Molly Wizenberg’s next book, Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage, finally comes out next Tuesday, nearly five years after her (tear-inducing but completely delightful) debut A Homemade Life.
Like her first book, Delancey is a cookbook/memoir mash-up. Molly opens up about her new marriage to Brandon and the birth of their newer Seattle pizza place Delancey, which started as crazy talk and somehow—much to her surprise–became reality.
Brandon has always been obsessed with pizza, and he had plenty of experience in the biz: he started working in restaurants as a teenager. When he moved to Seattle, he got his first job cooking at Boat Street Café because the award-winning restaurant’s co-owner Susan “liked that he was a composer.” Molly explains Susan’s philosophy like this:
She would almost always hire an artist over a trained cook, she once told me, because artists have a keen sense for details: you can teach an artist to cook, but you can’t always teach a cook to understand nuance and detail.
(Susan became their friend and mentor, and she is referred to throughout Delancey as “Susan the Oracle.”)
The memoir outlines the road to getting Delancey off the ground: the obsessive quest for the perfect crust, the Craigslist-ing of the decor, the assembling of the tiny staff–and that’s just getting to opening day. After that comes the constant guiding, shaping, and tough conversations needed to get Delancey to work well, and to feel like a pleasant place to work.
As Molly says about Delancey’s workplace culture:
To do well at Delancey, you’ve got to like collaboration. The restaurant is small, and we don’t have a dozen bussers and interns to do the grunt work: everyone has to do their part, and sometimes more. You can’t keep score. You’ve got to take initiative, to do your job well for the sake of doing it well.
Will and I both read Delancey, and afterwards we weren’t talking about the food. (Although we’re both dying to dine at Delancey, which Wizenberg describes as feeling like a dinner party, where “everybody wants to cook a good meal, and do it in good company.”)
Instead, we talked about creativity and leadership, management and collaboration, and our respective workplaces. What are we bringing to the table there, and what kind of people do we need to bring on to push our businesses to succeed?
And we talked about how hard it is to set the right tone, to make the places we spend time in pleasant places to be.
I wasn’t expecting that from a memoir about a pizza place.
Talk to me about foodie memoirs and workplace culture, artists and composers vs. trained chefs, and where you see yourself on the spectrum. And if you’ve ever been to Delancey, by all means, share some recollections in comments!
Delancey comes out May 6. You can pre-order it here.
P.S. The fabulous chocolate cake recipe inspired by A Homemade Life.
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