An Italian chef’s no-holds-barred memoir of his love-hate relationship with cooking and the cutthroat world of restaurant cuisine.
The India-born son of “Italian hippies,” Lucarelli stumbled into his profession at age 19 when he told Sandro, a man who had just lost his sous-chef, that he knew “how to cook a little.” His experience was greater than Lucarelli let on: at home, his father had shown him how to turn “cooking into pleasure.” Though an impoverished university student in Rome at the time, he began to work in the kitchen; the author’s adroitness as a shoplifter allowed him to buy expensive foods he used for culinary experiments popular among his friends. Lucarelli never intended on making cooking a career, but the next job that followed—for which he submitted a resume “jam-packed with blatant lies”—was also in the kitchen. As he moved from restaurant to restaurant in Rome and northern Italy, he quickly learned that while the food business never guaranteed security, it also never lacked for colorful characters, such as bosses who could never be trusted to pay on time (or even at all) and co-workers “with troubled pasts and present lives wasted by drugs and alcohol.” In between screaming at other chefs, finding and losing jobs, dating sleazy waitresses, drinking, and doing drugs, Lucarelli also learned how to set up and organize restaurant kitchens and menus. Yet rather than continue to follow the tortured and chaotic path to culinary stardom, he fell in love with a “very shy girl” named Giuliana. Together, they had a son, who taught Lucarelli that the most meaningful life emphasized family over the pursuit of egoistical pleasures like opening his own restaurant and relentlessly running after Michelin star–glory. Wise and often very funny, the book offers sumptuous glimpses into human foibles and provides readers an unforgettable taste of the unabashedly sordid realities that underlie the high-gloss world of Italian cuisine.
A wickedly candid memoir.