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Jen Agg, Amy Thielen dish their uncompromising life stories

Who would I most like to have dinner with? After reading their memoirs, I’d consider adding these two fascinating women to my list. Ideally, restaurateur Jen Agg would host me for dinner and chef Amy Thielen would cook it for me. Both women have chosen straight-up-thug titles for their books: Agg’s is I Hear She’s a Real Bitch, and Thielen’s is Give a Girl a Knife. Agg is Canadian, mouthy, funny, the sharply intelligent and sometimes snarky restaurateur behind The Black Hoof mini-empire. Thielen is American, a Minnesota homesteader who honed her trade in the finest kitchens of New York. As different as they are, both women have achieved remarkable success in the male-dominated blood sport that is the restaurant industry. Both are in their early 40s and married to artists. More to the point, both can write, engagingly and vividly. In I Hear She’s a Real Bitch (a wink to her legendary reputation), Agg describes a wild Scarborough adolescence featuring heavy drinking, fearless drug use and a mission to “finally” lose her virginity at 16. She fled the suburbs to work in Toronto restaurants and bars.Always aware she had the sharpest mind in the room, Agg became an entrepreneur at 22, opening Cobalt bar, a Toronto hub of cool. A perfectionist, she’d sourced the furnishings, developed the cocktail recipes and even DJ’d her own scrupulously crafted indie playlist. She later co-founded The Black Hoof, introducing Torontonians to fine charcuterie. Article Continued BelowAmid the triumphs were failures — her first marriage, professional relationships, a short-lived seafood eatery. She reveals a tender underbelly of self-doubt and other personal failings. But she blames others too. About her infamous split with chef-partner Grant van Gameren, she says, “I almost don’t hold him responsible.” Almost. Agg regales us with tales of her prodigious libido and shares the startling information that due to an unlucky genetic defect, she has only one breast. She gushes too often about sex with her second husband, Haitian-born artist Roland Jean, 20 years her senior. She rages against “the patriarchy,” insisting, “I have maintained a fierce and loyal relationship to feminism my whole life,” yet she slept repeatedly with her best friend’s boyfriend and blames women for “scurrying up the ladder to dutifully patch the cracks in the glass ceiling.” Agg seems to believe she should have the right to do whatever she chooses without your judgment, but she still gets to judge you. While sometimes contradictory, she’s never boring.

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