Workhorse: My Sublime and Absurd Years in New York City’s Restaurant Scene

Hachette. Nov. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9780306875106. $28. COOKING/memoir
In this debut, Reed chronicles her time working under restaurateur Joe Bastianich, as a hostess at his and Mario Batali’s popular New York restaurant Babbo. Her account primarily focuses on the business of the restaurant industry and its personal effects on Reed, especially as she rose from frontline restaurant staff to Bastianich’s executive assistant. Reed remembers Bastianich as a demanding yet generous boss who often treated her like family. Throughout the book, she tells how she managed to juggle her ever-trendy workplace with her frugal home life in New York. Although Babbo and the corporate office of Batali & Bastianich (B&B) Hospitality Group could be exciting, fun workplaces, they also exacted an emotional toll, Reed writes. She carefully describes long hours in an all-consuming job where work-life balance was rare. When B&B Hospitality Group faced hostile workplace accusations in 2017 (including the widely reported sexual harassment case involving Batali), Reed changed jobs and finally put her mental health and well-being first, she writes.
VERDICT Reed’s down-to-earth memoir is a wistful insider’s view of working in a high-powered restaurant job in New York. It will be popular among foodies and fans of business histories.
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