Sex, drugs and profiteroles

Title: High Season: A Memoir of Heroin & Hospitality

Author: Jim Hearn


Set alternately in the kitchen of Rae's five-star restaurant at Wategos in Byron Bay and in the mean streets of Kings Cross where strung-out junkies are waiting for their man, High Season is an authentic page-turning thriller.

This is the first book by chef turned writer Jim Hearn, who has put down the pans and picked up the pen and written a cracker of a memoir. His remarkable journey unravels from outback Queensland where his dad sold the family home and gave the proceeds away to charity. His mum turns to prostitution and sets young Jim up with an apprenticeship at a local restaurant.

From there it's only a hop, step and jump to being a wild young man who works hard and parties even harder, shooting up and getting high in between shifts.

Running parallel to this narrative of his life is a day in the life of a busy chef at Rae's on Wategos. Not just any day, but a New Year's Day when Paris Hilton and an extensive entourage turn up unannounced. You can feel the tension building as the orders pile up and elements of life outside the kitchen find their way into that pressure cooker environment.

One of the things I loved about this book is the cast of characters at Rae's; the owner Vinnie Rae comes across as a megalomaniac (and signed a non-defamation contract before giving his blessing to the book), the maitre d' Scotty (who gets blamed for everything that ever goes wrong in the restaurant) and the three young chefs; Jesse, Choc and Soda.

"They may look like punks and act like punks, but they cook like angels".

They are the mirror that Jim looks into to see himself as a young man, and maybe it's because we know he gets his shit together in the end that the stories of Jim's own f**k-ups are kind of funny in a tragic way. He certainly doesn't glamorise the junkie lifestyle, but neither does he try and hide the adrenaline rush.

There's a real sense that Jim is grateful to be alive and he appreciates the finer things in life (like how to cook a steak just right).

There are elements of He Died with a Falafel in his Hand here - desperate housemates living without electricity and scheming schemes to get a fix - but there is also an insider's view of how the mega rich and movie stars live and play.

The language sparkles with wit and authenticity and I found it to be like a great meal should be: fresh and satisfying.

Jim Hearn teaches creative writing at SCU in Lismore and has offered to run an extract in The Echo next week in the first of our summer short stories series…



Title: High Season: A Memoir of Heroin & Hospitality

Author: Jim Hearn

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