Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

Sweetbitter became an Instagram favourite and was the star of many feeds as a great summertime beach read. Read too quickly, without pausing to think however and you might miss savoring Sweetbitter.
I’m really looking forward to the season – this is one I’ll definitely be binging. Probably with the husband so we can reminisce about our early days working in hospitality! 😉

The bestselling novel about a young woman’s coming-of-age, set against the glitzy, grimy backdrop of New York’s most elite restaurants. Now a STARZ Original Series.

Newly arrived in New York City, twenty-two-year-old Tess lands a job as a “backwaiter” at a celebrated downtown Manhattan restaurant. What follows is the story of her education: in champagne and cocaine, love and lust, dive bars and fine dining rooms, as she learns to navigate the chaotic, enchanting, punishing life she has chosen. As her appetites awaken—for food and wine, but also for knowledge, experience, and belonging—Tess finds herself helplessly drawn into a darkly alluring love triangle. In Sweetbitter, Stephanie Danler deftly conjures with heart-stopping accuracy the nonstop and high-adrenaline world of the restaurant industry and evokes the infinite possibilities, the unbearable beauty, and the fragility and brutality of being young in New York.


I work in hospitality so it’s so nice to find a book I can completely identify with. Especially with an author who has felt your pain haha though a little pretentious at times.

Anyone who’s worked back of house will identify and relive some, if not all of Tess’ experiences. And definitely feel those cringe moments! I felt she didn’t glorify hospitality in any way and certainly shows the downsides (which of course you find in any job). Though some are generally unnoticed – the long hours, abusive relationships, hangovers and comedowns on a daily basis…

While Sweetbitter is a little flowery and quite wordy – it really felt like it was written by the main character. Tess mirrors Stephanie Danler’s experiences as a college graduate traveling to New York to decide what to do with her life. Upon arriving she discovers that working as a barista will not cover the rent and so, gets a job as an assistant waiter at a prestigious restaurant.

We’ve heard the story before, however, Danler gets into the nitty gritty and it starts to feel part memoir. Tess eventually is initiated into the restaurant ‘family’ and their after hours world of dive bars where there are copious amounts of drugs, alcohol, gossip, and sex on hand.

It’s been quoted to be the “Kitchen Confidential” of our time – which if you haven’t read it go forth IMMEDIATELY to pick up a copy. And it does get a bit dark. Tess comes to New York for something else… but doesn’t know or find out what that something is. Sweetbitter is so beautifully written that you’ll forget that it refused to be the story that you wanted.

Three and a sexy tomato
You’re a fan of hospo memoirs or need to reminisce about that waitressing job you had to pay for uni!
Anyone enjoying the series? What do you think of Ella Purnell as Tess? Shout out below!
If you like Sweetbitter check out my list of Top 10 hospitality memoirs

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