Okay, there aren’t actual blow jobs in Alyssa Shelasky’s new book Apron Anxiety, but at last night’s book release party at Dry Bar, there were plenty of blow outs. Poised with perfect hair, the 34-year-old New York editor for Grub Street chatted with me about her new book, which is taken from her personal blog of the same name. The story encompasses a few years in her life as fiancé to celebrity chef and owner of Good Stuff Eatery in Washington, DC, Spike Mendelsohn (tactfully called “Chef,” but we all know who she is talking about), their break up, playing the field again, and how she learned to overcome her cooking phobias and conquer the kitchen. Plus, it’s a juicy read even if you don’t try out any of the 30 recipes.
How do you feel about having your life out there so clearly?
That’s always been easy for me, I am really open, hence the memoir and the blog. The problem is that when you write a story about your life, there are a lot of characters beside yourself. I was concerned, especially because there is a love story that sort of threads throughout the book and the guy, I call him chef…
But we all know who that is.
Yes, we all know who that is. But I kept all the men in my book anonymous and changed all the guys’ names. I wasn’t going to use his name just because he happens to be well known.
How did Chef react?
He’s been wonderful and super cool about it. He is a good guy and a good friend. Once he was okay with the pages—he read it and signed off on it—then I felt really positive about the whole experience.
You and Chef were together when you started writing this, is that right?
Yeah, I pretty much write the book in real time. When I got my book deal, it was going to be a very different book. It was going to be about how I learned to cook, my chef relationship, and how it put us right back on track and everything works itself out. But that’s not real life. So, when we did break up, I was still at the beginning stages of the book. I was nervous that the book deal would be taken back because this wasn’t the story I was going to tell. My publisher were like, ‘Are you crazy, he was just a part of your life and he isn’t the whole story. We like you and your voice and your journey.’
What is the hardest thing about dating a chef?
After I broke up with Chef, I dated a couple more chefs. I kept asking myself, ‘What is this that you are drawn to?’ I am a smart girl and I know that their hours suck, I know that generally they are womanizers, I know this intellectually. I think what I realized is that they never give you what you need so you always end up wanting more. With many guys, it was like a kiss of death if they were too easy. Even Chef, who is a truly good man and a loyal, kind, decent person—not your stereotypical chef, even with him, he can’t be there all the time. Whatever it is, you are left in the position of aching for more from them. And you almost get addicted to that. Somehow, that attracted me to them. Plus, they are generally all good in bed—not that I slept with many—but past that, they all have their own set of issues.
How do you feel now that the book is done and out?
I feel great! A few weeks ago, I got the final copy of the book and took it to a café by myself and quietly read it. I got through half the book and it sort of hit me that I really like my book. I know it’s very un-writer like because writers are supposed to beat themselves up and we aren’t supposed to like our work. I feel like I am sort of betraying my kind by having a good sense of self, but, I like it. Once I got to the point that this is cool and I am proud of it, the rest seems easy. Like if I get good reviews, if people come to my book party, whatever. I had to let go because I am comfortable with it.
Do you still write about dating?
I would be fine never writing about dating again. The dating blog I did about five years ago. It was a bad call on my part. It’s the only career move I ever made that I actually regret. I assumed that once that job ran its course, I would never write about my love life again, but obviously not.
Are you in a relationship now?
Yes, I have a great, great boyfriend who is not a chef. He is a doctor and he has been really super cool that I have a book coming about that is 75 percent about a love affair with another man.
Did he read it?
He read it in the first two weeks we were dating. I was like, ‘Here’s the deal, this book is going to come out in a few months and there is nothing I can do about it now. Either you will be okay with it or not.’ He loved it, he loved every word. It’s the mark of a very mature and confident man.
Would you ever date a chef again?
I think I am done. I think I found the person I want to spend the rest of my life with.
Do you still try to cook?
There is so much going on and I have a lot of my mind, so this morning, I just threw myself in the kitchen and baked blueberry muffins. It was just enough to take the edge off and get out of my own head a little bit. That’s when I cook these days, it’s a way to self-sooth. I would really like to slow down and make some nice meals and grow as a home cook.