When Gillian Clarke’s marriage ended, she was left with two small children, a barely completed culinary degree, and dashed plans to buy a farm and create a locavore paradise. In her chef’s memoir, Out of the Frying Pan (St. Martin’s Press, 2007), Clarke tells the story of this moment and her subsequent painstaking rise to excellence as a chef, restaurant-owner and mother.
Plagued by unreliable babysitters and delinquent dishwashers, she writes, “Was I chef to my children and mother to my kitchen staff?” When the lines blurred between the two responsibilities, she realized there was little difference: “Both jobs required creativity, passion, and imagination.”
Any working mother can relate to the struggle Clark faced, to check homework, make class treats, and get the kids off to school in the morning, all the while maintaining a fierce focus at work. As a black single mother in an industry dominated by white men, Clark had her work cut out for her. In the end, her struggles paid off with a successful restaurant of her own. Part memoir, part cookbook, each chapter features a lively retelling of her uphill battle, with a fantastic collection of recipes for dishes like Carrot Sage Soup, Corn-Crusted Scallops and even a Pink Medicine Placebo for sick children. Whether you have aspirations of becoming a chef, are single or coupled, black or white, this is an enjoyable tale of the struggle we all face as working parents trying to achieve our dreams and still make it to the parent-teacher conference.