small bites of sweet candor

Mary Guliani is not your average chef. She didn’t go to culinary school or slave away in a hot Manhattan restaurant kitchen for years, moving up to the head of the line. Instead, she studied acting. She took odd jobs to make ends meet. She met Robert De Niro. And then when she decided that Saturday Night Live might not be ready for her yet, she buckled down and took one of her odd jobs seriously, working at a catering company, helping to plan parties for the rich and famous.

It’s not a surprise that this job stuck, as her grandmother was a famous innkeeper on Montauk, Long Island (her hotel was the first on Montauk, actually, and she used it to build an empire). So Mary took her chutzpah and her quirkiness and her work ethic and her genetic propensity towards hospitality and her husband and started her own catering company in New York City.

It was her love of Pigs in a Blanket (aka tiny hot dogs in pastry) that helped inspire her to create fun finger foods and inventive cocktails that attracted her high end-clients. Movie stars, rock stars, and the glitterati all call her number and book her for their parties. You’d think that this would help the formerly geeky kid who worshiped the Monkees turn into an elegant, confident, sophisticated business woman. But no, just reading this memoir leaves me no doubt that she’s just as much of a quirky, playful dork (said with nothing but respect; I totally relate!) who is not afraid to let her geek flag fly. For that, she is one of my heroes. I love how she has kept her good-natured whimsy despite living in New York, despite working in very difficult and competitive industries, despite having traded in her original dream for another one (or six).

I loved reading Tiny Hot Dogs, in part because Mary Guliani is a testament to finding the best in difficult situations and in part because she is a fun, funny, honest, and open writer and mother and wife and daughter and caterer. She is who she is, and that’s enough for her. It’s also more than enough for me. And if it’s not enough for Saturday Night Live, then they should at least call her to cater all their parties. She can hook them up!

Galleys for Tiny Hot Dogs were provided by Running Press Adult through NetGalley, with many thanks.