Jim Hearn’s memoir High Season is a revelation into the cut-throat and physically demanding nature of the hospitality industry. Hearn’s colloquial vernacular creates the impression that Jimmy is talking directly to the reader after a long, gruelling shift over the six-burner, and after an even longer, and tougher, personal life that is inextricably woven into his extensive career. Alternate chapters switch between the present day kitchen of a five-star Byron Bay restaurant, and Jimmy’s drug-fuelled youth which saw him work in many metropolitan Sydney restaurants. He is desperately trying to hold together the fraying threads of his team while also reflecting on the various exorcisms he’s been involved with – friends he’s projectile vomited on, kitchens he’s been fired from, heroin trips to Nimbin and Brisbane, and near-misses which saw him almost put in jail. At first, the conversational language is off-putting and seemingly disjointed, but it soon becomes a crucial tool in demonstrating the fast-paced nature of the restaurant kitchen, interlocking with a culture of drug use, exhaustion, desperation and ultimately showing Jimmy’s unfailing charisma and logic. Hearn’s high-pressure descriptions of the restaurant kitchen juxtaposed with the oblivious Paris Hilton, who visits his restaurant, and the elite expectations of his impossible-to-please boss will leave you wondering what’s really going on behind the scenes, the next time you dine.
Jim Hearn is a scriptwriter, chef, academic and current PhD student at UTS’s Transforming Cultures Research Centre.
This review was first published in the UTS U: Magazine May 2013.