Food Memoir Review | ALL OR NOTHING

Updated: Jun 26, 2020

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ALL OR NOTHING: One Chef's Appetite for the Extreme

Book 31 in the bag.📚👨‍🍳🔪

⭐⭐/ 5


Thirty-one-year-old Jesse Schenker has launched to the top of the culinary world. He is a 2x James Beard nominee, an Iron Chef America winner, and a 30 under 30 honoree. But he didn't reach the top of the culinary pyramid without hitting rock bottom first, ten years earlier, as a heroin addict.


It's a fast read, but I feel too much time was spent on the fall to rock bottom. It took until around page 170 for the reader to even see signs of Jesse's life being rebuilt in the culinary space. The last 75 pages were fast. I would rather have seen his life now and how Jesse manages all of his current stress and sobriety.

I found the most interesting part of the book in the last third. The challenge Jesse has to maintain sobriety, that is where I think the meat of the story is, and unfortunately is rushed in the final section of the book. His heroin addiction is replaced with a work addiction and it was here that I found the story highly relatable. How many of us overload ourselves with work in order to escape other demons and uncomfortable conflict in our lives? That's what I wanted to see more of.

As his family grows (he has a young son and daughter by the end of the book) so do the stakes for Jesse. His own parents begin to battle their own cancer-related health issues. This is where I wanted the story to linger. His wife and childhood companion, Lyndsay, reads like a saint in this telling. I do not doubt her loveliness and caring nature but I wish we had also gotten glimpses of her perspective. Where were the bad moments, or to rephrase, what is it like living with and supporting a recovering addict and raising a family? What is it like to live with, work with, and support a brilliantly talented chef who still fights his demons?

Maybe Jesse will write another memoir in the future. I hope he does. Only in his early thirties he has seen a great deal of success. I hope he will continue to grow and also support other chefs who are trying to recover from addiction.



Author: Jesse Schenker

Genre: Chef Memoir

Pages: 253

Purchased atThe Book Cellar