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Burn the Place: A Memoir

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  364 ratings  ·  75 reviews
A singular, powerfully expressive debut memoir that traces one chef's struggle to find her place and what happens once she does.

Burn the Place is a galvanizing memoir that chronicles Iliana Regan's journey from foraging on the family farm to running her Michelin-starred restaurant, Elizabeth. Her story is raw like that first bite of wild onion, alive with startling
Hardcover, 250 pages
Published July 16th 2019 by Agate Midway
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Average rating 3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  364 ratings  ·  75 reviews

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Kasa Cotugno
I chose this because some of my most beloved books, beginning with Kitchen Confidential, have been memoirs by established chefs and Iliana Regan's arc seemed to echo that of Gabrielle Hamilton. Yes there are similarities. Both come from large, unconventional families, with a strong background in earth to table cooking, both have college degrees in writing but not in food services, they share sexual identities and have michelin starred restaurants that thrive thanks to their instinctual style of ...more
Megan Prokott
Jul 05, 2019 rated it liked it
I felt very moved by Regan’s honesty and her ability to forge her own path throughout this book, but especially as she speaks about her sexuality and the trials of being gay in rural American. I look around Chicago today and see a flourishing Pride parade, rainbows on every corner, and outspoken acceptance of the queer population. It’s easy to forget that things weren’t always that way and things still aren’t that way in so many places. Reading about Regan’s conflict with her own gender as a ...more
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thanks to Agate Midway for the ARC at BEA 2019!

I wasn't particularly interested in this book at first, because I thought it was just a chef's memoir. I sure am glad I got it and read it anyways, because it is so much more than that! This book is Regan's memoir about growing up with gender dysphoria, facing discrimination, homo/transphobia, and general bullying growing up. It then shows Iliana struggle living paycheck to paycheck and struggle with drug addiction in her 20s as she tries to make it
Oct 12, 2019 rated it liked it
This memoir by Ilana Regan shows her life through glimpses, from childhood self proclaimed hillbilly, on to substance abusing young adult, and finally to a successful chef/restaurant owner, with reflection in all three sections on her sexuality. The book was an entertaining read but I would not be a target reader, since I no longer am interested reading about the rock and roll lifestyle of others. For me the charm was in the less dramatic moments where the author began hunting and sautéing ...more
Nov 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Five stars for the first 75 pages. Then it just...

It's all over the place and sometimes that works and sometimes it's like you're eating something rich and wonderful and then they just keep feeding it to you.
Katie/Doing Dewey
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Summary:A fascinating memoir, enjoyable both for the author's emotional account of her struggles and for the cool technical details of her career.

Iliana Regan is perhaps best known for her Michelin-starred restaurant, Elizabeth, but I first heard of her as the author of this National Book Award long-listed memoir. The book blurb sells it as searingly honest, which it is. It covers the sort of difficult topics the phrase 'searingly honest' conjures, like Iliana's struggle with alcoholism and her
Like Iliana Regan, I was raised a short hop off US 421 in northwest Indiana, in the middle of nowhere, with limited role models for who or what I might eventually become. We were 90 minutes or less from Chicago, where we would both spend much of our adult years, but worlds away.

“Burn the Place” reminds me that so much of our becoming is the struggle of kids in such an environment – to work our way through and out of such landscapes, and for some of us, back home again, to the exact places we
Dec 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Regan’s upbringing is so interesting and I got a real sense of how the artist as chef was formed. Will return to this book later.
Dan Gibson
Nov 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
This is culinary memoir (or memoir-ish) #4 of 2019, which isn't super surprising, I suppose, considering how much time I think about food at work (and let's face it, in life). Regan's struggle to develop a sense of self is definitely interesting and more contemporary than the standard chef's rise to prominence story, especially since there are hints throughout of how she arrived on her "new gatherer" ethos, but I wish the writing were a little better, I suppose? The narrative is clunky at times ...more
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"The best book i've read in a long ass time." — me, in a text just now to my friends

This memoir was SO GOOD. Memoirs are so tricky. I can always tell when authors want to seem relatable, or self-deprecating, or funny. It's hard to be authentic, I get that, but I can spot a put-on tone a MILE AWAY.

Iliana gave me none of that. She was brutally honest about herself, whether she sounded "right" or not. I picked this book up for two reasons: first, I noticed the mushrooms on the cover. Second, the
Donna Lee
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is marketed as a “culinary memoir” that chronicles Iliana Regan’s journey from cooking and foraging on the family farm to opening her Michelin-starred restaurant Elizabeth in Chicago within walking distance of my home. While the book is that, it is also the story of growing up the youngest of four girls in an embattled household, her trying to come to terms with her sexuality, and her struggle with alcohol addiction. Iliana is a born storyteller, and I can hope that she has many more ...more
Aug 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
A bit sporadic but ultimately very satisfying. Midwest culinary memoirs resonate with me despite the fact that I myself am the type of home cook the views beans on toast as an acceptable daily supper
Dec 14, 2019 added it
Regan is very cool and very inspiring and has overcome a wild amount of shit to get to where she is now, and if you think about the field she's in... it's basically a miracle that she's done so well. that said, I wish this book was better written! better structured! grad school has undoubtedly broken my brain, but I felt myself nitpicking the language throughout.
Eve Studnicka
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a chef memoir for those of us who hate chef memoirs. Regan subverts every dead horse cliche of the bad boy rockstar chef narrative, giving us instead a tale of rural queerness, escapism, wry humor, and honest reflection. Her voice - like her cooking - is tender and bold with an approachable warmth, a touch of whimsy, and an embracement of darkness that honors to the brutality and grit of a life lived without compromise. She substitutes ego for vulnerability, coyly flipping off the ...more
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love memories and I love food so reading this book was a no-brainer. The author was an Indianan farm girl who was pathologically shy and thought she was a boy. She grew up to be an alcoholic, lesbian, server, cook, chef, and Michelin star restaurant owner. Her story is a bumpy one but worth the read. I particularly liked the beginning of the book. In it, she describes her life on her magical farm and the food it produced.
Her description of hunting, finding, picking and cooking Chanterelles
Kevin Greene
Sep 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’m starting to think that “nonfiction by womxn with alcoholism” may be my favorite subgenre of literature.

In a year that’s brought Maggie Nelson and Leslie Jamison into my life, Iliana Regan’s memoir joins a generous and empathetic inner circle. Regan has a special place in it as well as the owner and head chef of multiple restaurants in my current home of choice, Chicago. Albeit restaurants I cannot afford to go to but still.

Regan gives a fleet and charming, though actively and intentionally
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, nonfic
I think I have driven everyone around me to distraction talking about this book, and how I want to go eat at Elizabeth or spend a weekend at the Milkweed Inn. It's not just because the food all sounds amazing, and the thought and care that goes in to how Regan develops recipes is evident.
It's not just because she's a little nerdy (loves Lego and video games).
It's because kid and teen Iliana sounds so much like little me that this book almost flayed me.
I may not have had the alcohol allergy, or
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Iliana Regan is the owner of the Michelin Star restaurant “Elizabeth”, named for her sister who died in a jail holding cell. She was exposed to food a lot as a child- they lived on a farm and grew, foraged, baked, and preserved most of their food, but until the point her mother rebelled at having to do all that and they moved to a city. Oh, and they also helped out in Regan’s grandmother’s restaurant, too. Little wonder her mother got exhausted! But Regan loved working with food. When she grew ...more
Jill Meyer
Jun 21, 2019 rated it really liked it

Creativity in a person can manifest itself in many, many ways. For Iliana Regan, the author of "Burn the Place", she's both creative in the kitchen and at a computer. Her book, a memoir of the rather interesting times in her life, as well as the people involved, seems to be as honest as a memoir writer can be. Regan is the owner of "Elizabeth", a Michelin one-star restaurant in Chicago, as well as a couple of other eateries. To gain a Michelin star as early as she did, Regan must have come up
Jeannie Boutelle
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Well, for a period of time, I tried to dine at Iliana Regan's restaurant Elisabeth each season. After reading this book, I now realize I have been pronouncing her name wrong this whole time, it is Il-ay-nuh and I have been saying Ill-ee-ah-nuh.
After finishing this book, I said to myself "wow, it is amazing she is still alive and not dead. She must have a guardian angel". This is a book about addiction, sexual identity and coming of age and of listening to that voice inside each of us that says
This book packs a punch, it's full of a kind of raw honesty about brutal situations that fills the reader with pride when it reaches the successes in Regan's life. There's no wallowing in self pity or trying to put some grand moral lesson on the hard times, the good and the bad are all facets of her life. It's direct and bold and infused with love for the people in her life.

I was close to loving this book but the style held me back. I'm not an audiobook reader but this one made me wish I were.
Dec 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: cooking-food
I love chef memoirs even if I'm not familiar with the chef, but this one was not great. Iliana Regan grew up in rural Indiana and always felt out of place. She was gay before she really understood what that meant. She grew up on a farm and was raised growing vegetables, canning food, hunting, foraging, and cooking. While her family was super dysfunctional, she did inherit a love of food and inherent cooking skills. Alcoholism and addiction ran in her family and she was an alcoholic by high ...more
Dec 21, 2019 rated it liked it
This memoir of a young Chicago based chef has some interesting parts. It is mostly about her youth, adolescent and young adult years. She struggled with alcoholism, as did other members of her family. While I sympathize with the effort the narrator makes to get and stay sober, especially in the restaurant world, I tend to find descriptions of one drunken incident after another tedious. She also writes of her learning to negotiate relationships with others from a position of gender nonconformity, ...more
Phillip Oliver
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Regan, the chef and owner of Michelin-starred Elizabeth Restaurant and Kitsune in Chicago, writes about growing up on a family farm in Indiana with three sisters. She grew up exploring the woods around her home and learning about mushrooms, flowers and other wild foods that she would later incorporate into her restaurant menus. Her life story wasn't all that idyllic however. She knew she was different from a very early age and describes the confusion she felt with gender issues. Later, her ...more
Shannon Martincic
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Daniela Groza
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I noticed one of the reviews mentioned Iliana is too young to write a memoir. As a young person myself, I say ~ WRITE PUBLISH TELL YOUR STORY ! We grow up with antiquated texts and wise advice from the elder, and it's wonderful to read about lives well lived, they're inspiring and sometimes great lessons are handed down to us. However, nothing like a young memoir, nothing like writing while the fire is still burning, nothing like having less apologies about what was, more spewing pure life into ...more
Nov 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: memoir
I love food and drink books, I love memoirs of the chefs who create the amazing food and drink.
Hyped as "a galvanizing memoir that chronicles Iliana Regan's journey from foraging on the family farm to running her Michelin-starred restaurant, Elizabeth;" I was set to thoroughly enjoy this.


If you want to read about Iliana Regan's exploits with women, you will want to read this book.

By page 129 of 259- half way through- the book continues to be of Regan's conflict initially with her affinity
I received this book through the Amazon Vine program on exchange for an honest review.

I think I was expecting more about cooking and less of an actual memoir. Only a small portion of the book is actually about the authors experience as a professional chef and even then after some initial detail a lot gets glossed over.

Instead we get an in depth memoir about the authors traumatic childhood, including memories as a four year old but skipping over high school. I personally struggle reading about
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food
Categorizing this under food is probably misleading. It is about so much more. The first few chapters reminded me somewhat of Educated by Westover, but somehow less extreme and more honest. The author appears to hold very little back about her life - both the good and bad - although she mentions how reserved she is frequently. The last chapter reminded me so much of my relationship with my own Dad, visiting a former family property in the country and the longing for some things to be the way ...more
Margery Osborne
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this after hearing an interview with the author on Cherry Bomb. I was expecting something similar to Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir. This was similar but different--it was much more hard hitting concerning Iliana's sexuality and early identity and relationship struggles as well as substance abuse issues. It would make a really compelling movie IMHO. I hope Iliana writes more and I don't mean cookbooks (although I would love to see a cookbook). I think she is a very talented writer and she ...more
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