LONGLISTED FOR THE 2019 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD
A singular, powerfully expressive debut memoir that traces one chef's struggle to find her place.
Burn the Place is a galvanizing memoir that chronicles Iliana Regan's journey from foraging on the family farm to running her Michelin-starred restaurant, Elizabeth. Her story is raw like that first bite of wild onion, alive with startling imagery, and told with uncommon emotional power.
Regan grew up the youngest of four headstrong girls on a small farm in Northwest Indiana. While gathering raspberries as a toddler, Regan preternaturally understood to pick just the ripe fruit and leave the rest for another day. In the family's leaf-strewn fields, the orange flutes of chanterelles beckoned her while they eluded others.
Regan has had this intense, almost otherworldly connection with food and the earth it comes from since her childhood, but connecting with people has always been more difficult. She was a little girl who longed to be a boy, gay in an intolerant community, an alcoholic before she turned twenty, and a woman in an industry dominated by men-she often felt she "wasn't made for this world," and as far as she could tell, the world tended to agree. But as she learned to cook in her childhood farmhouse, got her first restaurant job at age fifteen, taught herself cutting-edge cuisine while running a "new gatherer" underground supper club, and worked her way from front-of-house staff to running her own kitchen, Regan found that food could help her navigate the strangeness of the world around her.
Regan cooks with instinct, memory, and an emotional connection to her ingredients that can't be taught. Written from that same place of instinct and emotion, Burn the Place tells Regan's story in raw and vivid prose and brings readers into a world-from the Indiana woods to elite Chicago kitchens-that is entirely original and unforgettable.
Publisher: Agate Publishing
Number of pages: 250
Dimensions: 203 x 133 mm
Praise for Iliana Regan's memoir BURN THE PLACE:
"A remarkable exploration of the [memoir] form... Burn the Place is a 'chef memoir' only in the sense that the author turned out to be a chef. More rightly, it belongs on a shelf with the great memoirs of addiction, of gender ambivalence and queer coming-of-age, of the grand disillusionment that comes from revisiting, as a clear-eyed adult, the deceptive perfection of childhood."-The New Yorker
"This raw and emotional memoir testifies to the power of persistence and grit. With vivid description, we explore Regan's almost inborn connection to food and the earth, her rise as a queer woman in a male dominated industry, and her journey to sobriety." -Real Simple
"With this deeply personal work, Iliana reminds us that there is great strength in vulnerability. Her story is one of resilience, determination, and vision."-Rene Redzepi, chef and co-owner of Noma
"[A] blistering yet tender story of a woman transforming Midwestern cooking, in a fresh voice all her own." -Publishers Weekly
"It turns out that Iliana Regan writes the way she cooks: with a voice that's bold and soulful, tender and tough, impossible to ignore, and utterly her own. Burn the Place is much more than an account of hustling in the kitchen. It's a story about identity and addiction. It's about getting creative and becoming a boss. And it's full of scenes of gothic drama that still give me goosebumps when I think of them." -Jeff Gordinier, author of Hungry
"The dynamic story of a dynamic life."-Ms.
"What bold new voice is this? Iliana Regan is out to shake up the literary world in the same way she's shaken the culinary world. Unexpected, flavorful, and distinctive, Burn the Place is a debut to savor." -Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs
"Renowned chef Iliana Regan turns stuffy patriarchal stereotypes upside down. She is self-taught, charismatic, delightfully foul-mouthed, and utterly devoid of pretension as she parallels her ascent in the culinary world with a past strewn with AA chips, jail cell stints, and brutal family losses. This groundbreaking memoir reinvents the well-worn trope of the "bad boy" superstar chef, presenting us instead with a palpably vulnerable, complicatedly feminist, and sexy-queer-girl genius who takes no prisoners, including herself. Regan's wild rags-to-Michelin story has appeal far beyond the "foodie" market, particularly among those hungry for tales of unapologetic women who have made it entirely on their own terms." -Gina Frangello, author of A Life in Men and Every Kind of Wanting