High Season by Jim Hearn
published by Allen & Unwin
Phew. A lot happens in this book or is alluded to at any rate. What a story! Mum of 6 abandons kids and rushes off to Sydney to become a hooker. But in the meantime she makes sure her boy has a job in a kitchen first so 15 year old Jim joins his first kitchen and is on his merry way to "heroin and hospitality". He gives us the highs and lows of life in the hospitality trade and on the heroin trail. It is an easy read and I raced through it in a day or so. I found it quite fascinating but I did get the feel that the Anthony Bourdain type prose came out of a cereal packet i.e. mass produced and formulaic. Don't let this stop you reading this interesting little memoir of a chef's mad moments. Here's hoping his poor wife Alice (who seems positively saintly putting up with Jim) is still on the scene keeping him in check. An added bonus for me was that much of the book is set in Byron Bay only a couple of hours away so I know the town and area well- which added to the thrill of knowing that drug-dealing crazy suicidal chefs are running restaurants not far from my place! And undoubtedly everywhere else.
It is always a bit scary reading books about the food industry as it gives you too much info about how the food you relish in restaurants has more than likely been mistreated, mishandled and made to feel thoroughly unloved. At least this book does not throw too many disgusting and unwanted insights into our culinary adventures around the traps!
Be aware this is not any kind of recipe book, but a memoir of a mad part of this chef's mis-spent youth as a completely over-worked and addicted young chef who came good in the end.
(You can purchase it online here)