Give a Girl a Knife by Amy Thielen

Give a Girl a Knife

A beautifully written food memoir chronicling one cook's journey from her rural Midwestern hometown to the intoxicating world of New York City fine dining and back again in search of her culinary roots. Before Amy Thielen frantically plated rings of truffled potatoes in some of New York City s finest kitchens for chefs David Bouley, Daniel Boulud, and Jean-Georges Vongeric...

Title:Give a Girl a Knife
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0307954900
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:320 pages

Give a Girl a Knife Reviews

  • Gwendolyn
    Mar 25, 2017

    This is a really unusual memoir because it contains two distinct narratives. In one of them, Amy Thielen falls in love with a "back to nature" artist who has built a one-room cabin in the remote northern Midwestern woods. The cabin lacks plumbing or electricity, and it's winter for about 9 months out of the year. Amy happily joins her husband at the cabin and learns to survive with only the barest necessities. Generally, they live in the cabin Spring through Autumn and use the short growing seas

    This is a really unusual memoir because it contains two distinct narratives. In one of them, Amy Thielen falls in love with a "back to nature" artist who has built a one-room cabin in the remote northern Midwestern woods. The cabin lacks plumbing or electricity, and it's winter for about 9 months out of the year. Amy happily joins her husband at the cabin and learns to survive with only the barest necessities. Generally, they live in the cabin Spring through Autumn and use the short growing season to produce much of their own food. In the second narrative, Amy gets kitchen jobs at a series of very high-end restaurants in New York City. In this part of the book, we hear about 80+ hour work weeks and the difficulties of working on your feet all day to create fussy and delicious food from pristine ingredients.

    We've seen both of these stories before (city girl struggles to survive in the country and the making of a chef), but I've never seen them both in the same book. This was an interesting combination that I mostly enjoyed. I am still a bit confused as to who Amy Thielen really is and what she likes/wants to do with her life. I wish the book had spent a bit more time explaining how these two narratives can belong to the same person. Overall, though, I enjoyed this story, and it was very well written. Perhaps the real Thielen is primarily a writer.

  • Candice
    Jun 03, 2017

    I completely loved this book. Along the lines of Ruth Reichl and other foodie books, Amy has mastered the art of descriptive writing. I read sentences aloud to my husband because the details were making my mouth water.

    See my full review on my blog.

  • The Suburban Eclectic
    May 10, 2017

    I am not a big foodie, but a enjoy a good meal, and I love a good sip of tea and Give a Girl a Knife suggests an interesting tale as it follows Thielan’s path from a backwoods kitchen in the woods to New York’s finest kitchens.

    Sadly, I didn't learn much. I do not feel like I have learned anything about high-end restaurant kitchens nor anything substantial about Thielen. For a woman with an interesting route to chefdom, it provides little insight into her thoughts on how women deal with the intr

    I am not a big foodie, but a enjoy a good meal, and I love a good sip of tea and Give a Girl a Knife suggests an interesting tale as it follows Thielan’s path from a backwoods kitchen in the woods to New York’s finest kitchens.

    Sadly, I didn't learn much. I do not feel like I have learned anything about high-end restaurant kitchens nor anything substantial about Thielen. For a woman with an interesting route to chefdom, it provides little insight into her thoughts on how women deal with the intricacies of working within the male-dominated world of upscale kitchens. The writing was a little more plodding than I expected.

    Give a Girl a Knife lacks excitement and spice.

  • Lorilin
    May 11, 2017

    Amy Thielen is a popular chef, writer, and TV personality on Food Network's

    . She grew up in rural Minnesota but moved to New York in her 20s to work at various impressive fine-dining restaurants. After the birth of their son, she and her artist husband eventually moved back to Minnesota. In 2014, her cookbook,

    , won the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Award in American Cooking.

    I have to be honest and say that, even after reading this

    Amy Thielen is a popular chef, writer, and TV personality on Food Network's

    . She grew up in rural Minnesota but moved to New York in her 20s to work at various impressive fine-dining restaurants. After the birth of their son, she and her artist husband eventually moved back to Minnesota. In 2014, her cookbook,

    , won the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Award in American Cooking.

    I have to be honest and say that, even after reading this memoir and then flipping through her wildly popular cookbook, the food she makes doesn't sound very appetizing to me. That doesn't mean it's not good! I've never tried it. But I'm just not excited about deviled eggs and cheeseballs--no matter how much Thielen claims to have elevated the flavors.

    Still,

    is an interesting memoir. It's essentially divided into two sections. The first part focuses on the roughly ten years she she spent working as a line cook in New York. The second part is more personal and talks about her food memories at home--both her childhood home and her current home in Minnesota.

    I thought I was going to have a hard time getting through the second part of the book, just because the first part was so good, but actually it ended up being pretty great, too. Granted, there were a handful of slow moments--especially when Thielen talks about her childhood--but I really enjoyed the more current stories that included her husband, Aaron. He is definitely an intense artist-type, too, but he brings some balance and down-to-earth-ness to their story. The chapter called Old Five-and-Dimers, where Thielen explains how she and Aaron started dating, was one of my favorites for this reason.

    Ultimately,

    is an entertaining foodie memoir. It isn't as good as, say,

    or

    (two of my favorite memoirs of all time), but I still found it solidly enjoyable. For sure worth a read.

    Thanks to Amazon Vine and Clarkson Potter for the ARC.

  • Crystal King
    Jun 06, 2017

    What a fantastic food memoir! I loved every page of this delectable dive into Theilen's journey as she navigated the world of cooking starting in the middle of nowhere and landing in the midst of one of the busiest cities in the world then retreating once more to the rural life where she began. What runs through this book is her true, genuine love of the craft of preparing and discovering food and flavors and memorable dishes. She's a brilliant writer, able to make images and sensations immediat

    What a fantastic food memoir! I loved every page of this delectable dive into Theilen's journey as she navigated the world of cooking starting in the middle of nowhere and landing in the midst of one of the busiest cities in the world then retreating once more to the rural life where she began. What runs through this book is her true, genuine love of the craft of preparing and discovering food and flavors and memorable dishes. She's a brilliant writer, able to make images and sensations immediately accessible and memorable. If you are a food lover this should be a must add to your TBR pile.

  • Krista
    May 31, 2017

    So fun! My only critique would be the bouncing around in time, I would have liked it to be more linear. Regardless, her descriptions of food made my mouth water (perhaps with the exception of making head cheese), and their house in the woods became almost another character in her story, she described it so well. Very enjoyable read.

  • Taylor Knight
    Jun 01, 2017

    Give a Girl a Knife is probably one of the most surprisingly entertaining books I've ever read.

    I was super curious about this book when I started it and I didn't expect to enjoy it so much that I would read it in one sitting.

    I loved how well written this book was and Amy was able to give a lot of great insight to restaurant kitchens. I actually learned a lot and learning new things is always something I'm looking for in non-fiction book. I als

    Give a Girl a Knife is probably one of the most surprisingly entertaining books I've ever read.

    I was super curious about this book when I started it and I didn't expect to enjoy it so much that I would read it in one sitting.

    I loved how well written this book was and Amy was able to give a lot of great insight to restaurant kitchens. I actually learned a lot and learning new things is always something I'm looking for in non-fiction book. I also really appreciated how Amy talked about her experiences a women in a male dominated field.

    As a fellow Midwesterner, I was able to relate to Amy a lot and I wasn't expecting that. I really loved how Amy mixed her Midwest roots with her culinary skills.

    I thought reading about Amy's approach to food and how she builds her dishes was really fascinating and again, I learned a lot.

    Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it has become an unexpected favorite of mine. It's very well written and educational in the most entertaining way. If you're looking for an awesome non-fiction read, I'd recommend grabbing a copy of Give a Girl A Knife.

  • Larry H
    Jun 13, 2017

    I'd rate this 4.5 stars.

    About 14-15 years ago (how can that be?) I went to culinary school, and worked as a personal chef for about 18 months until the economy started tanking. At that time, I always had this dream of opening a little restaurant, nothing super fancy. Of course, once I worked at a restaurant for a brief period, that dream died quickly—I thrive on pressure and chaos, but the frenetic pace of cooking in a restaurant, not to mention the pressure of having to always get everything ri

    I'd rate this 4.5 stars.

    About 14-15 years ago (how can that be?) I went to culinary school, and worked as a personal chef for about 18 months until the economy started tanking. At that time, I always had this dream of opening a little restaurant, nothing super fancy. Of course, once I worked at a restaurant for a brief period, that dream died quickly—I thrive on pressure and chaos, but the frenetic pace of cooking in a restaurant, not to mention the pressure of having to always get everything right, would have driven me insane.

    That journey in self-discovery is reinforced whenever I read a chef's memoir. Just hearing about the frenetic nature of readying plates in a high-end restaurant is enough to send me reaching for a Xanax. (Check out Michael Gibney's excellent

    for a great example of this.)

    "Cooking wasn't just a job; it was a life—what looked to all outsiders, including my own boyfriend, like a pretty terrible life. It was, as Aaron feared, a real affliction. And possibly, a dysfunctional relationship."

    While Amy Thielen's terrific new book,

    , dips into this territory, as it chronicled her tenure cooking for some of the finest chefs—David Bouley, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Daniel Boulud, and Shea Gallante—in some of New York's most famous restaurants, it didn't dwell on this exclusively. The more time Thielen spent working on fabled, complex dishes, with ingredients and techniques not often seen in everyday kitchens, the more she realized that behind every fancy plate are the backbones of her Midwestern culinary heritage—potatoes, onion, bacon, and butter—lots of butter.

    Thielen grew up in Northern Minnesota, in a town known as the home of the nation's largest French fry factory. Her mother, like generations of women before her, reveled in cooking homey, delicious, yet seemingly uncomplicated dishes reflective of Midwestern culture and the German, Austrian, and French heritage of their ancestors. Dishes like pork roast, spaetzle, fermented sour pickles, poppy seed coffee cake, and the infamous hotdishes, laden with bacon and (quite often) cheese, were part of almost every meal for Thielen and her family, yet when she decided to go to culinary school and pursue a career as a chef in New York City, she couldn't get far enough away from those elements, until she realized how truly interrelated everything was.

    juxtaposes Thielen's culinary career with a chronicle of her growing up surrounded by food and the magnificent women who brought the food to delectable life. It also dealt with her struggles as she and her boyfriend (and eventual husband) Aaron tried to bring their dream of living in an off-the-grid, hand-built cabin deep in the Minnesota woods to life. It is during their time in the cabin that awakens Amy's love of food, of coaxing beauty, as well as both subtlety and vibrance, from homegrown fruits and vegetables, as well as meats.

    But the time she spends in New York City, as much as she feels it embraces her talents, leaves her longing for the solitude of their cabin, and inspires her journey to better understand her culinary heritage from the beginning. It's a journey that shapes her and her career, as well as her path for her future.

    "I'd spent years trying to erase those homely flavors from my past, but when I gave my nostalgia an inch, it ran down the road a mile. Like an archaeologist picking in the hard-packed clay, I felt a need to return home to excavate the old flavors and all the feelings I'd ever tied to them."

    At one point when she is trying to decide what to do with her life, Thielen considers being a food writer. It's certainly another career path which would bring her success, because she is a tremendously talented writer, able to paint sensory pictures in your mind's eye with her words. Of course, my snap reaction to this book, with its vivid, beautiful descriptions of complex gourmet dishes, comfort foods, fresh fruits and vegetables?

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