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Monday, January 5, 2015

Delancey by Molly Wizenberg

Reprinted from Auburnpub.com 

Delancey by Molly Wizenberg
Published by Simon and Schuster ISBN 9781451655094
Hardcover, $25, 256 pages
Molly Wizenberg writes a blog, “Orangette”, named by the London Times as the best food blog in the world. She has written columns for Bon Appetit magazine and her first book, “A Homemade Life- Recipes From My Kitchen Table” was a New York Times bestseller.

After writing that book and while waiting for it to publish, her husband Brandon decided that he wanted to open a pizza restaurant in Seattle, where they resided. That journey to owning and operating a pizza restaurant is recounted in her second teriffic book, a memoir titled “Delancey”.

Never mind the fact that Brandon has never operated a restaurant, and that prior to this, he wanted to make violins (he is a music teacher) and after that he wanted to build boats.

She describes her husband in this way- “I love that he‘s the first person our friends call when they’re in trouble. I love that he likes to make people happy. My mother once told me that the reason she fell in love with my father was that she knew she could always learn from him. When I meant Brandon, I knew what she meant.”

Life with Brandon was never boring, and even though Molly was a little wary of the fact that Brandon always threw himself completely into whatever he was doing for the time being, she knew she wanted to marry him.

Wizenberg brings the reader right into the middle of all of the decisions one makes when deciding to open a restaurant. She admits that many people dream (albeit briefly) of running a restaurant, thinking it will be like “having a dinner party every night. Most restaurants are not like dinner parties. Most restaurants feel more like Thanksgiving dinner.”

Once the decision was made, Brandon and Molly went to their friends who had experience in this area. Her brother David, who co-owns several Washington D.C restaurants, advised them to pick a location with other successful businesses.

The great researcher, Brandon traveled the country tasting the best pizzas, and picking the brains of the owners. He became an expert on what makes the best pizza dough, how much yeast and salt to use, and the ideal temperature needed to make the dough rise.

They found the right location, and gathered their friends around to help them physically build the restaurant. They demolished the interior and set to work. Wizenberg’s descriptions of all their hard work exhausted me just reading about it.

As someone who once ran a restaurant with her husband, I understood so much of what Molly and Brandon went through. Dealing with vendors, hiring and managing a staff, and dealing with inspectors from different departments who contradict each other, cooking every night, things that break down- it never ends.

Molly and Brandon’s day would start at 9am, when they would meet the food vendors making the day’s deliveries. Then they prepped the food, dealt with problems, made sure the dough was rising properly, greeted the employees, set the tables, made the pizzas and salads and desserts, served the food, closed up, cleaned up, and made the dough for tomorrow. They were home by 2am.

Wizenberg’s does a wonderful job dispelling the romance of owning a restaurant. It is hard work, and it’s like having a newborn baby, but one that doesn’t ever grow up and need less constant attention.

Eventually Molly realized that working at the restaurant was Brandon’s dream, but not necessarily hers. She wanted to get back to her writing and she missed cooking dinner in her own home at night. Working as the salad and dessert chef was making her miserable.

She screwed up her courage to tell Brandon, and although he was taken aback, he understood. One story she tells about Brandon coming home after a terrible day and saying he wanted the close the restaurant is compelling, and a lesson that all married people eventually learn about being supportive.

Wizenberg has also put in some wonderful recipes , including Sriracha and Butter Shrimp, a Meatloaf using fish sauce, and a Winter Salad with Citrus and Feta that all look amazing.

Wizenberg is a terrific writer with an interesting and conversational voice, and “Delancey” is a fascinating look at the inner workings of running a restaurant. If you have ever worked in one (which many people have), this book is for you. And if you have ever worked with your spouse, you’ll enjoy it too.

rating 5 of 5


  1. I really loved this one too -- I like that she tells the unvarnished truth of their adventure: not all wine and roses.

  2. I a. Still waiting on the library to get my copy. Guess I put my reservations in late and am low on the list. I love Orangette and A Homemade Life, can't wait to read this one.

  3. She really is a a good writer. I just finished this.

  4. This looks interesting! From all I hear, owning and managing a restaurant is grueling and I can imagine it is tough on a marriage.