Memphis Reads – Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

Andrea reviews SWEETBITTER by Stephanie Danler (Alfred A. Knopf, 2016).

I have to admit I was thrilled when I got my hands on this bestseller. Pardon the pun but I devoured the tell-all memoir, Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain that was published a few years back. Now, Ms. Danler has spun her own story about the underbelly of New York’s finest restaurants.

Tess is a young 22-year-old who has come to New York City with no real sense of direction or guidance in her life. It seemed logical for her to work in a restaurant since she had been a coffee barista in her past. She lands a job as a backwaiter in one of the most elite restaurants. Although her job is not to wait on the customers (or “guests,” as the “Owner” corrects her) she is responsible for cleaning off the tables, filling water glasses, and taking the food to the tables. While Tess is at the restaurant, she becomes enamored with Jake and Simone, the bartender and head server respectively. The two are quite a bit older than Tess but they go between mentoring her, being down right mean to her, sleeping with her, and messing with her head. Tess cannot figure out Jake and Simone’s dynamic, but the more she tries the more of a downward spiral she takes.

I enjoyed this tale of restaurant workers because I waited tables for ten years before I worked at the library. Restaurants always have some kind of drama and energy. It’s a pulsating rhythm you only identify with if you have worked in the industry in any capacity. This was also a great story of infatuation, power, and desire and how quickly it can escalate in the wrong direction.

Andrea Bledsoe-King, Cordova Library