...charts the beautiful winding path that led the author from rural Minnesota to high-stakes Michelin-starred restaurants in New York—in search of what she thought was culinary sophistication—and then back to Minnesota, and a cabin in the woods built by her artist husband ... The author makes even [the familiar] passages memorable with her attention to the sensory world of these kitchens ... Ms. Thielen shows us it is not always easy; it is often less than glamorous; it is raw, a little ugly, but as honest as it gets.
[Thielen] can write, engagingly and vividly ... Food images abound, in all their sensory glory. You’ll drool over 'silken scarves of hot squash puree' or 'a plush little leek dumpling, its browned face shining with butter.' To test a roast beef’s doneness you slip inside its 'darkened side door' and 'put your thumb on its needs.' Serious cooks might lament the book’s lack of recipes, but Thielen also has a cookbook and a TV show.
Thielen doesn’t let the numbers get her down, even as the industry’s inherent sexism — from both men and women — garnishes her wages ... I love that Thielen brings respect to Midwestern regional dishes, largely ignored on the coasts ... my one complaint about this book: I wish Thielen had studded it with recipes, or perhaps stocked them at the end in an extra chapter, like a digestif. As is, the book served to whet my tongue (as well as my knives).
I wish Thielen included how re-planting herself back home after years of insisting on the benefits of living a peripatetic life help establish her career as a cookbook writer and Food Network host that highlights the regional Midwestern cuisine. Overall however, Thielen’s ode to living at the crossroads of culinary high and low offers thoughtful insights into the life of the chef, highlighting that when, 'you give a girl a knife,' as her mom did when Amy was young, you pass on a legacy: that she will learn how to use it, and someday 'consider that knife an extension of her hand, as wedded to her finger as a nail.'”
Thielen’s narrative journey evolves somewhat passively, and she offers few fresh insights into the food industry or the high-end restaurant scene, yet her musings on ingredients and flavors are engaging ... A warm, mildly immersive memoir documenting how Thielen found her calling by embracing her down-home influences.
Simultaneously sincere and funny, Thielen writes of her path to becoming a chef and understanding her German and French roots ... Thielen’s writing is warm and welcoming, especially as she describes going back home: 'You don’t just jump into the same old story. You step back into your shadow, but into a totally new narrative.'”