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A singular, powerfully expressive debut memoir that traces one chef's struggle to find her place and what happens once she does. Burn the Place is a galvanizing memoir that chronicles Iliana Regan's journey from foraging on the family farm to running her Michelin-starred restaurant, Elizabeth. Her story is raw like that first bite of wild onion, alive with startling imagery A singular, powerfully expressive debut memoir that traces one chef's struggle to find her place and what happens once she does. Burn the Place is a galvanizing memoir that chronicles Iliana Regan's journey from foraging on the family farm to running her Michelin-starred restaurant, Elizabeth. Her story is raw like that first bite of wild onion, alive with startling imagery, and told with uncommon emotional power. Regan grew up the youngest of four headstrong girls on a small farm in Northwest Indiana. While gathering raspberries as a toddler, Regan preternaturally understood to pick just the ripe fruit and leave the rest for another day. In the family's leaf-strewn fields, the orange flutes of chanterelles beckoned her while they eluded others. Regan has had this intense, almost otherworldly connection with food and the earth it comes from since her childhood, but connecting with people has always been more difficult. She was a little girl who longed to be a boy, gay in an intolerant community, an alcoholic before she turned twenty, and a woman in an industry dominated by men--she often felt she "wasn't made for this world," and as far as she could tell, the world tended to agree. But as she learned to cook in her childhood farmhouse, got her first restaurant job at age fifteen, taught herself cutting-edge cuisine while running a "new gatherer" underground supper club, and worked her way from front-of-house staff to running her own kitchen, Regan found that food could help her navigate the strangeness of the world around her. Regan cooks with instinct, memory, and an emotional connection to her ingredients that can't be taught. Written from that same place of instinct and emotion, Burn the Place tells Regan's story in raw and vivid prose and brings readers into a world--from the Indiana woods to elite Chicago kitchens--that is entirely original and unforgettable.


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A singular, powerfully expressive debut memoir that traces one chef's struggle to find her place and what happens once she does. Burn the Place is a galvanizing memoir that chronicles Iliana Regan's journey from foraging on the family farm to running her Michelin-starred restaurant, Elizabeth. Her story is raw like that first bite of wild onion, alive with startling imagery A singular, powerfully expressive debut memoir that traces one chef's struggle to find her place and what happens once she does. Burn the Place is a galvanizing memoir that chronicles Iliana Regan's journey from foraging on the family farm to running her Michelin-starred restaurant, Elizabeth. Her story is raw like that first bite of wild onion, alive with startling imagery, and told with uncommon emotional power. Regan grew up the youngest of four headstrong girls on a small farm in Northwest Indiana. While gathering raspberries as a toddler, Regan preternaturally understood to pick just the ripe fruit and leave the rest for another day. In the family's leaf-strewn fields, the orange flutes of chanterelles beckoned her while they eluded others. Regan has had this intense, almost otherworldly connection with food and the earth it comes from since her childhood, but connecting with people has always been more difficult. She was a little girl who longed to be a boy, gay in an intolerant community, an alcoholic before she turned twenty, and a woman in an industry dominated by men--she often felt she "wasn't made for this world," and as far as she could tell, the world tended to agree. But as she learned to cook in her childhood farmhouse, got her first restaurant job at age fifteen, taught herself cutting-edge cuisine while running a "new gatherer" underground supper club, and worked her way from front-of-house staff to running her own kitchen, Regan found that food could help her navigate the strangeness of the world around her. Regan cooks with instinct, memory, and an emotional connection to her ingredients that can't be taught. Written from that same place of instinct and emotion, Burn the Place tells Regan's story in raw and vivid prose and brings readers into a world--from the Indiana woods to elite Chicago kitchens--that is entirely original and unforgettable.

30 review for Burn the Place: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    I chose this because some of my most beloved books, beginning with Kitchen Confidential, have been memoirs by established chefs and Iliana Regan's arc seemed to echo that of Gabrielle Hamilton. Yes there are similarities. Both come from large, unconventional families, with a strong background in earth to table cooking, both have college degrees in writing but not in food services, they share sexual identities and have michelin starred restaurants that thrive thanks to their instinctual style of I chose this because some of my most beloved books, beginning with Kitchen Confidential, have been memoirs by established chefs and Iliana Regan's arc seemed to echo that of Gabrielle Hamilton. Yes there are similarities. Both come from large, unconventional families, with a strong background in earth to table cooking, both have college degrees in writing but not in food services, they share sexual identities and have michelin starred restaurants that thrive thanks to their instinctual style of cookery. Both are artists. Both have had stories to tell. Forthright and badass, Iliana's personna belies her past. In videos, she comes across very softspoken, which aligns with her self description of introverted shyness. Becoming a boss, owning her own place and establishing control, came with its own set of challenges, as she realized in order to succeed she had to set her own rules in the pressure cooker atmosphere on the cooking line (a culture described by Bourdain as testosterone-fueled). But succeed she has, coming to grips with her "alcohol allergy" and finding happiness in her personal life. And running three establishments with her signature style, all in Chicago. Can't wait to go there so I can visit these places.

  2. 4 out of 5

    TraceyL

    I had never heard of this author or her two famous restaurants before reading this book. I just saw it pop up in my library app and thought I would give it a shot. It's a pretty straightforward memoir of this chef's life. She grew up on a farm, struggled with her identity and sexuality, became an alcoholic and drug addict, then realized she was a good cook and tried to turn it into a career. At one point near the end she talks about other chefs who have written memoirs and how they are very arro I had never heard of this author or her two famous restaurants before reading this book. I just saw it pop up in my library app and thought I would give it a shot. It's a pretty straightforward memoir of this chef's life. She grew up on a farm, struggled with her identity and sexuality, became an alcoholic and drug addict, then realized she was a good cook and tried to turn it into a career. At one point near the end she talks about other chefs who have written memoirs and how they are very arrogant and brag about themselves. She says she didn't want to do that, but throughout this book I definitely felt like she was super arrogant and bragging about herself. I guess that's just how chefs are. This was a good read but there are many better memoirs out there written by chefs. It didn't do anything new, but it did give me a few recipe ideas.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Megan Prokott

    I felt very moved by Regan’s honesty and her ability to forge her own path throughout this book, but especially as she speaks about her sexuality and the trials of being gay in rural American. I look around Chicago today and see a flourishing Pride parade, rainbows on every corner, and outspoken acceptance of the queer population. It’s easy to forget that things weren’t always that way and things still aren’t that way in so many places. Reading about Regan’s conflict with her own gender as a ver I felt very moved by Regan’s honesty and her ability to forge her own path throughout this book, but especially as she speaks about her sexuality and the trials of being gay in rural American. I look around Chicago today and see a flourishing Pride parade, rainbows on every corner, and outspoken acceptance of the queer population. It’s easy to forget that things weren’t always that way and things still aren’t that way in so many places. Reading about Regan’s conflict with her own gender as a very small child and watching how this manifested throughout her life in different ways was really moving to me and, I would imagine, not the easiest thing to share. Burn the Place is a very honest, personal account that can be considered more in the LGBTQ canon than in the food lit collections. FULL REVIEW HERE: http://meganprokott.com/burn-the-plac...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kathe Koja

    I always read for voice, and Iliana Regan's got voice, and verve, to burn. Reading this puts you at her table, wherever that table is, invites you to feast or to fight, and all the while shares everything she's got. I don't read chef's memoirs and I don't care about fine dining and I loved this.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    This memoir by Ilana Regan shows her life through glimpses, from childhood self proclaimed hillbilly, on to substance abusing young adult, and finally to a successful chef/restaurant owner, with reflection in all three sections on her sexuality. The book was an entertaining read but I would not be a target reader, since I no longer am interested reading about the rock and roll lifestyle of others. For me the charm was in the less dramatic moments where the author began hunting and sautéing chant This memoir by Ilana Regan shows her life through glimpses, from childhood self proclaimed hillbilly, on to substance abusing young adult, and finally to a successful chef/restaurant owner, with reflection in all three sections on her sexuality. The book was an entertaining read but I would not be a target reader, since I no longer am interested reading about the rock and roll lifestyle of others. For me the charm was in the less dramatic moments where the author began hunting and sautéing chanterelles with her father or learned to mix bread dough with her uncle. The memoir is written in a less formal,episodic style that fits the tone the author suggests, but did not suit me. This book melded well with the rest of the diverse mix of nonfiction on the National Book Award longlist and ought to be an good option for book clubs.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Zach

    Five stars for the first 75 pages. Then it just... It's all over the place and sometimes that works and sometimes it's like you're eating something rich and wonderful and then they just keep feeding it to you.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    I live in Chicago. The Michelin-starred restaurant Elizabeth is a local hero; I celebrated an anniversary at Kitsune. Had I read the book reviews before diving in, I would have realized this is not so much a culinary memoir as it is one woman’s struggle with drugs, alcohol, and her sexual and personal identity. As a lesbian coming-of-age story for folks in and around “The Industry,” it is frank and sincere in capturing a moment in Chicago’s history. I lived, apparently, just down the street from I live in Chicago. The Michelin-starred restaurant Elizabeth is a local hero; I celebrated an anniversary at Kitsune. Had I read the book reviews before diving in, I would have realized this is not so much a culinary memoir as it is one woman’s struggle with drugs, alcohol, and her sexual and personal identity. As a lesbian coming-of-age story for folks in and around “The Industry,” it is frank and sincere in capturing a moment in Chicago’s history. I lived, apparently, just down the street from Regan. I ate at the restaurants she worked in (and walked out of) in Andersonville. In summer, my friends and I would grab burgers and cheap liter steins of beer at T’s patio and watch the drunk lesbians fight on sidewalk. So the backstory she provides made perfect sense to me. As a story of recovery, there’s a vital hopefulness in this book. Regan suggests threads of obsessive compulsive behavior in herself and her family, but she makes good use of it in transforming her questions (how do ice cream stabilizers work?) and interests (wild gathering, fermenting, bread making) into her profession, first through underground dinners, then popups, then her restaurants. Side projects really can save one’s life. I do wish a stronger editor’s pen had tightened up the often overly conversational, sloppy writing.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Viral

    Thanks to Agate Midway for the ARC at BEA 2019! I wasn't particularly interested in this book at first, because I thought it was just a chef's memoir. I sure am glad I got it and read it anyways, because it is so much more than that! This book is Regan's memoir about growing up with gender dysphoria, facing discrimination, homo/transphobia, and general bullying growing up. It then shows Iliana struggle living paycheck to paycheck and struggle with drug addiction in her 20s as she tries to make it Thanks to Agate Midway for the ARC at BEA 2019! I wasn't particularly interested in this book at first, because I thought it was just a chef's memoir. I sure am glad I got it and read it anyways, because it is so much more than that! This book is Regan's memoir about growing up with gender dysphoria, facing discrimination, homo/transphobia, and general bullying growing up. It then shows Iliana struggle living paycheck to paycheck and struggle with drug addiction in her 20s as she tries to make it as a chef. We then see Iliana start her own restaurant and see it struggle but succeed, and build something Regan can be proud of. It's a powerful and moving tale. Highly recommend!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dan Gibson

    This is culinary memoir (or memoir-ish) #4 of 2019, which isn't super surprising, I suppose, considering how much time I think about food at work (and let's face it, in life). Regan's struggle to develop a sense of self is definitely interesting and more contemporary than the standard chef's rise to prominence story, especially since there are hints throughout of how she arrived on her "new gatherer" ethos, but I wish the writing were a little better, I suppose? The narrative is clunky at times This is culinary memoir (or memoir-ish) #4 of 2019, which isn't super surprising, I suppose, considering how much time I think about food at work (and let's face it, in life). Regan's struggle to develop a sense of self is definitely interesting and more contemporary than the standard chef's rise to prominence story, especially since there are hints throughout of how she arrived on her "new gatherer" ethos, but I wish the writing were a little better, I suppose? The narrative is clunky at times and the more recent part of the story seems rushed following detailed accounts of a troubled youth. It's not a bad read, but I'm not convinced the editor did Regan many favors.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Katie/Doing Dewey

    Summary: A fascinating memoir, enjoyable both for the author's emotional account of her struggles and for the cool technical details of her career. Iliana Regan is perhaps best known for her Michelin-starred restaurant, Elizabeth, but I first heard of her as the author of this National Book Award long-listed memoir. The book blurb sells it as searingly honest, which it is. It covers the sort of difficult topics the phrase 'searingly honest' conjures, like Iliana's struggle with alcoholism and her Summary: A fascinating memoir, enjoyable both for the author's emotional account of her struggles and for the cool technical details of her career. Iliana Regan is perhaps best known for her Michelin-starred restaurant, Elizabeth, but I first heard of her as the author of this National Book Award long-listed memoir. The book blurb sells it as searingly honest, which it is. It covers the sort of difficult topics the phrase 'searingly honest' conjures, like Iliana's struggle with alcoholism and her difficulty accepting her sexuality. But her honesty also led to some surprising moments of humor, often through unexpected profanity. Her honesty definitely helped me feel involved in her life, but the primary strength I identified in this book was the author's ability to tell a good story. As a child, she describes escaping into her imagination and now she says uses her menus to tell stories. That ability carries over to her memoir as well. This is a book with three distinct parts. The first section focuses on her childhood. Every chapter is anchored by a vivid description of preparing and eating food. The second section is about her struggle with alcoholism. The author worked at restaurants, but food is pushed to the margins in these stories. The final section focuses on the founding of her restaurants. I found the first two sections to be the strongest. They have the feel of an origin myth. Although the author shares her age at the beginning of each vignette, their disconnection from one another made them feel timeless. I had to really focus to remember how old the author was in each one. Each chapter felt pivotal to the formation of the author's identity. Her ability to identify these formative moments in her history gave the stories a real sense of purpose. The last section was also enjoyable, but felt more rushed and less purposeful than the earlier sections. I loved hearing about her scientific approach to cooking. Other fascinating topics in this section included: the creative dishes she makes; her experiences learning how to manage people; and how she dealt with sexism in the kitchen. However, we cover about the same amount of her life in this last third of the book as we did in the first two thirds. Sometimes I wanted a lot more about how she got from one point to another or on a given topic. The founding of her second restaurant and her relationship with her wife got particularly little page space. Other chapters at the end felt like a grab-bag of stories from earlier in her life that she hadn't been able to fit into the (mostly) linear narrative. While I didn't think the last section was quite as strong as the first two, it was a satisfying conclusion built on a strong foundation. Having heard about the author's struggles in moving detail, getting to hear about her successes was really lovely. Unlike another cooking memoir I read recently (Notes From a Young Black Chef), Iliana has achieved enough and crafted her story carefully enough that her memoir had a satisfying arc to it. I could see the strengths she built on, the challenges she overcame, and how they led to her success. It was well written and her honesty drew me in. This was a very strong memoir and I'd highly recommend it. If you're interested in any of the following topics especially, don't miss this - growing up in the country; struggling with being gay and queer as a child; alcoholism; or working in the restaurant industry. Last but not least, I've managed to avoid seeing the National Book Award shortlist, so I can still make a prediction about whether this will make it. Although I'm giving this five stars and I think it's a great memoir, I'm going to guess it won't make the shortlist. Compared to last year's shortlist, this deals with a much narrower topic. Although Iliana deals with some challenges in her life, she only addresses them as they relate to her personally. She includes little to no research, just her lived experience. That made this much less information rich than the books on last year's shortlist. It was a great read though, so I wouldn't be too surprised if it proves me wrong :)This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    Like Iliana Regan, I was raised a short hop off US 421 in northwest Indiana, in the middle of nowhere, with limited role models for who or what I might eventually become. We were 90 minutes or less from Chicago, where we would both spend much of our adult years, but worlds away. “Burn the Place” reminds me that so much of our becoming is the struggle of kids in such an environment – to work our way through and out of such landscapes, and for some of us, back home again, to the exact places we we Like Iliana Regan, I was raised a short hop off US 421 in northwest Indiana, in the middle of nowhere, with limited role models for who or what I might eventually become. We were 90 minutes or less from Chicago, where we would both spend much of our adult years, but worlds away. “Burn the Place” reminds me that so much of our becoming is the struggle of kids in such an environment – to work our way through and out of such landscapes, and for some of us, back home again, to the exact places we were raised, and/or to similar, familiar terrain. Like Iliana, I found solace and wonder in nature, often in solitude. The landscape of “the Region” is not the most spectacular in the world, by traditional definitions of grandeur, but if you get quiet and look closely, you’ll discover wonders to pack away and comfort you through life. Tadpoles, mushrooms, cattails, sandhill cranes, milkweed. Landscapes of corn fields and pastures and forests and dunes and ponds left behind by glaciers. Changing seasons and light unlike anywhere else. To certain types of kids, all this was ours alone. When we get into the thick of adulthood, the messiness and dark, is it this memory that powers us, carries us along? Earlier this year I read the powerful memoirs The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavich, and Bettyville by George Hodgman. As with those books, “Burn the Place” will resonate in different ways with many types of readers. Coming out in a small town? Check. Struggling onward through that, as a young adult in the big city? Check. Acknowledging and fumbling through and conquering addiction? Check. Claiming your agency in one professional field or another? Check. Taking chances (running a business, writing a book, committing to life and/or work in a cabin in remote wilderness, finally landing a partner to join you for the journey)? Check. I’m not a foodie, and the author has said this is not a “foodie” book per se, but if that’s your thing, you’ll find lots to enjoy as well. I admired greatly how she has become a superstar in the food world yet was not trained in traditional culinary institutes, nor did she win a television cooking show (a frequent and sort of tiresome narrative in stories of Chicago superstar chefs). Hurray for Hoosier moxie!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Regan’s upbringing is so interesting and I got a real sense of how the artist as chef was formed. Will return to this book later.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    Full of heart and wonderful descriptions of growing up on a farm. But some work was needed on the editing front, I think. It started with a steady story build and then the pacing went off kilter. The end felt rushed and thin compared to earlier sections. But the author's voice is strong and her struggles and passions very real.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    my god, this was a slog to finish. i'm sorry! i was really looking forward to this! and i feel bad giving it a 2 star, i was debating a 3, but really, no. as one reviewer, susan, wrote: "The organization was confusing, jumping around the years for no apparent reason. The narrative voice changed throughout; it was sometimes an observer looking in and at other times she was much more in the moment. It wasn't the story I expected- it was more about her coming to terms with being gay and her alcohol my god, this was a slog to finish. i'm sorry! i was really looking forward to this! and i feel bad giving it a 2 star, i was debating a 3, but really, no. as one reviewer, susan, wrote: "The organization was confusing, jumping around the years for no apparent reason. The narrative voice changed throughout; it was sometimes an observer looking in and at other times she was much more in the moment. It wasn't the story I expected- it was more about her coming to terms with being gay and her alcoholism than it was about her career as chef. I realize it's the full picture of her life, but I was mainly curious specifically about her journey as a chef so this wasn't the book I wanted. It wasn't compelling to me, but it was honest and seems like a lot of people enjoyed it" i agree completely with this ^. i had to put the book down at p.226, and even though i had desperately wanted to finish the book and there were only 30 pages left, i couldnt do it until about 1.5 months later. and even that was a chore. i was also looking for more on her journey as a chef. though sometimes, i enjoy a memoir when it veers more personal than "career" (i.e., trevor noah) if it's interesting and well written. this was not. i was SO BORED reading about her childhood/growing up, and just kept waiting for it to be over. i felt like my journey reading this book was me waiting for the good part to come, but there was no good part, and near the end it just turned around and went back into things that were already covered that i didn’t like reading about in the first place. there was no narrative here, i had no idea what was happening because each chapter was just us being thrown into some random time period and her musing or describing some scene from her life, with no sense of continuity for what came before or after that segment. oftentimes, the scenes were from parts of her life that were already previously covered. i get that this was a book about feelings and coming of age and identity, but so many of those themes weren't dug into aside from a retelling of different things that happened in her life. for example, there is so much grief in this book, but the grief is never really explored. it's just described to be there or to be the cause of some decision in her life, but we don't get it. this book was also about alcoholism and recovery, and i like reading about recovery, but even then i didnt enjoy reading the parts about recovery (which probably means something) the book felt really self indulgent, like it was full of inside jokes that i wasnt in on. or like i was with that intoxicated uncle who keeps telling incoherent stories about their life and you're forced to sit there until it's over while nodding politely. i admire the honesty, and her struggle, and her achievements, but the more i think about it the more it was a 1/1.5 star read tbh

  15. 4 out of 5

    Thuanhnguyen

    This memoir about food and family has some very moving parts to it. I loved the description of the farm where she grew up, of how her love for food came to be in the backdrop of hunting for mushrooms and baking bread with her uncle. There just seemed to be maybe a bit too much going on in the book at once? She writes about her alcoholism very honestly, but it's a bit one fact after another, and her sudden leap into sobriety wasn't really examined closely. Her family's history of struggling with This memoir about food and family has some very moving parts to it. I loved the description of the farm where she grew up, of how her love for food came to be in the backdrop of hunting for mushrooms and baking bread with her uncle. There just seemed to be maybe a bit too much going on in the book at once? She writes about her alcoholism very honestly, but it's a bit one fact after another, and her sudden leap into sobriety wasn't really examined closely. Her family's history of struggling with addiction and other unhealthy habits was dealt with a bit on the surface level. And then all of a sudden we rush headlong into what it's like to start a business. And start another business and fail at it. This is where I really wanted to dive in--I wanted to hear about trying to create a restaurant from nothing, but we only get glimpses of that journey. I found the brief sentences about the misogyny and homophobia in the restaurant business compelling, but there weren't that many of them. I do think that the story here is worth telling and reading about, but I only wish there was more.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    "The best book i've read in a long ass time." — me, in a text just now to my friends This memoir was SO GOOD. Memoirs are so tricky. I can always tell when authors want to seem relatable, or self-deprecating, or funny. It's hard to be authentic, I get that, but I can spot a put-on tone a MILE AWAY. Iliana gave me none of that. She was brutally honest about herself, whether she sounded "right" or not. I picked this book up for two reasons: first, I noticed the mushrooms on the cover. Second, the "The best book i've read in a long ass time." — me, in a text just now to my friends This memoir was SO GOOD. Memoirs are so tricky. I can always tell when authors want to seem relatable, or self-deprecating, or funny. It's hard to be authentic, I get that, but I can spot a put-on tone a MILE AWAY. Iliana gave me none of that. She was brutally honest about herself, whether she sounded "right" or not. I picked this book up for two reasons: first, I noticed the mushrooms on the cover. Second, the title was intriguing. And third, the little slipcover summary mentioned foraging for food and growing up on a farm, Michelin stars, and lesbian. I knew there was a really good story in there, and I couldn't put this one down. Read for mouth-watering food descriptions, hilarious and heartbreaking anecdotes, and a reminder to keep what's important and burn the rest.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    I read this book while on maternity leave. During my reading of this book, a pandemic broke out and the world joined me on my “newborn during flu season” quarantine. It took me awhile to finish this book because I was having a hard time focusing. The story ended up being a welcome respite from the news. As a fellow Hoosier who made the move to Chicago as a young adult, I feel a certain kinship with the author. In this time of uncertainty, it is also heartening to read a story of someone who can I read this book while on maternity leave. During my reading of this book, a pandemic broke out and the world joined me on my “newborn during flu season” quarantine. It took me awhile to finish this book because I was having a hard time focusing. The story ended up being a welcome respite from the news. As a fellow Hoosier who made the move to Chicago as a young adult, I feel a certain kinship with the author. In this time of uncertainty, it is also heartening to read a story of someone who can make the best of what is available. I always have a soft spot for books that take place in my adopted hometown and during this phase of not being able to experience the city in its springtime glory, it was really nice to read about familiar intersections and neighborhoods.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Donna Lee

    This book is marketed as a “culinary memoir” that chronicles Iliana Regan’s journey from cooking and foraging on the family farm to opening her Michelin-starred restaurant Elizabeth in Chicago within walking distance of my home. While the book is that, it is also the story of growing up the youngest of four girls in an embattled household, her trying to come to terms with her sexuality, and her struggle with alcohol addiction. Iliana is a born storyteller, and I can hope that she has many more t This book is marketed as a “culinary memoir” that chronicles Iliana Regan’s journey from cooking and foraging on the family farm to opening her Michelin-starred restaurant Elizabeth in Chicago within walking distance of my home. While the book is that, it is also the story of growing up the youngest of four girls in an embattled household, her trying to come to terms with her sexuality, and her struggle with alcohol addiction. Iliana is a born storyteller, and I can hope that she has many more tales to tell.

  19. 4 out of 5

    RH Walters

    The depiction of the magical sensuality and troubling conflicts of childhood are brilliant, as is the joy of coming together in the final chapters. The middle section that was so difficult for the writer to slog through -- addiction, losses, disappointing lovers -- were also the hardest to read, and I had to apply some effort. I love a story of a person reconciling all the disparate elements of their life and becoming themselves. Nothing goes to waste in Regan's kitchen. My favorite sentence "As The depiction of the magical sensuality and troubling conflicts of childhood are brilliant, as is the joy of coming together in the final chapters. The middle section that was so difficult for the writer to slog through -- addiction, losses, disappointing lovers -- were also the hardest to read, and I had to apply some effort. I love a story of a person reconciling all the disparate elements of their life and becoming themselves. Nothing goes to waste in Regan's kitchen. My favorite sentence "As of today, I haven't found a drawing of a penis on anything in almost five years."

  20. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Iliana Regan ( the author of this memoir ), was the last of four daughters, born into a dysfunctional family that seemed to be united when food was on the plate. Her adult life as a restaurant owner and chef in Chicago is not a surprise because of her life-long affair with food. The memoir is a very honest telling about Regan’s life as a child, teen and adult. Her connection to Indiana, especially Bloomington, was interesting to me because I attended Indiana University.

  21. 4 out of 5

    David Gallianetti

    Gritty and raw at times, but also a very tender, intensely personal memoir. I found her story really fascinating and thoroughly enjoyed this. Especially relevant for folks who grew up in the Midwest and anyone who loves to cook. One of my favorite reads of this year, thus far! Can't wait to visit her restaurant when things reopen!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    A bit sporadic but ultimately very satisfying. Midwest culinary memoirs resonate with me despite the fact that I myself am the type of home cook the views beans on toast as an acceptable daily supper

  23. 4 out of 5

    fran

    Regan is very cool and very inspiring and has overcome a wild amount of shit to get to where she is now, and if you think about the field she's in... it's basically a miracle that she's done so well. that said, I wish this book was better written! better structured! grad school has undoubtedly broken my brain, but I felt myself nitpicking the language throughout.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa

    I'm not really a chef-memoir person, yet I wanted to read this after I saw a New York Times article about Regan. The second half felt rushed compared to the chapters about her childhood, but I hope she writes another book with more adventures at her farm/inn in Michigan.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    Love reading about a professional chef who grew up in northern Indiana, even if she had some depressing and scary alcoholic adventures on her way to success. The entire thing was well written and poetic, and I am sad not to have been able to underline most of it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    A chef memoir unlike any other I have read. Truthful, vulnerable and unflinching. The author doesn't seem to care what we think of her, but not in the "whatever, bro" bravado way. More in the "my life decisions have led me to this corner and I will fight my way out" way. Fucking finally! She takes full responsibility for her actions and works to change in a sincere and meaningful way. No signs of toxic sobriety anywhere. It has stayed with me since reading it. And obviously the mushrooms!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    Maybe not the most scandalous of memoirs, but an interesting, gritty account of Regan's trajectory from self-destructive teenage alcoholic to revered chef.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Madison

    I really enjoyed the passages about foraging and her cooking methodology but the dominant personal narrative was a little scattered for me.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Yannick Schutz

    Read an article about her on NYTimes and bought the book right after. I really enjoyed the whole book! She keeps it real and this is real great to read

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Greene

    I’m starting to think that “nonfiction by womxn with alcoholism” may be my favorite subgenre of literature. In a year that’s brought Maggie Nelson and Leslie Jamison into my life, Iliana Regan’s memoir joins a generous and empathetic inner circle. Regan has a special place in it as well as the owner and head chef of multiple restaurants in my current home of choice, Chicago. Albeit restaurants I cannot afford to go to but still. Regan gives a fleet and charming, though actively and intentionally I’m starting to think that “nonfiction by womxn with alcoholism” may be my favorite subgenre of literature. In a year that’s brought Maggie Nelson and Leslie Jamison into my life, Iliana Regan’s memoir joins a generous and empathetic inner circle. Regan has a special place in it as well as the owner and head chef of multiple restaurants in my current home of choice, Chicago. Albeit restaurants I cannot afford to go to but still. Regan gives a fleet and charming, though actively and intentionally fractured, tour of her life up to the present. The first two thirds of this book is straightforward enough with some terrific moments captured in elegant and unadorned prose. Regan writes with the clear eyed clarity of a person who has seen some shit, about her life and the people in it. Her book is structured as a series of anecdotes, the “message” and “meaning” of which are delightfully opaque. A world class restauranteur with a literary background, Regan exhibits the kind of skill in multiple disciplines that leaves mere mortals in states of awe and jealousy. And she spares the kind of insufferable and deceptive modesty that hard working and successful people sometimes traffic in. The back third of the book, which is meandering and a little filthy, allows Regan the opportunity to talk some shit and, more crucially, to talk about herself. And while she seems at odds with herself over her feelings about being a gender minority in an industry disproportionately filled with loud mouth men, even her digressions and contradictions are endearing. Regan is someone you’d want to crack open a LaCroix and probably end up on an adventure with. As a recovering alcoholic myself, I recognize in Regan a tendency toward extremes, which she mostly successfully funnels into her work, obsessing over food to the point of achieving mastery. It’s not a connection she draws in her writing but it seems clear enough to me. I believe there is something inherent in the addict that, when applied to a pursuit outside of pleasure or its antithesis (which is not pain but rather the total absence of feeling altogether), can allow that person to achieve greatness. I can’t help but see, in the history of human civilization, a timeline littered with people who might have, had they been able to turn their eyes from the sun of their great desire to self obliterate or to have, to badly quote DFW, “more fun than any human could possibly withstand,” and instead apply that same unceasing drive to something else. Anything else. It’s a great tragedy, I think. But I’m glad Regan found her way out. I feel a degree of kinship with anyone who has passed through the dark night of reckoning with their addiction and come out the other end new in the cold soft light of dawn. For me, this book, copies of which I will be buying for myself and a few other people who I think might benefit from it, serves as a reminder that everyday of sobriety is a victory, regardless of what you did with it, but that a worthy tribute and toast might be to apply yourself to something, anything.

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