Foodie memoirs, creative types, and setting the right tone.

Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage, by Molly Wizenberg

Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage, by Molly Wizenberg

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.

*****     *****     *****

 The Nesting Place

The Nester’s book comes out today! I am loving mine. Head here to get your copy. (I think you’ll want the hardcover of this one, but then again the Kindle version is only $8….)

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  1. Kristin says:

    I’m so looking forward to Delancy! I love what you quoted that Susan said ~ “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.”
    As an artist, I find that completely encouraging and inspiring!

  2. Anne says:

    Neat insight into the restaurant. Now I want to read the memoirs. I wish I had a foodie memoir to recommend. I wanted to read Julia Child’s; I have to interlibrary loan it. That’s cool the memoir inspired that talk between you and your husband. Leaders do indeed set the tone. I find that to be true even in a little church ministry.

    I need to peek my head outside and see if my books are here: Nesting Place and Conversion Diary’s memoir! Fun day!

    • Anne says:

      Yay for new books! I love The Nesting Place and I can’t wait to read Jen’s.

      And YES to Julia Child’s. It’s so much fun (and wasn’t at all what I expected).

  3. I love foodie memoirs and will read them even if they are kind of bad (Gail Simmons’ comes to mind), disturbing (Cleaving by the author of Julie and Julia), or fun and/or good to read (Kitchen Confidential, My Life in France, Ruth Reichl’s, Cooking for Mr. Latte by the NYT’s Amanda Hesser). Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant is a collaboration of essays that I really love. And MFK Fisher’s To Cook a Wolf I LOVE. It’s basically a WW2-era cookbook; but she writes quite a bit between recipes, and in the revised version she makes fun of her original writing and recipes, which is hilarious.

    Um, yeah. I like food writing!!! I have not read A Homemade Life, though, so I will get on it.

  4. Nolo says:

    Do you think it is a better as a kindle or regular book? I guess the real question is, are there enough recipes in the book that you want to make that it is worthwhile to get the regular book? Thanks! (PS – I would also recommend Cooking for Mr. Latte. Great chocolate cake in that one too!)

    • Anne says:

      It’s hard to say because I read the ARC. The ARC had pictures, but they are black and white and grainy, and the recipes wouldn’t be too much harder to access from a tablet. But if the photos are beautiful in the final version (and that might be a big IF) then I would want the print edition.

  5. I LOVED A Homemade Life and can’t wait to read Delancey …mostly because I just love her raw, real style (and most of those salads she suggested were to die for). Thanks for reminding me!

  6. ashley says:

    I’m reading A Homemade Life, and I don’t care for it at all. I keep hoping it will get better but at this point I’m just glad it’s a library book. I guess I’m just not a fan of all the over sharing.

    • Anne says:

      In that case, I really wouldn’t recommend Delancey! (Although I do think A Homemade Life got better–and definitely happier–as it went along.)

  7. Sheila DelCharco says:

    Just finished Delancey based on your recommendation and enjoyed it. My favorite foodie book thus far (didn’t realize it was a genre!) has been Bread and Wine. I also enjoyed Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl on audio recently. I’ve just started wading in this writing niche and I’m loving it!

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