cover image Burn the Place: A Memoir

Burn the Place: A Memoir

Iliana Regan. Midway, $25 (250p) ISBN 978-1-57284-267-0

In this biting debut memoir, Regan, chef and owner of Chicago’s Elizabeth and Kitsune restaurants, writes of growing up in a small Indiana town, where she struggled with gender identity and sexuality before finding herself as doyen of Chicago’s “new gatherer” culinary movement. Regan depicts her early life in an “outrageously enchanting” farmhouse with her parents and three sisters, including the day she “became a chef” after picking chanterelles with her father (they “smell like the earth but also sweet like apricots and spicy like peppercorns”), taking them home to sauté in butter and wine—experiences that later influenced the food served at her restaurants. After her parents divorced, Regan coped with the frustrations of growing up gay in a “Red state” by turning to alcohol; after graduating from high school she moved to Chicago, first delivering Chinese food, then hosting at high-end restaurants. After her sister died unexpectedly (she had a seizure while in jail for punching her husband), Regan began selling farm-to-table and foraged foods at farmers markets (“tortillas made with wheat I’d sprouted”). She became known citywide for her pierogis, and after becoming sober she opened her Michelin-starred Chicago restaurant, Elizabeth. Foodies will appreciate this blistering yet tender story of a woman transforming Midwestern cooking, in a fresh voice all her own. (July)