Happy Tuesday Savvy Readers! I don’t know about you, but I was a HUGE fan of the late Anthony Bourdain, and after binge-watching his series Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown on Netflix I immediately bought his tell-all memoir Kitchen Confidential. Kitchen and restaurateur memoirs are few and far between, and after Bourdain’s, I was super excited to read Wine Girl by Victoria James. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint!
Filled with the same passion (and shocking tidbits) that made me fall in love with Bourdain’s book, Wine Girl by Victoria James takes readers behind the scenes of the glamorous and famously toxic restaurant world. But it doesn’t stop there!
At just twenty-one, Victoria became the country’s youngest sommelier (working at a Michelin-starred restaurant no less!). But even as Victoria was selling bottles worth hundreds and thousands of dollars during the day, passing sommelier certification exams with flying colours, and receiving distinction from all kinds of press, there were still groping patrons, bosses who abused their role and status, and a trip to the hospital emergency room. While the toxic sexism and downright misogyny of the restaurant industry are acknowledged by Bourdain, with Wine Girl, readers are brought face-to-face with its realities, and the human cost of working as a woman in these environments.
It would take hitting bottom at a new restaurant and restorative trips to the vineyards where she could feel closest to the wine she loved for Victoria to re-emerge, clear-eyed and passionate, and a proud “wine girl” of her own Michelin-starred restaurant. Much like Bourdain, Victoria’s disillusionment with the restaurant industry and eventual drive to improve it is an exhilarating ride and ultimately, a love letter to the restorative and life-changing effects of good wine and good hospitality.
Where Bourdain was often over-confident to the point of (what one could perceive as) arrogance, Wine Girl paints the portrait of a young, competent woman strangled at times by her own insecurities and impostor syndrome. Breaking free from an abusive and traumatic childhood, Wine Girl is an incredible journey of a young woman rising to the challenges life sets in front of her and the perfect juxtaposition to Kitchen Confidential‘s portrait of a man reeling from his own bad life in the very same business.
Whether you’re a fan of Bourdain, like me, or you just love memoirs, Wine Girl by Victoria James will transport you to an entirely different world and offers a new and fresh female perspective on the restaurant industry. I highly recommend picking this one up, you won’t be disappointed!