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7 Food Memoirs to Read Right Now

Plus, four to look forward to this spring

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With the world changing every day during this novel coronavirus pandemic — and the industry we report on facing unprecedented challenges — I know I am turning to old comforts for solace, to fill the time, and to make sure I’m supporting the businesses that I love in whatever ways I can. For me, that means getting delivery and takeout from the local restaurants in my Brooklyn neighborhood, but it also means supporting the independent bookstores that mean so much to me and are such a part of my life even when we aren’t practicing social distancing.

If you, too, want to get lost in a book right now, consider some of these food- and restaurant-focused memoirs that I love here, and check out the spring releases that my colleague Monica Burton is most looking forward to. Please let us know if you’d like to see more book recommendations in the coming weeks — you can reach me on Twitter or Instagram at @soniachopra or over email at We hope you stay safe and healthy.

What to read now:

Arbitrary Stupid Goal tells the story of cook and writer Tamara Shopsin’s life growing up in and out of her parents’ corner store-turned-restaurant, Shopsin’s General Store, in the extremely quirky corner of Greenwich Village where the author grew up.

Burn the Place recounts Regan’s life in and out of restaurants — focusing on her family, her addiction, and her identity just as much as the food itself — tracing the path the chef took to opening her acclaimed Chicago restaurant, Elizabeth.

Climbing the Mango Trees is cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey’s beautifully written ode to her upbringing in India and the flavors, family traditions, and the diverse cultures that have shaped her knowledge of food.

Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain’s groundbreaking memoir about life inside restaurant kitchens, changed the way America thought about chefs and the industry when it was published in 2000; Bourdain later issued a new version with a foreword calling attention to problematic boys-club culture in restaurants, and the book is certainly worth a read with that in mind. Find 12 more of his books here.

Notes From a Young Black Chef chronicles chef Kwame Onwuachi’s upbringing in the Bronx, adolescent journey to Nigeria to live with his grandfather, his rocky rise through the ranks of the fine dining world, his appearance on Season 13 of Top Chef, and the opening and abrupt closure his ambitious Washington D.C. tasting menu restaurant, Shaw Bijou. Read an excerpt here.

Save Me the Plums focuses on food writer and editor Ruth Reichl’s days at the helm of now-shuttered but once-preeminent food magazine Gourmet, wherein the famed food writer and critic spills — in juicy detail — on what it was like to run a print magazine in the heyday of print magazines, and then see it through until the devastatingly bitter end. Read an excerpt here.

Yes, Chef follows chef Marcus Samuelsson’s journey from Ethiopia, where he was born, to Sweden, where he grew up, to the U.S., where he worked his way through restaurants and then opened his own, Red Rooster, which still exists today in New York’s Harlem neighborhood.

Looking ahead:

Wine Girl (March 24) details Victoria James’s path to becoming the youngest sommelier in the country. Now the beverage director at New York City restaurant Cote, James gives an unflinching depiction of misogyny and abuse in the fine-dining world.

An Onion in My Pocket (May 5) tells Deborah Madison’s life story, from growing up in San Francisco’s counterculture, to becoming a Buddhist priest, to leading a burgeoning vegetarian movement as chef at Greens Restaurant in San Francisco.

Dirt (May 5), the newest memoir from Heat author Bill Buford, recounts his quest to master French cooking. To do it, he uproots his family — his wife and twin boys — to Lyon; antics ensue.

Eat a Peach (May 19) the highly anticipated first memoir from Momofuku chef David Chang promises a frank exploration of the failures and successes that made Chang one of the most influential chefs of his generation, and the feelings of self-doubt that plague him either way.

Disclosure: Marcus Samuelsson is the host of No Passport Required, a show created by Eater and PBS. This does not impact coverage on Eater.

David Chang is producing shows for Hulu in partnership with Vox Media Studios, part of Eater’s parent company, Vox Media. No Eater staff member is involved in the production of those shows, and this does not impact coverage on Eater.