Give a Girl a Knife
A beautifully written food memoir chronicling one cook's journey from her rural Midwestern hometown to the intoxicating world of New York City fine dining and back again in search of her culinary roots. Before Amy Thielen frantically plated rings of truffled potatoes in some of New York City s finest kitchens for chefs David Bouley, Daniel Boulud, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten she grew up in a northern Minnesota town home to the nation s largest French fry factory, the headwaters of the fast food nation, with a mother whose generous cooking pulsed with joy, family drama, and an overabundance of butter.Inspired by her grandmother s tales of cooking on the family farm, Thielen moves with her artist husband to the rustic, off-the-grid cabin he built in the woods. There, standing at the stove three times a day, she finds the seed of a growing food obsession that leads to the sensory madhouse of New York s top haute cuisine brigades. When she goes home, she comes face to face with her past, and a curious truth: that beneath every foie gras sauce lies a rural foundation of potatoes and onions, and that taste memory is the most important ingredient of all. Amy Thielen's coming-of-age account brims with energy, a cook s eye for intimate detail, and a dose of dry Midwestern humor. Give a Girl a Knife offers a fresh, vivid view into New York s high-end restaurant before returning Thielen to her roots, where she realizes that the marrow running through her bones is not demi-glace, but gravy honest, thick with nostalgia, and hard to resist."

Give a Girl a Knife Details

TitleGive a Girl a Knife
Author
FormatHardcover
ReleaseMay 16th, 2017
PublisherClarkson Potter Publishers
ISBN0307954900
ISBN-139780307954909
Number of pages320 pages
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Food and Drink, Food, Foodie

Give a Girl a Knife Review

  • Lorilin
    May 11, 2017
    Amy Thielen is a popular chef, writer, and TV personality on Food Network's Heartland Table. She grew up in rural Minnesota but moved to New York in her 20s to work at various impressive fine-dining restaurants. After the birth of their son, she and her artist husband eventually moved back to Minnesota. In 2014, her cookbook, The New Midwestern Table: 200 Heartland Recipes, won the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Award in American Cooking.I have to be honest and say that, even after reading this Amy Thielen is a popular chef, writer, and TV personality on Food Network's Heartland Table. She grew up in rural Minnesota but moved to New York in her 20s to work at various impressive fine-dining restaurants. After the birth of their son, she and her artist husband eventually moved back to Minnesota. In 2014, her cookbook, The New Midwestern Table: 200 Heartland Recipes, won the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Award in American Cooking.I have to be honest and say that, even after reading this memoir and then flipping through her wildly popular cookbook, the food she makes doesn't sound very appetizing to me. That doesn't mean it's not good! I've never tried it. But I'm just not excited about deviled eggs and cheeseballs--no matter how much Thielen claims to have elevated the flavors. Still, Give a Girl a Knife is an interesting memoir. It's essentially divided into two sections. The first part focuses on the roughly ten years she she spent working as a line cook in New York. The second part is more personal and talks about her food memories at home--both her childhood home and her current home in Minnesota.I thought I was going to have a hard time getting through the second part of the book, just because the first part was so good, but actually it ended up being pretty great, too. Granted, there were a handful of slow moments--especially when Thielen talks about her childhood--but I really enjoyed the more current stories that included her husband, Aaron. He is definitely an intense artist-type, too, but he brings some balance and down-to-earth-ness to their story. The chapter called Old Five-and-Dimers, where Thielen explains how she and Aaron started dating, was one of my favorites for this reason.Ultimately, Give a Girl a Knife is an entertaining foodie memoir. It isn't as good as, say, Yes, Chef or 32 Yolks: From My Mother's Table to Working the Line (two of my favorite memoirs of all time), but I still found it solidly enjoyable. For sure worth a read.Thanks to Amazon Vine and Clarkson Potter for the ARC.See more of my book reviews at www.BugBugBooks.com.
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  • Taylor Knight
    June 1, 2017
    A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisherGive a Girl a Knife is probably one of the most surprisingly entertaining books I've ever read. I was super curious about this book when I started it and I didn't expect to enjoy it so much that I would read it in one sitting. I loved how well written this book was and Amy was able to give a lot of great insight to restaurant kitchens. I actually learned a lot and learning new things is always something I'm looking for in non-fiction book. I als A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisherGive a Girl a Knife is probably one of the most surprisingly entertaining books I've ever read. I was super curious about this book when I started it and I didn't expect to enjoy it so much that I would read it in one sitting. I loved how well written this book was and Amy was able to give a lot of great insight to restaurant kitchens. I actually learned a lot and learning new things is always something I'm looking for in non-fiction book. I also really appreciated how Amy talked about her experiences a women in a male dominated field. As a fellow Midwesterner, I was able to relate to Amy a lot and I wasn't expecting that. I really loved how Amy mixed her Midwest roots with her culinary skills. I thought reading about Amy's approach to food and how she builds her dishes was really fascinating and again, I learned a lot. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it has become an unexpected favorite of mine. It's very well written and educational in the most entertaining way. If you're looking for an awesome non-fiction read, I'd recommend grabbing a copy of Give a Girl A Knife.
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  • Gwendolyn
    March 25, 2017
    This is a really unusual memoir because it contains two distinct narratives. In one of them, Amy Thielen falls in love with a "back to nature" artist who has built a one-room cabin in the remote northern Midwestern woods. The cabin lacks plumbing or electricity, and it's winter for about 9 months out of the year. Amy happily joins her husband at the cabin and learns to survive with only the barest necessities. Generally, they live in the cabin Spring through Autumn and use the short growing seas This is a really unusual memoir because it contains two distinct narratives. In one of them, Amy Thielen falls in love with a "back to nature" artist who has built a one-room cabin in the remote northern Midwestern woods. The cabin lacks plumbing or electricity, and it's winter for about 9 months out of the year. Amy happily joins her husband at the cabin and learns to survive with only the barest necessities. Generally, they live in the cabin Spring through Autumn and use the short growing season to produce much of their own food. In the second narrative, Amy gets kitchen jobs at a series of very high-end restaurants in New York City. In this part of the book, we hear about 80+ hour work weeks and the difficulties of working on your feet all day to create fussy and delicious food from pristine ingredients. We've seen both of these stories before (city girl struggles to survive in the country and the making of a chef), but I've never seen them both in the same book. This was an interesting combination that I mostly enjoyed. I am still a bit confused as to who Amy Thielen really is and what she likes/wants to do with her life. I wish the book had spent a bit more time explaining how these two narratives can belong to the same person. Overall, though, I enjoyed this story, and it was very well written. Perhaps the real Thielen is primarily a writer.
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  • Madeline
    May 23, 2017
    "Cities collect culture, but it all begins in the country."Maybe it's because I grew up in a house that smells like bacon from Thielen Meats on Sunday. Maybe it's because this will be the first Memorial Day in my memory I'm unable to head north to my grandparents' cabin, so Amy's musing on reused ice cream pails made me tear up and call my mom. Maybe it's because I'm itching to get my hands in the soil this week and finish planting my garden. Maybe it's because I live in a city with 125,000 othe "Cities collect culture, but it all begins in the country."Maybe it's because I grew up in a house that smells like bacon from Thielen Meats on Sunday. Maybe it's because this will be the first Memorial Day in my memory I'm unable to head north to my grandparents' cabin, so Amy's musing on reused ice cream pails made me tear up and call my mom. Maybe it's because I'm itching to get my hands in the soil this week and finish planting my garden. Maybe it's because I live in a city with 125,000 other folk but dream of starting a homestead, or at least take a winding Canadian road trip. Maybe it's because Amy is just so damn likeable.I don't care why, but I do know I absolutely savored this book. I recommend it for misplaced Minnesotans, fans of food writers, readers of family sagas alike.
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  • Krista
    May 31, 2017
    So fun! My only critique would be the bouncing around in time, I would have liked it to be more linear. Regardless, her descriptions of food made my mouth water (perhaps with the exception of making head cheese), and their house in the woods became almost another character in her story, she described it so well. Very enjoyable read.
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  • xq
    May 29, 2017
    i enjoyed this memoir, the juxtaposition between a NYC restaurant kitchen and cooking in rural Minnesota was interestingly observed and the book overall was well-written
  • The Suburban Eclectic
    May 10, 2017
    I am not a big foodie, but a enjoy a good meal, and I love a good sip of tea and Give a Girl a Knife suggests an interesting tale as it follows Thielan’s path from a backwoods kitchen in the woods to New York’s finest kitchens.Sadly, I didn't learn much. I do not feel like I have learned anything about high-end restaurant kitchens nor anything substantial about Thielen. For a woman with an interesting route to chefdom, it provides little insight into her thoughts on how women deal with the intr I am not a big foodie, but a enjoy a good meal, and I love a good sip of tea and Give a Girl a Knife suggests an interesting tale as it follows Thielan’s path from a backwoods kitchen in the woods to New York’s finest kitchens.Sadly, I didn't learn much. I do not feel like I have learned anything about high-end restaurant kitchens nor anything substantial about Thielen. For a woman with an interesting route to chefdom, it provides little insight into her thoughts on how women deal with the intricacies of working within the male-dominated world of upscale kitchens. The writing was a little more plodding than I expected. Give a Girl a Knife lacks excitement and spice.
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  • Jill
    May 22, 2017
    Sometimes I feel like the Midwest doesn't get much love from those who aren't here. We're not New York. We're not L.A. We have no oceans. But we do have a lot of heart. And that's one of things I love about chef Amy Thielen's memoir, Give a Girl a Knife. First, let's get cheffy. Amy Thielen may be from Minnesota, but she kicked around in Manhattan's top kitchens for seven years, earning her stripes under David Bouley, Daniel Boulud and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, considered some of the best Europ Sometimes I feel like the Midwest doesn't get much love from those who aren't here. We're not New York. We're not L.A. We have no oceans. But we do have a lot of heart. And that's one of things I love about chef Amy Thielen's memoir, Give a Girl a Knife. First, let's get cheffy. Amy Thielen may be from Minnesota, but she kicked around in Manhattan's top kitchens for seven years, earning her stripes under David Bouley, Daniel Boulud and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, considered some of the best European chefs in America. A year or two in any of those kitchens can open just about any door in the world of cuisine. Listening to the stories of working their lines makes my foodie book brain so happy. I do love a good memoir about working in kitchens. And Amy Thielen's book is really good. Each chef has their own way of approaching food. Amy's is through color. She sees the colors on the plate and builds flavors and textures from there. I so loved hearing about how she sees food, how she layers the flavors, how she experiences her time in a kitchen. Reading her take on cooking forces me to think of food differently, to see possibilities, to see the artistry. And as amazing as that part of the memoir is, it's only half the story. The other half of Amy's story is that of growing up in the Midwest, of the Minnesota hot dish, of her mother teaching her how to wipe down a counter with a steaming hot towel or buttering toast so thoroughly that the melted butter drips onto your chin and down your arm. She talks about the time she and her then boyfriend (now her husband) lived in a tiny handmade cabin with no running water or electricity for three years, so he could concentrate on his art. Amy spent that time growing vegetables, learning to cook with what she had, canning and pickling, tasting, testing, experimenting. She spent her free time voraciously reading cookbooks from the previous generations of Midwestern mothers cooking for their family, discovering native flavors and drawing them out, living close to the land, eating farm to table decades or even centuries before it became a popular restaurant affectation. Amy's cooking now, her cookbook The New Midwestern Table, and her television show Heartland Table, come out of both of these traditions. She cooks with the skill and precision of an expertly trained New York chef as well as the heart of a Midwesterner who understands the land and its offerings. And just like her recipes, where she takes her favorite Minnesota ingredients and elevates them to culinary perfection, Give a Girl a Knife takes the Minnesota girl and infuses her with the confidence and prowess of a Manhattan chef, making this memoir the perfect combination of high end restaurant and down home soul. It feels like we Midwesterners finally get the book we deserve. And I don't care what part of the country you're in, you should definitely read this book immediately. Galleys for Give a Girl a Knife provided by the publisher through NetGalley.com, with many thanks. 
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  • Allegra
    May 16, 2017
    I absolutely loved this book. I thought it would be about cooking, which it is, and the constantly fascinating world of restaurant kitchens, which it is—but beyond that it is a ravishing love story. Amy loves food—not in the way people usually mean when they say that of someone: that the person loves eating. Amy loves food itself, the magical growth of vegetables, the transformations they undergo in cooking, the mysteries of meats and pastry, the sensuous delights of smell and touch as well as t I absolutely loved this book. I thought it would be about cooking, which it is, and the constantly fascinating world of restaurant kitchens, which it is—but beyond that it is a ravishing love story. Amy loves food—not in the way people usually mean when they say that of someone: that the person loves eating. Amy loves food itself, the magical growth of vegetables, the transformations they undergo in cooking, the mysteries of meats and pastry, the sensuous delights of smell and touch as well as taste, and the cultural history that food is suffused with. Like all the greatest lovers, Amy cherishes her beloved not just when all dressed up—with rare and fine ingredients, perfectly sauced, and served to perfection—but in the most ordinary, unguarded moments (the equivalent of someone slobbing around the house in ratty pajamas and bedhead). She works the line in Manhattan’s finest haute cuisine kitchens, then returns to Minnesota to cook short-order fry-ups. She explores the historical food of her Minnesota forebears with as much love as she lavishes on haute cuisine. Perhaps, even more. Living happily in a house without running water or electricity, she grows epic quantities of vegetables, makes sauerkraut, and boils a pig’s head the way her grandmother used to do, This book is also a love letter to a place: northern Minnesota and her cabin in the woods, which she shares with the husband who built it. And it’s a love letter to a way of life that treasures the simple things: human company, food as an expression of family, and the inexhaustible bounty of nature.
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  • Kristine
    May 12, 2017
    Give a Girl a Knife by Amy Thielen is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early May.Thielen begins the book while in the tunnel vision mentality of being a prep cook. She moves to Brooklyn with her boyfriend, Aaron, from Park Rapids, Minnesota in the early 2000s. Aaron gets a job working in art right away, while she goes to cooking school and begins working 80 hours per week for Danube in Austrian food (i.e. brown butter, spaetzle). The sudden plane crash of Aaron's brother, Matt, sends them b Give a Girl a Knife by Amy Thielen is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early May.Thielen begins the book while in the tunnel vision mentality of being a prep cook. She moves to Brooklyn with her boyfriend, Aaron, from Park Rapids, Minnesota in the early 2000s. Aaron gets a job working in art right away, while she goes to cooking school and begins working 80 hours per week for Danube in Austrian food (i.e. brown butter, spaetzle). The sudden plane crash of Aaron's brother, Matt, sends them back home to Minnesota for the funeral. Aaron undergoes PTSD-like symptoms and shares a conflicting view of he and Thielen's future and where they live as a couple. She describes going to France with her mother, their different travel styles (tourist vs. local), and her mother not digging on her daughter's speed and panache while cooking. A short while after, she begins working for 66 (Chinese fusion), then Cru (haute cuisine), before the book suddenly veers into auto-biography territory with tales of her extended family, marrying Aaron, giving birth to their son Hank, and living between Minnesota & Brooklyn seasonally.
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  • Pam ☼Because Someone Must Be a Thorn☼ Tee
    March 15, 2017
    ~ review copyFood binds us. It binds us to place and time and to people. Food can be part of your family's history, of your region's history.GIVE A GIRL A KNIFE is an autobiography about how food can define your life. The special moments and the every day ones. For Amy Thielen it might even be more important because she is a gifted professional chef.I suspect opinions will vary on this but for me the book falls into two pieces. One is a pure autobiography and the second is about Amy's experience ~ review copyFood binds us. It binds us to place and time and to people. Food can be part of your family's history, of your region's history.GIVE A GIRL A KNIFE is an autobiography about how food can define your life. The special moments and the every day ones. For Amy Thielen it might even be more important because she is a gifted professional chef.I suspect opinions will vary on this but for me the book falls into two pieces. One is a pure autobiography and the second is about Amy's experience as a chef-in-the-making in New York City.The biography was interesting to me because it describes life in a small community in northern Minnesota. The cooking there and the way of life there is very different that what I knew as a child growing up in Florida. We had fried fish and scallops cooked on the boat, and Cuban boliche. She grew up where steak, bacon, butter and sauerkraut were king. The women she learned from where proud hausfraus who knew how to do pickles right. I reveled in this interesting alt-community.The portion of the book though I adored the most was working in the high end restaurants of NYC. I always wondered what it would be like, and it was very very different than I imagined. Horrific hours and so much tension. Being a woman in a man's world... well, that's more or less what I expected; but I was proud of the way she hung in there and coped. I am thankful she shared those stories with me.WHAT I REALLY THINK is that you'll enjoy this if you want to see the American struggle. Young people fighting to find their place, to experiment and find the right path. A community persist because it's loyal to it's past.Alternatively, you'll probably like this book if you want to see and touch (through words) what it is like to work in Michelin rated restaurants.
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  • Shannon Geisen
    May 6, 2017
    A delightful read! Amy's descriptive writing is superb - taste, texture, color, smell. I got hungry every time I read a passage about her cooking. I enjoyed being taken behind-the-scenes of New York City's fanciest restaurants and also the places I already love and know: northern Minnesota. Amy has a great sense of humor. I'm tickled that she shared her creative struggles and successes with us admiring readers.
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  • Shannon
    June 2, 2017
    Love - Love - Love I've been a fan of Amy Thielen for some time now and loved her show she had (and miss it so much). I loved this story of how she was born and raised in MN - moved to NYC - but ended up back home in MN. Her love for homemade, local, seasonal food resonates with me so much - as does the fancy cooking of NYC. I love both equally. Great read for a foodie lover. Thanks for sharing your story Amy. #mayernikkitchen
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  • Chelsey
    May 13, 2017
    I love this book so much.
  • Stacey
    May 27, 2017
    This story mirrors mine in so many ways, and in where it differs, I find intrigue. This Len challenges me to think about my love for northern latitudes, both from yesteryear and in the present.
  • Diane
    May 16, 2017
    Thielen writes like she cooks, full of heart, wit, and charm, with a nod to tradition. Recommended. My full review is available at http://hellofunseekers.com/give-a-gir....
  • Andrea
    March 20, 2017
    I enjoyed reading this book but I thought there would be some recipes included - which made me read the book in the first place. It was well written and had some humor in it as well as serious sections.
  • Carla Bayha
    March 2, 2017
    I'd probably give this a 5 Star review if it had a few recipes. Since I just finished a pre publication copy, it might have by the time the book is published. I didn't immediately make the connection that a recipe for Classic Chicken and Wild Rice Hotdish (no canned soup!) by Thielen is one of my all-time favorite crowd-pleasing recipes. She writes as well as she cooks. Will make sure to follow her more in the future.
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  • Amanda Sauer
    April 8, 2017
    I don't really read a lot of memoirs or biographies, but I enjoy cooking, and cooking tv shows, as well as my middle son would like to become a chef, so I was drawn in by the title and what it may reveal inside! I agree with a few other reviewers that even a handful of recipes sprinkled through might have put it into the five star category.I didn't think there were enough adjectives in the English language to make the description of so many ingredients and recipes come alive. Her description of I don't really read a lot of memoirs or biographies, but I enjoy cooking, and cooking tv shows, as well as my middle son would like to become a chef, so I was drawn in by the title and what it may reveal inside! I agree with a few other reviewers that even a handful of recipes sprinkled through might have put it into the five star category.I didn't think there were enough adjectives in the English language to make the description of so many ingredients and recipes come alive. Her description of the look, feel, taste and smell of so many foods made them come alive off of the page. I wanted to try things that I normally wouldn't eat. It made everything seem appealing, and yet was not repetitive. The story seems to have two phases although the location changes frequently between NYC and rural Minnesota. The first half while getting to know the main characters is very much focused on the food and her journey as a chef. Just when I thought I was kind of "done" with that, Amy begins going deeper into her emotions, relationships and thought provoking decisions about life that they faced. This for me engaged me back into the memoir through the end. I think the appeal of the memoir will be to a variety of audiences from the aspiring chef, to the midwestern housewife, to the older generations looking back... very well done Amy Thielen!
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