black Hoof. To the delight of Toronto’s gossip circles, she also pulls back the curtain on her split with former partner and now celebrity chef Grant van Gameren. The book showcases a wealth of dichotomies, as the author is able to spin carnal anecdotes about sex and food but follow them up with an artful declaration of independence for every woman who suffers from sexism in the kitchen. Whimsical illustrations by friends and family of everything from a charcuterie board to a nude portrait of the author add to the book’s unique charms.
An inspiring, graphic, and funny memoir from an entrepreneur unafraid to tell it like it is.