cover image Nine Lives: A Chef's Journey from Chaos to Control

Nine Lives: A Chef's Journey from Chaos to Control

Brandon Baltzley. Gotham, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-592-40791-0

In this ardent memoir, celebrity chef Brandon Baltzley divulges his struggle to acquire prodigious cul-inary talents while overcoming his equally powerful personal demons. The scion of a troubled south-ern family, Baltzley discovered a love for cooking in his mother's "bar kitchen" in Jacksonville, Fl. With scant interest in school, Baltzley bounces from restaurant to restaurant, city to city, even serving a stint as the drummer for sludge-metal band, Kylesa. Moves to New York City and Chicago bring him to cutting-edge kitchens across America, but extreme substance abuse, especially of cocaine, un-dermine each step forward. Over the book's first three-quarters, Baltzley presents his struggles with clarity and brio. A memoir from a twenty-seven year-old might seem presumptuous, but Baltzley has packed a lot of living into his years; even in the darkest moments he remains an enchanting narrator. Over time, however, the voice grows more guarded and loses some of the charm. A diagnosis of bipo-lar disorder at Bellevue, for example, is related with minimal introspection. Baltzley's focus wanders as the book comes to a close, rushing his description of the farm-restaurant he plans to start in Michi-gan. Nevertheless, this is an engaging story. When Baltzley writes about food, it feels worth the hun-dreds of dollars it would cost to taste it. Agent: Kari Stuart, ICM Partners (May)